Learning to learn. It’s a strange concept, isn’t it? It’s easy to think that learning is something we just do – no effort required. After all, babies are learning every second their eyes are open, learning to echo facial expressions or sounds before they even realize it. Three year olds learn about the world around them so quickly, it’s as if they’re picking it up through osmosis. Second graders can tackle a new task within minutes without hesitation. But as we get older, something happens – learning stops being magical and becomes a job. A chore. Tell a middle school class that you’re starting a new topic, and you can count down the seconds until you hear the collective groan. Somewhere along the line, we decide that learning is too much work. And after we finish school, many of us forget how to really learn altogether.
It takes a strong dedication of mind, heart, and time to be a lifelong learner, and true students aren’t very common. Asking for help or clarification as a child is to be expected, but doing the same as an adult can come with a stigma. How often do you hear a grown-up humble themselves enough to say, “I don’t know what you mean, could you please explain it so that I can learn?” or, “That’s new to me, but I’d love to learn how to do it. It looks like you’re doing a great job – could you teach me?” Asking for help can be seen as a sign of weakness; open curiosity is often met with annoyance. Learning doesn’t necessarily stop when you hit a certain age or developmental milestone, but it does become a harder habit to continue. And some of us, after becoming settled and confident in our specific skills and habits, have to learn to learn all over again if we want to continue to grow.
Of all of the schools that I have ever worked in, St. Anne’s-Belfield has had the most dedicated and passionate lifelong learners. My coworkers are open to new opportunities and possibilities, and get joy and satisfaction out of stepping outside of their comfort zones. They celebrate what they do not know and what is left to learn, and see mistakes as opportunities to grow. I love my work because there is no shame in asking questions or sharing half-baked ideas. Everyone is learning, everyone is growing, and everyone is safe to explore and to fail. All this before the students even arrive! So it makes sense that St. Anne’s would host an annual conference all about learning to learn – reawakening your inner student, sparking your curiosity, and having the confidence to take risks.
Learn to Learn 2017 took on a subject very near and dear to my heart: computer science. The Learn to Learn Computer Science Institute took place over two days and invited all educators to step onto the St. Anne’s-Belfield School Learning Village campus to hear brilliant keynote speakers, attend workshop sessions, get hands-on experience with computer science related toys and tools, and collaborate on lessons and plans across districts and divisions. Educators were invited to attend for free, and provided with a range of online and physical resources. I was lucky enough to lead a workshop called Intro to Robotics in Education: Robot Petting Zoo, and had a blast leading a group of educators through the basics of introducing robotics into their classrooms.
Above, check out a few of my favorite slides from my workshop. To see more, head on over to the CS Institute Padlet – where you can find not only my whole presentation, but all of the resources and presentations shared during the conference. These sessions include great tips on design thinking, the pedagogy of learning, CS tools for students of all ages, and a wide variety of programs and applications. Check it out!
Thank you to Kim Wilkens and Zach Minster for putting together such a wonderful opportunity for inspiration and collaboration, and for inviting me to join the team. Another big thank you to St. Anne’s-Belfield for hosting and inviting so many educators – for free! – to help spread the word about computer science in education.