Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reflections on the ADE 2011 Asia Institute

I’ve been thinking for a few days about how I will write this reflection. Every time I consider my approach to this task I come up with different snippets of conversation or slices of experiences that I felt I just needed to use for this piece. My conclusion? It’s simply too difficult to summarize the ADE institute in a quick, concise written reflection. Too many ideas were planted, others were validated and (many) others challenged my own perceptions. From having breakfast with an institute colleague to working on the Saigon 360 Project, ideas were constantly being tossed around; ideas that I need to spend time on to reflect and consider how they may or may not affect my practice, my understandings, my pedagogy and my life outlook.

Taking the complexities of personal ideas and feelings and presenting them to be understood by your audience is difficult and complex in itself as we saw in The Three Idiots from our movie night (and a reminder of how my students can feel); but hey it’s the meaning we’re after and that’s what I’ll try to present below. What did I take away from the ADE?

“Personal story” was the underlying theme of the institute. We all have a story to tell. We may think our story is boring and ineffectual for our audience, but in fact we can all pick out the human commonalities that bind us together as well as differences that set us apart. We have all failed at certain points in our lives and have experienced success. By telling our stories we support each other and understand each other. It opens communication channels. It encourages discussion.

The inspiration I gained through these stories (and the stories of others in my life) is a motivating force. Within the PYP framework we encourage our students to be risk-takers. We encourage them to challenge themselves and not be afraid of failure. Hearing people talk about both their low and high points has been an encouraging experience, the underlying message being thinking and doing “out of the box” is what being an innovative teacher is all about. I can’t wait for Spring Break to end and get back into the classroom (well ... you know what I mean) - I'm bursting with energy and I want my students to end the year bursting with this same energy.

We were challenged to find our passion in life. I found this to be a very difficult challenge. There are things I am passionate about - coaching basketball, my family, books, movies - but I wasn’t sure how these directly related to my teaching in a deep way, nor how I could communicate it. I need time on this because it is so personal.

The keystone. 20th century pedagogies are being challenged. Students are different from when we were in school because society/culture/technology/ETC!! have changed from when we were in school. We are living in transformative times and we need to teach in a transformative way. The video Shift Happens has been floating around educational circles for years now. Interestingly, each year in September I show this to my parents and it is most often the first time they’ve seen it. I believe that my 10 year-olds understand our 21st century, “new school” pedagogies more than their “old school” parents. What do you mean you want more worksheets for homework?

Put 60+ international educators together who needed to put in a significant effort to be in that room and you will see an energy that is unmatched among other professions. Discussion. Debate. Understanding. Challenge. Simply awesome. I walked away building relationships with people that I know can last a lifetime. We are connected on Twitter, through the ADE, through region, through interests. What we have started, I know we can build upon, as evidenced already through discussions and connections happening on Twitter only one day after.

What did I not take away from the ADE?

I am not a pitchman for Apple. This was a concern for me prior to the conference. I was asked to reflect upon myself as a person and an educator as a "branding" exercise and “Apple” nor “technology” reached the top of my list (not even close). When I shared this, it was interesting to hear that several others believed the same way. We were not drinking the Apple Kool-ADE after all.

You cannot be isolationist in your pedagogy. Collaboration was key throughout the entire institute. Indeed, it was the very essence. The days of teaching behind a closed door is anachronistic.

Final product does not trump process. @colingally ( talks about this in his blog reflection and I agree with him completely. I was reminded of the pressures of my students to complete a task and not reflect upon the decisions/choices he/she made to get there. That is where the true learning and depth of understanding can be found.

On a final note - how excellent was the Saigon 360? Our group decided to tap into the energy of Saigon as it is represented through the motorcycle/scooter. A brilliant activity!


  1. I have to say, I drank a lot of the "Kool-ADE," but it didn't taste like Apple to me. I enjoyed your 360 video. Light and fun. After reflecting on my choice of project, I wished I had chosen something similar. I guess that is all part of the process.

  2. Wow! Is this your very first blog post! I love it. Well thought out and written. Looking forward to reading more of your work in the future. Pleasure to meet you!

  3. Well said, DJ! It was an exceedingly difficult task to capture the experience, but I think you've done it brilliantly! Thank you.

  4. Apologies for the late response but I just returned from a family trip to China. Thanks for the encouragement. Getting a blog up and running is no easy feat and trying to reflect on the ADE as a first post makes that feat even more daunting!