Deena Kimmel, Social Media & Community Manager

TCEA’s Focus on Empowering Exploration

Last week, attendees at TCEA 2019 had the honor of hearing Dr. Mae Jemison speak. Dr. Jemison was the first woman of color in the world to travel into space and is currently an advocate for the importance of STEM learning to foster the next generation of problem solvers and leaders.

Dr. Mae Jemison at TCEA

During her presentation, Dr. Jemison spoke of the need for more different perspectives. As she explained, the research that we decide to explore depends on the people we are. Therefore, if the decision makers are all coming from the same socioeconomic backgrounds, we are losing out on opportunities to research other topics that underrepresented groups, like women and minorities, find worthy of exploration.

Therefore, as a society, it is important to empower everyone so that we don’t miss out on opportunities to solve some of the world’s most critical problems.

With this powerful insight guiding me through TCEA, I realized that a lot of the sessions and presentations revolved around empowering exploration.

Creating Future Ready Schools

In Tom Murray’s session on “Creating Future Ready Schools”, he highlighted the role of both the educator and of EdTech as empowering students to explore. Referencing a quote from Ernő Rubik, Tom challenged the attendees to ask a fundamental question about teaching: “Are we teaching kids answers? Or how to ask great questions?” If we encourage students to ask great questions, as opposed to memorize responses, we are empowering them to explore concepts at a deeper level.

Similarly, when looking at the role of EdTech in the classroom, Tom highlighted a report on Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning by Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond. In this study, Dr. Darling-Hammond found that the use of technology to explore and create rather than “drill and kill” is one instance where EdTech can truly be successful in the classroom. Once again, encouraging exploration as opposed to memorization.

3 Key Findings for What Works with EdTech

Shift Summer Slides Into Summer LEAPS!

Following Tom’s session, I attended Shannon McClintock Miller’s and Becky Calzada’s session, “Shift Summer Slides Into Summer LEAPS!” One of the first things they mentioned was that educators should talk to their kids about being readers. “Ask them why they like to read, not just what they’re reading.”

Again, this advice brought to mind the importance of empowering exploration. By asking students why they like to read or what benefit it brings them, we are helping them explore the role that reading can play in their lives. It becomes less of a chore, and more of an exploration of themselves.

Bar graph from summer slide session at TCEA

Using Digital Tools to Make Math Accessible

Finally, in the “Using Digital Tools to Make Math Accessible” session with Mary Kemper, attendees learned how to use digital tools to explore math concepts. While walking us through an example lesson using Desmos, Mary highlighted the many ways you can use the tool to encourage exploration.

For example, she shared a pared-down graph with us about climate change and asked us to share what we noticed and wondered about the graph - from lines, to colors, to anything in between. By giving such an open ended question, we were encouraged to look at the graph from all angles, realizing that there were no right or wrong answers to what we saw. Through the Desmos app, we were then able to see everyone else’s responses. In doing this, we were empowered to explore aspects of the graph we hadn't noticed before and make new observations.

Desmos Graph

When Dr. Jemison first talked about empowering exploration, it seemed like a daunting task. However, through the sessions I attended at TCEA, it soon became clear that just through simple questions in combination with engaging EdTech tools, empowering exploration for every student can become a reality.

What were some of your key takeaways from TCEA? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Plus, commenting will enter you to win a signed copy of Kasey Bell’s Shake Up Learning book on Dynamic Learning. So what are you waiting for?

Shake Up Learning Book


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