Friday, January 25, 2013

EduCon 2.5, Day 1

I'm attending EduCon this weekend; I left school just before lunch on Friday to come down to visit the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, which is hosting the conference. This is a public magnet school which is both standards-based and project-based. It's really fascinating to see these kids getting deeply into projects. Some observations:

  • First class: Advanced Engineering. They're working on their big projects of the term - I saw robots, water filtration by organisms, and a few other things. The most striking bit of that was when the teacher explained to us that, because of the recent budget cuts (40% over the last two years), the entire school's supply budget (paper, pens, toner, lab supplies, etc.) for the year is $200. No wonder they're all raising funds during the conference: kids are selling pretzels, shirts, etc. I'm going to lose some money today.
  • Second class: History (of some sort). They're role-playing reactions to The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen from nobles, Haitians, commoners, etc.
  • Third class: Algebra II. I'm not sure how the project-based part was playing out here. They were figuring out various things about parabolas from the equation, in a fairly participatory but mostly traditional setting. I didn't get to see too much of this one.
  • Fourth class: Statistics (I think). They're programming here, debugging and sharing their projects, written using Processing. This one was a game with a player running from ghosts, which will slow the player down if they catch the player. I'm less confident that I'm in statistics now. The schedule says that comp. science engineering and stat meet in the same room with the same teacher at the same time. Interesting!
Visiting another school is a great thing to do - we're all busy, but it's really invigorating, especially when it's a vibrant place like SLA. The students and teachers that I've met have been passionate and curious. What else can you ask for in a learning community?

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