This is a reply to an email request that I received. Our grant administrator wants to send a group of teachers to Constructing Modern Knowledge but wanted to know a bit more about it. Could I tell her? she asked.
I really enjoyed Constructing Modern Knowledge last year.
First – it’s tiny. There were about 50 teachers all in one ballroom at the
Marriott Radisson. There were some opening remarks and Gary and Sylvia presented an overview of the week.
What we were allowed to do was to spend four full days working on a project of our own devising – either one you brought with you or one that you explored with the tools at hand. It could be a collaborative project of teachers in one district, with teachers across the country, or a solo project. Around you were your colleagues to ask for advice. The strategy: look for mentors, use existing models, feel free to make mistakes.
We had wonderful speakers that stuck around for long periods of time, were available for lunch and dinner, and were happy to talk to folks. (James Loewen, Alfie Kohn, Debra Meyer to name just three.) There were few powerpoint presentations.
You must bring your own computer – but they have software to try and toys (really) to play with.
This year, if I get the enrichment money that I have asked for and can travel to Cordova and Granada, Spain, I am going to work on designing activities that allow students to play with tessellation and patterns in Islamic art, connect this to our study of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, the three major Abrahamic religions, storytelling, and Spanish as a language. In four days I’ll be able to scratch the surface. I am interested in the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education and the connections that I see between our youngest students and seventh graders developmentally (connecting to peers, explosion of vocabulary, cognitive shift to abstraction from concrete, fear of change, among other things). That and Mitch Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT.
Although I don’t think that lightning will strike twice and I will get to have dinner with Alfie Kohn and Chris Lehman again, I am sure that I will meet other interesting folks and have time to really explore some new tools and avenues of students discovery. They are Constructivist, so they let us discover things and each other.
And I plan on a field trip to take a photo of Col. Parker’s grave.
Does this help?
Alhambra image by Furlin