Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 3, Microsoft PILGF

Day 3, Surprise!  We are changing the schedule.  Oh boy, the groans from us began!  We couldn't help but wonder why the schedule was changed...has the President made a schedule change to visit us on short notice, some ask?  Nope.  But, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado has.  He is a member of the education committee of the Senate and a passionate supporter of education.  At 8am, he talked to us about education and its impacts that are felt throughout society, including reduced poverty, crime, and increased wealth and stability.

Near the end of his short talk, Cheryl Arnett, a Colorado educator, looks at me and says, "Let's go meet him."  I say, "You're crazy!"  In my mind, I am thinking somebody is going to take poorly to people rushing over to a sitting Senator.  But, his enterouge is fine with it, and we meet him and snap pictures with him.  It was a neat experience.

Next, we moved to the keynote for the morning with Dave Christian, and "The Big Picture Project."  Dave Christian is an Historian turned scientist from Australia.  At its foundation, the project is a great idea.  The concept is to teach kids the big picture about our creation and reason for being.  It addresses the big bang, evolution, religion's role, archaeology, etc.  It is a 5 billion year account of the earth's history in one college course.

Now, I am a skeptic on nearly everything that I see and hear.  This fell into my category of "needs MUCH more research."  There is a lot of science in the project, but it is presented as cold hard truth, fact that can't be altered (i.e. we have this whole thing figured out, even though we weren't there).  It completely ignores the science behind other theories, including Creationism/Intelligent Design.  When probed about this by a US educator, Dave's answer sounded good, "we aren't telling people what to believe, but we are presenting a scientific worldview...."  The problem is that once you dig into the project, the intent is to discount creationism/intelligent design and tell the students what to believe.  This happens because it is what Dave Christian believes; he inserts his own opinion very strongly into the curriculum whilst reserving his good answers for the media.  At any rate, I am not a fan, but I like the overall concept of teaching a big picture.

Next, we headed for more judging!  Our last session.  I had a judge from Ireland, and I was able to present the information to him in a way that he got it!  It was my best presentation yet.  After the awards, he even commented to me that, "You had a very strong project, one of the best, and I scored you very high."  More to come on that later.  I was excited after this session, thinking I had a chance to take home a victory.

Still, the booth next door was blocking my booth continuously, even though they made steps to change their setup to accommodate me.  It was a great, nice gesture, but proved minimally effective.  I saw very little outside traffic during that session, too, much like the day before.  Also, when I arrived in the morning, somebody had stolen two of my books off of my booth!  I was fired up, but there was no way to figure out who it was.  I guess I will not trust others with security anymore.  The weird thing was that it was very targeted.  There was technology worth so much more laying all over the place, but the books disappeared.  I will likely have to replace them because I use them so much.

The Project Based Learning Handbook
Tool Time for Education

By this time of the day (lunch), we were all cooked!  In the afternoon, we were expected to spend a couple of hours on our learning excursions, and we did it, but it was slow going.  Our group did manage to come up with a good idea, though.  We are going to test pH in water samples from all over the world, have the students in each area research aquatic life health, and then have the students compare their results with the other groups around the world via video conference in order to determine if there is a correlation between pH and aquatic health.  It should be neat.

We had one more open booth session in the afternoon, but no judges were present.  It was merely for the schools and public to come by to see our work and gain insight into innovative educators and education.  I saw only two people at my booth, but both had heard about the project and wanted more information.  They also took my contact info so they could get a hold of me later.  Overall, I had a a lot of interest from Canada, Mexico, Ireland, and Britain.  Hopefully it will open some doors!

The rest of the night centered a reception, the movie, "American Teacher," and Microsoft's "Experience Pavilion."  I didn't attend the movie in favor of seeing my wife and baby, but the Experience Pavilion was really neat.  My favorite station was using Kinect to learn Mathematics.  They were gathering data from a source next door (dancing), and converting that into graphing and solving quadratics.  Neat!  Ginger Blackmon, our Principal at Highland Tech, later quipped, "Meghan is going to flip when I bring one of those home to her."  Meghan is a math teacher at Highland.

Alas, day 3 was over and I could go to bed!  I thought I should be tired, but I wasn't.  Lack of sleep and a busy schedule had not got to me yet.  On to day 4 and the Gala Dinner!

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