Today I presented a brand new workshop called “Surprisingly Awesome.” I described it this way:
Shakespeare, The War of 1812, the Pythagorean theory are just a sample of things we teach in schools that for many aren’t very interesting. Yet there is something incredibly satisfying and fulfilling when you can help students see the awesome and interesting things they originally dismiss. This session will explore some tools and strategies that can turn those kinds of topics into learning that is surprisingly awesome. If you have a great strategy or approach that’s been effective in making something mundane become surprisingly awesome, bring that idea to share.
I blogged about that title and its origins a while back. For those of you who are classroom teachers you get to try out new things everyday. I don’t have that luxury so I’m super excited to be able to test out new ideas and concepts from time to time.
Today was one such day.
I was careful to alert folks that this session had a high probability of failure. I also warned them that they would be working together and that their feedback about the session would be critical. I also let them know they were free to leave at anytime and my feelings wouldn’t be hurt.
As a first try, it was likely acceptable. I shared several great S.O.S. strategies as well as tried to build the case that many things worth learning are based on uncovering the hidden beauty behind the seemingly mundane.
Participants were tasked with creating 1-2 minute presentations choosing from a list of topics. We had 5 presentations on nylon, plastic bags, turkeys, chronic mastication and tires.
We then judged each presentation based on 3 criteria:
- Was it new information?
- Was it awesome? Would you share it with others?
- Is it useful? Will you act differently as a result of knowing?
Reflecting on the session I’m not sure the concept really landed. What I really wanted was for participants to consider their curriculum and think about what makes that content surprisingly awesome and what would it take to get their students to see it too. I also wanted them to find compelling content and unique facts that might make the content come alive. In short, this makes up much of what we’re always trying to do: make learning come alive. This is just a unique framing mechanism that I find useful. I’m not sure if I was able to share something of value to teachers beyond the strategies. The challenge of a conference workshop is I don’t have the relationship with partnerships and time to tweak and improve. I want to keep working on this to make it better.
- Maybe I need clearer goals?
- Maybe I should be more specific with my structure?
- Maybe this session isn’t worth doing again?
I’m open to all these questions. I’m trusting smart and caring educators will help me.
cross-posted at ideasandthoughts.org
Dean Shareski is the Community Manager of the Canadian DEN (Discovery Educators Network) and lecturer for the University of Regina. With 24 years of experience as a K12 educator and consultant, he specializes in the use of technology in the classroom. Read more at ideasandthoughts.org.
Disclaimer: This weblog contains the opinions and ideas of Dean Shareski. While there may be references to my work and content which relates directly to my work, the ideas are mine alone and are not necessarily shared by my employer.