Yesterday was day one of the DML 2013 conference that I’m attending in Chicago. Needless to say, it’s very exciting to be at a national conference that is this big. I’ve even managed to cross paths with (most likely) the only other music educator here! Yesterday’s opening keynote was focused around students as agents of social change and what that looks like in the 21st century. Also, how can educators channel that in their classrooms. The keynote speaker was Ethan Zuckerman from MIT. The session I really got a lot out of yesterday was a presentation by educators and students from the Digital Youth Network school here in Chicago. This school is a very very cool concept! The school is for students in grades 6-8 and really works on a passion based learning model while making sure students build their digital skills and literacy before moving on to high school. Students are in the building for the school day, and for very specific after school clubs and activities. The whole idea is that the school day is for standards based learning, while after school (really a second school day) is for passion based learning. After school, students work with both teacher mentors and outside professionals in the given field in projects and clubs that focus on video production, music production, spoken poetry, etc. I was so excited to hear about this model, because just as much as I see myself as a proponent of instructional technology, I am such a proponent of passion based learning. Ken Robinson’s book, The Element, gets at this concept.
The digital aspect of this school is intriguing as well. The students work after school in their interest area(s) to learn and build their digital toolbox so that they can seamlessly learn these tools in this classroom during the school day. There is also a social aspect to the (many times very profound) products that they create after school. DYN has engineered a custom social network for their students, mentors, and educators. Students are required to share their work on this network and it is viewed and praised by their peers, teachers, and many outside professionals that the school has asked to join. The students spoke about the importance of having their music videos, slam poetry, documentaries, etc online for many people to see.
The last part of their experience that we heard about was what it was like for the students to go on to a high school that wasn’t as centered around the digital age. All the students on the panel spoke about the unbelievable benefits. To hear how innovative and self directed these students had been through high school in their learning was very, very cool! For some of them, they are the only students in their schools who use these tools and have to convince their teachers to in fact use them as an alternative to the poster project or written report. First, the fact that these students are advocating for their own education is phenomenal. Furthermore, they’re in a way fueling a grassroots movement in their schools as they inspire teachers and classmates to think about how they can use technology more in their schools.
More to come on day two later today!