Summer is always a great opportunity for teachers to relax and recharge. It is also a time to look ahead and get excited for the new year. I always get energized from attending conferences, connecting with other educators, and learning about what is new in education. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend any conferences this summer…so, I attended virtually through Twitter. Even though I was on the other side of the world, I could still feel the energy and excitement. There is a shift, a transformation happening that has the potential to impact our classrooms, our school, and our world.
At both the ISTE conference (#ISTE2016) and Alan November’s Building Learning Communities (#BLC16) conference, there were four main buzzwords that were the foundation of all the sessions and keynotes: Empathy, Mindfulness, Curiosity, and Connections.
Empathy. For the past few years, there has been a great deal of focus on student voice and choice. While these are still vital, there is now an emphasis on establishing a sense of purpose and meaning through empathy. For example, we can transform Genius Hour into a time when students design solutions to real-world problems, both locally and globally. A design process must begin with empathy for those around us and an awareness of how to help. As teachers and coaches, we need to put ourselves in others’ shoes and create a school environment in which all students (and teachers) can be successful. When students develop empathy and become aware of global issues, they can create social justice projects that will change the world.
Mindfulness. Empathy can be only be achieved when we are mindful. Take time for yourself and for your students to acknowledge the present moment and to be aware of how they feel, without judgement.
Curiosity. We know that we want our students to be lifelong learners and to take ownership of their learning, but that will only happen if they are truly curious. Model curiosity by asking questions and by honoring their questions. Today, it is easy to find answers, but do we know how to ask the right questions? If students continue to ask questions that Siri can answer, they will never be successful in the global marketplace. We need questions to ignite deep thinking, to inspire authentic action, and to spark a curiosity to learn more.
Connections. We live in a connected world. There are many tools and resources available to help teachers make global connections. We must teach students how to learn from others and establish meaningful connections.
The educators and speakers at both ISTE and BLC said it much better than I can, so I have collected tweets in a Storify that highlights these four buzzwords and provides links to resources to help you incorporate them into your classroom and school.