For the first time in my existence, I boarded a plane for New York City. I was headed for Student Voice Live! 2014, a convening of education stakeholders from all across the United States.
As I was struggling to stay awake during the board meeting, one of my colleagues shared about how the work that Student Voice does should be actionable and foster tangible change.
I hesitantly wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Hesitant because I know that making a tangible dent in the face of global education is not only a daunting task, but an extremely difficult one. The education system is one of the largest systems in the world, interconnected with just about everything else and encapsulating over a million different issues. And it’s challenging to even imagine how a small team of students could even make a difference in such a space.
But as the day went on, and Student Voice Live! happened, my eyes were opened to conversations and more importantly the potential of impact in a way I have never seen it before.
Even though Student Voice is a relatively vague concept that tends to spark more discussions than action or results, it still is a determining factor in how the students of today are prepared and empowered to take on the problems of tomorrow.
There’s been some research done into this idea, but the challenge today as it has always been, is figuring out how to arrive at a goal that is so seemingly abstract.
I don’t necessarily have a good answer for that at the moment, but I do know that this past weekend was an example of students coming together and using their voices to put something on that was tangible.
Even though I have been writing about education for a couple of years and have been extensively involved in Student Voice, attending Deeper Learning felt like I was diving head first into completely foreign territory.
First of all, it was a conference geared toward educators, which made me (probably the only person under 30) stick out like a sore thumb. But nevertheless, I used that to my advantage to highlight and speak out on the importance of student voice in education. I met a lot of extremely significant, wonderful, and inspiring individuals.
I attended workshops talking about metacognitive variables to student success, project based learning, design thinking in education, and computing in education, all of which helped provide me more insight and perspective into the way that teachers run their classrooms. Through all these conversations and workshops, I was inspired after realizing that many teachers care about their students and put more effort into their careers than I had previously imagined.
However, even though many of the workshops and sessions mentioned the power of student voice and choice, there were no in depth conversations on how to practically and effectively listen and implement what students have to say in the classroom.
In many ways I felt like the conversations were beating around the core issue of students not being able to take ownership of their education. If we take a step back and look at education through the same lens of a business, one of the core aspects to consider is the audience. When we begin to ask who the audience should be when it comes to education, the answer should be obvious: families of students and more importantly, the students. Don’t you think that if education is truly for the students, than we should be listening to what students need and want?
The fact that students don’t have too much of a voice in their education points to a couple of things. Firstly, it makes me question who the actual audience for education currently is, and unfortunately, by looking at the stakeholders and money in education, it’s certainly isn’t the students or even teachers.
Of course, this wasn’t a conference geared toward education policy or political bureaucracy, but it does get you thinking about the effects of students not having a voice on a classroom level, especially when it is reflected in their learning.
Curious as to what it was about, I decided to attend the seminar. There was nothing to lose about a free two hour seminar given in an area of my interest. Upon walking into the seminar, I was faced with a small group of people listening to a man in real estate talk about building companies. The man shared very solid principles about the stages of business, business goals, and other business processes. And at the end, he began advertising an $800 conference that would take place the following week.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it when I get to attend conferences and connect with people who are making a difference in the world. I love listening to people speak from their experiences and learning the things that they have to share.
But the difference between the person who is paying money to attend the conference and the person who is getting money to share at the conference is that the person who is sharing out the conference did something that was worthy of sharing.
Anyone can pay money to attend a conference. In fact, many people attend conferences and seminars, read books and blogs, and never really seem to move very far. The same principles that govern the information diet ring true for skill mastery; that how much you know is mostly irrelevant, but what’s important is that you are implementing the things that you know.
In order to get out of the cycle of simply listening to what other people have to share, it means stepping out into your own experiments to create something worthy of sharing.
I had to decline the offer to attend this entrepreneurship conference because I knew that it would be just as powerful to apply the things that I already knew in my head instead of having the good feeling of learning from industry leaders.
It is powerful to have people to learn from, but only if what you learn extends further than simply knowledge in your head.
It’s been about a week since I attended TEDx San Diego, and I’m still thinking about the inspiration and ideas that were shared at the conference.
TEDx San Diego
In case you aren’t familiar with TED talks that are slowly popping up everywhere, feel free to check them out. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.
I stumbled across TEDx San Diego while browsing the internet one day, and decided that I would like to go to one of these conferences at some point in my life. Coming across the TEDx San Diego page, I promptly noticed that I would be in San Diego at that time, and filled out an application. (Yes, you must apply in order to attend a TEDx Conference)
I applied, thinking that I probably wouldn’t get in seeing as I had applied late, and probably wasn’t the hyper-entrepreneur that other people probably were. But when I received the acceptance letter, I quickly paid my $100 for a ticket.
TEDx was incredible. To say the least. The way that the speakers engaged with the audience on levels ranging from emotional to intellectual was nothing short of mindblowing.
I learned about and connected with people who had inspirational life stories, people who were making a difference socially in the world, people who were researching new technologies such as thought controlled computing, and people who were musical prodigies. There were people who were teaching entrepreneurship in prisons, people who were educating homeless children, authors who wrote countless bestseller books, researchers learning about indigenous African tribes, engineers who are creating contact lenses with a computer chip on them, and so many more.
It felt amazing sitting in an auditorium surrounded by people who were so captivated and willing to learn and understand what each speaker was talking about. Each session lasted approximately an hour and a half, but the day felt like it went by in a breath.
It was a seven hour conference packed with 33 talks, all of which struck different intellectual and emotional chords.