One of the coolest “perks” about being an iVoice for iVillage is that I can sometimes score a pretty fantastic invitation to a really cool event. But nothing beats the chance to attend NBC’s Education Nation for three days and have the opportunity to sit in on sessions and hear some of those most inspiring and brilliant minds in education share their ideas on what is working in schools and in classrooms across the country.
This year’s Education Nation was held at the NY Public Library, a place that I am embarrassed to say I had never visited before- and the building itself is spectacular. I was accompanied by two fellow iVoices Lela Davidson and Amanda Rodriguez, and iVillage’s chief correspondent, Kelly Wallace (our boss!).
On Sunday we sat in on the student and teacher town halls as well as a parent advocacy panel, and then topped off our evening at the red carpet premiere of the film “Won’t Back Down”. (I will be reviewing the film for iVillage later this week, and will share the link on my Momof6 facebook page on Friday…. but here’s a hint- it’s the best film I’ve seen this year!) On Monday we sat in on several incredible sessions- Andrea Mitchell interviewing Condoleezza Rice about how our failing education system is becoming a national security risk. We learned about schools such as Carpe Diem who have embraced technology as a model to teach kids at their own pace to better meet their individual needs. And yesterday the Education Nation audience was addressed live by Governor Mitt Romney, where he shared his thoughts on how he would address education if elected President (he has some good ideas, and some pretty out of touch ones), and a pre-taped interview was shown to the audience of Savannah Guthrie interviewing President Obama, who was unable to join us live because he was addressing the United Nations… where he talked about his plans for education (some of them are good, and some of them far are too influenced by the campaign-contributing teachers union).
But to be there live while these great minds were in the room? Simply amazing.
My Two Favorite Take-Aways from this Amazing Event?
1. Gaming can be very educational
There was a very eye-opening presentation by Zoran Popovic of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington that discussed how gaming can actually create positive effects on the brain. (Did you know that 70% of high schoolers play games, but nearly 100% of college students do?) Zoran’s team conducted an experiment with a game that was developed to simulate gene-sequencing. Specifically, this game was designed to help solve a gene sequencing problem that scientists had been studying without success for 13 years- to identify how a particular protein was sequenced. Gamers, without a strong background or skills in any sort of science or biology solved this problem in just 10 days!
Gaming uses all sorts of areas in the brain not stimulated by other types of problem solving, and now scientists and game developers are working to tap into this discovery by designing games to help kids learn. It is Zoran’s premise that gaming can be an extremely effective one -on-one tutor that can help all kids learn. And if you have a 20 minutes, watch this video of his presentation…
Makes you look at video games in a whole new light, doesn’t it?
2. Fixed vs Growth Mindsets… and My New favorite Word, “Yet”
My other favorite session was led by Brian Williams that explored the idea of “grit” and the latest research on perseverance is showing us that this trait is more important than intelligence. Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford shared a presentation on the idea of fixed vs growth mindsets. A student who has a fixed mindset might believe “I am just not good at math”, but a child who is encouraged to adopt a growth mindset, “I need to work hard at math but I can do this” will do measurably better in school. And Carol Dweck offered up what has now become my new favorite word… “yet”. It takes any fixed mindset and immediately changes it to a growth mindset… “I am not good in math…. yet.” (Or as an adult it might be…. “I am not as skinny as I want to be… yet!”)
Simply amazing what the power of that one little word can do for your kids. I will use this word with my kids everyday.
And if you have a little more time, watch this video of the entire presentation on mindsets, grit and perseverance. It is fantastic.
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