Deeper Learning 2015 Conference Reflection

Sitting on the plane leaving the 75 degree sunshine heading back home to the state of Iowa where I anxiously await seeing my wife and kids I am ready to decompress pages of notes, muddled thoughts, new concepts, and steps for action compiled from 3 days of deeper learning at the Deeper Learning 2015 conference. Here are some initial thoughts from the plane.

I was lucky enough to attend this conference last year and was even more fortunate enough to go again this year along with two other coaches and my building principal. Originally, I was supposed to be running a Deep Dive session using Sphero robotics, but my session was cancelled due to so many other amazing people and presentations. At first I was super bummed, but things happen for a reason. I was able to join forces with Monica Martinez, the author of Deeper Learning, and help guide educators from various backgrounds and schools to walk away with a plan to make one small change.

One of the best things to happen is finally being able to meet people who I have connected with online via Twitter and other platforms and see them in person. It is amazing how we connect through social media and when given the chance to meet in person it is so great. I often think that if we did not have social media I would never meet these people in person and that bums me out because I think of all the educators who do not connect with others from around the world to make us better and are missing out on these opportunities.

At the conference I was able to talk and work with Monica in person. We have chatted via email for the last year and Skyped several times, but this was our first time talking and working face to face. Listening to her speak, learning more about where she is coming from was really amazing and she strengthened my insights and understanding of deeper learning and what it takes to create quality education. I walked away with a higher level of respect for her and what she is working to help others achieve.

I also was finally able to meet Zak Malamed. Zak is one of the best people out there spreading the word of student voice in education. As a founder of, he and his colleagues are doing amazing work across the nation. We have worked on many items over the last year so to finally connect in person was amazing. What he and his crew are doing with Student Bill of Rights I am just so impressed. Student Voice is a deep passion of mine and with instrumental leaders like Zak leading the way I cannot wait to see how the agency in students develop. Talking with him and merging some new ideas that we are going to bring back to Bettendorf Middle and High School I cannot wait to share what we going to be doing.

Last, I was able to speak with the almighty Marc Chun. As Education Program Officer of Hewlett Foundation, the genius behind the best email away messages, and just all around amazing person I finally was able to speak with him in person. What he is doing for education is powerful. I look forward to hopefully staying connected with him and pushing the envelope for education.

Deeper Learning is one of the best and perhaps premiere conferences in the states. The reason I say this is that there is such a diverse background of people who come together for this event. Usually, I hate the round robin of introductions for breakout sessions, but here I am blown away by all the different backgrounds, types of schools, new schools, leaders initiatives, and deep modes of thought, that it reminds me that what I see and work with in education in Bettendorf, Iowa is a very narrow window of how education plays out across the nation. For example, in one session where we examined student work we had students from Hong Kong, educators from British Colombia, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Michigan, home school networks, leaders of schools opening their doors this fall, public, charter, private, EL, New Tech, Envision, Big Picture, and the list goes on and on.

The beauty of all of this is that we are after the same thing – quality education. Based on the context of location, circumstance, and other conditions, we have to go about it in a variety of formats. When we come together and work through ideas at a conference like this we can take bits and pieces from everyone to transform our own schools. Often times we work with local schools who have same conditions and we try to develop answers with a narrow vision. There is nothing narrow about the conversations taking place at Deeper Learning.

On a personal level Deeper Learning 2015 gave me the realest reality check(not sure if that phrase makes sense). Talking with so many educators I realized how much I DON’T know. I have so much to learn and they inspire me to keep learning, shrink the ego of what I think I know, and push me to find new solutions, new ideas, and to realize I have a long way to go in my understanding of education. Thank you to everyone who challenged my thinking, made me realize that I am missing key components to some of my thinking, and to continue to push my boundaries of thought.

The conference is once again 2.5 best days of learning of my year. Reading my reflections from the conference from last year (Part 1Part 2Part 3) I realized that my second year was a great year. It was different in a good way and I walked away with an onslaught of new ideas that my brain was not ready for last year.

I will digging into these ideas and what I learned in more specific detail in my upcoming blog posts in my 31 Days of Deeper Learning and PBL series, but until then I walk away nodding my head to this tagline of Deeper Learning



Thank you everyone who made this conference so great. I look forward to sharing my ideas in upcoming posts and hopefully my Deep Dive next year will be in full throttle.

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