STEM Summit and What I learned…

On Thursday, I attended the 6th annual STEM Summit at Longwood University, sponsored by the ITTIP wing of the university. This was my second time. This year, Mr. Watson brought several Goochland teachers.

Among the speakers for the day was Sammie Marquez, a Maggie Walker High School junior who has been conducting biomedical research for several years, and already has several patent applications filed in her name. She had a powerful message to share, aside from her genuine enthusiasm for science. She described herself as curious, which I think is a great quality to have, and one as children that we seem to lose all too soon as we grow into adulthood. She thanked her mentors and her teachers. She really believes that teachers have the capacity to be innovators. She said:

Leadership is not about ability, it’s about responsibility… the responsibility to inspire students to continue on…

She sees the role of educators as one to identify opportunities, and to exercise our own creative learning. “Knowledge and wisdom,” she said, “are completely different.”

Tim Owens from Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg and a VSTE colleague of mine, presented on several pieces of inexpensive technology that are a part of the university’s informal “makerspace.”

One of the main speakers was veteran presenter David Warlick who talked about our over-saturation of information and how to take the culture surrounding this information exchange into schools. He says that teaching needs to mimic these flexible, active spaces by becoming more responsive. He provided us with a few examples, like supporting a backchannel during a lecture, student blogging, or Scratch.

One of his most compelling examples was a collaborative animation project between three grade levels (2nd, 4th, and 10th) supported through direct chats between these different age groups. The results were clearly collaborative.

He shared two online tools:

We also learned about a tool in development for searching and collecting education content online called Gooru Learning. I’ll have more to say about this once it leaves beta development.

But the most powerful portion of the day for me was having fellow Goochland teachers there – to see and hear about their reactions. The informal discussions we had and the sharing of opportunities to improve our practice (either generally or within a STEM framework) is a powerful opportunity. I was really happy and impressed in talking with some of our Goochland crew (it helped that we carpooled). We have some awesome teachers which isn’t news to many, but seeing the soak up these new ideas like sponges was both refreshing and exciting. I can’t wait to help bring some of this excitement to our classrooms.