Talk is the sea in which all else floats.
This past Saturday was the annual Dublin Literacy Conference. It was a ridiculously good day of learning for me. Since I presented this year, I only went to three sessions but each one was great. I have seen Donalyn Miller share her thinking before and while there was not much that was completely new to me, the power of hearing some of her central ideas resonated deeply. When she asked, "What do people who don't read talk about?" I knew what she meant. At times I have to work hard to be involved in a conversation that doesn't include what I hve been reading lately. Sharon Draper absolutely mesmerized me with her passion for writing and getting great books into the hands of children. Then at the end of the day I went to a session about the power of film by Bill Bass. It was after this that I felt like my mind was toast. All of this new learning was swirling around in my brain and I couldn't slow my thinking down.
Eventhough the sessions I attended were enriching, it was the conversations with some very smart people throughout the day that gave me even more to ponder.
I ate lunch with Bill Prosser and James Preller. We had a fascinating discussion about whether or not reading a ton does make people smarter and more interesting. It intrigued me to think that maybe the depth of reading experiences, even if slightly limited is more important. For example, does reading every book written by John Grisham or Danielle Steele actually make you smarter compared to a person who spends 15-20 minutes a day reading a newspaper? In reflection I still think I want my students to read voraciously, but maybe I need to do a better job at moving them toward books that will exapnd thinking and learning. I will still celebrate a 4th grader reading every book in the A to Z Mysteries series, but maybe I need to also celebrate a child who during the same amount of time only read 4 to 5 books, but they were all more complex and thought provoking than The Absent Author.
After lunch a discussion with Franki Sibberson helped me to understand that it may be way too difficult to plan an effective session on using tech in classrooms based on the wide range of ability teachers have in regards to integrating technology. How can, in 45 minutes, someone effectively inspire a range of learners that include people who are just getting started to people who live a life of seamless tech integration. I think it would be daunting and she helped to confirm what I was already thinking. Which is why in my presentation, the use of tech was a remarkably small amount of time.
Later in the evening I had the chance to talk with Bill Bass and he helped me to understand in even more detail the transformaive power of creating film in the lives of students. He also gave me lots to consider in the wrestling match that often goes on in my head in regards to internet safety. One thread of this conversation contained the idea of if we don't allow students to use tools they use at home in the classroom are we subtly devaluing the authentic work our kids do outside of the school day? This is a big idea that caused me to think hard all of Sunday. Now I am not ready to turn my class into a free-for-all of phone cams and let's make a movie for everything. But I am starting to think I need to allow more of this type of work to occur.
I could go on and on about other conversations that I had during Saturday, but I feel the need to wrap up this post. My reflecting about the day is nowehere close to being done. I blame this on the Power of Conversation. Like the quote from above, everything that day floated on a sea of talk. I cannot comprehend how much I would have missed if I didn't barge my way into conversations with some very smart and interesting people. There was a time when I went to conferences and really didn't talk at all. I just absorbed the stream of information and kept my mouth shut. If I would have done that this year I would have missed a gold mine of ideas and learning.