Inspiring ideas from the first Ignite session at ISTE 2013

The Ignite format for conference sessions is one of my favorites: each presenter has five minutes to speak. They get to show only twenty slides which automatically advance every fifteen seconds. It’s a fast-paced session that gives the best ideas designed to inspire and energize educators. Here are some of the highlights from my notes in Sunday’s Ignite at the ISTE conference in San Antonio, Texas:

Hack Education (Michelle Cordy)

Hacking is about taking existing elements apart and putting them together in new ways to solve problems. That’s what we need in education. Every good piece of work starts by scratching a personal itch. Just because a kid doesn’t like to be taught doesn’t mean he doesn’t like to learn. We need to hack the structures in schools that prevent this. It’s time for teachers and kids to work on projects we need and want.

Kill All the Players (Wesley Fryer)

Failure is what makes games fun: try, test, fail, try again. Educational games that tack the educational component on to the “real” game play rob the player of this failure and the fun, because the fun only happens when you get the right answer. Too many instructions in a game ruin the educational value of trying to figure out a game. Instructions tell players “stop having fun and have a look at this.” Giving too many instructions doesn’t inspire game playing. If you hold the player’s hand too much, you deny them the opportunity of discovery. But if you let the player do it on their own and die, that makes the person want to play again and try to figure things out. One study found that when there’s no game tutorial, play time and curriculum retention tripled.

Science and Art Integration (Kathryn Kaiser)

These two subjects have a lot in common–more than you might think. Here’s what’s happening at Kathryn’s school: a kindergarten class had to make a house for the 3 little pigs and then test it to see if it would stand. They also used the free tool Scratch to convey an aspect of the life cycle in the forest. Students worked collaboratively to explore the phases of design. Sixth graders looked at Renaissance art where they explored the expression of physical space. Fourth graders studied visual artists/dancers and created new collaborations that included digital work. Seventh graders studied key innovators and presented their ideas in a fair, literally embodying the innovators at the fair, dressing up as Steve Jobs and the like. Eight graders designed prototypes for new school furntiure, and their final designs were submitted for actual production in a factory. Students learned to look at the world through the complementary lenses of science and art.

Open Doors for Students (Michael Mills)

Books are the bridge between the 20th and 21st centuries. Have students create eBooks and record their voices reading it. Later you can have students go to “Scratch Camp”, using Scratch to create. Change the perception of the word geek in schools. Steve Jobs was a geek. Become a beginner again. Lead a local StoryChaser Club–inspired by storm chasers. Amplify the awesome things happening at your school by enlisting students in an after-school journalism club to tell digital stories. Kids then have time to play with media and become comfortable with tools.

STEM Education (Jeff Piontek)

Let’s turn STEM into STEAM into STREAM by adding reading and arts. Divergent thinking is so important in the 21st century. Creativity and innovation are critical. Students have these skills in PreK and lose them as time goes on. We need to encourage discovery learning at all ages. Learning in the upper grades is measured in credits and seat hours instead of mastery: we need to let students demonstrate mastery and move on to something innovative in both unstructured and structured activities. We need more play in children’s lives. STEM is the present need, and education follows the money. But we need the arts and reading. We don’t have to teach kids to be creative, they already are: we just have to stop assessing and start allowing the creativity to shine through.

Sparking Passion in Students Who Have Lost Hope (Carrie Ross)

7 out of 10 young people have never been asked what they’re passionate about, but passion is what inspires hope. School needs to be a place where students can rebuild their dreams, or dream up something new. Show an interest in what students are interested in, and let students know you are a person, too, with hopes and dreams of your own. Students may need to live through your hopes and dreams at first and use them as a springboard toward finding their own. It only takes a few seconds to let a student know you have their back. It’s not a sign of weakness to say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out together.” Students want an invitation to know that they can make a difference. Let them be a part of your team even if they can’t hit a home run. Show them possibilities in the community at large and the chance to leave a legacy when they leave the community or when they leave this world. Our hopes and dreams for students may not be what they want for themselves, and that’s okay, we can honor those differences and help them find their passion and see a world out there that is bigger than what they have experienced.

 Silliness in Schools (Dean Shareski)

The stupidest  creative act is still a creative act (Clay Shirky.) We need more silliness. We live in a remix culture where we take existing things and put them together in new and interesting ways. If people did not do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done(Ludwig Wittgenstein.) Do silly thing with kids and have conversations about how to move those things forward to something of value. We need to have a mindset that lets kids explore these things. Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up.

If I have any of the names, session titles, or details wrong, please let me know–I was typing as fast as I could, but I’m sure I missed a few things. What’s your take on these ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Helen Jo June 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Thank you so much! I love these ideas already. I wish they were up on TED or something so us homebodies teaching summer school could eavesdrop :)

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2 Heidi Butkus June 26, 2013 at 10:52 am

It sounds like you had a wonderful first day and went to some really interesting sessions! Thanks for sharing them!
Heidi Butkus
http://heidisongs.blogspot.com

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3 Michelle Cordy June 27, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Hi Angela,

Thanks for your blog post. I couldn’t have written a better summary of my own talk. Thanks for capturing and distilling the essentials. I could do the talk in 1 minute now!
Great summaries. Thanks very much for the mention.

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