This week, I participated in the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago. It was the 41st occurrence of the semi-annual conference, but the first time I attended. Organized by Daniel Bassill, it brings together people from many different organizations, and offers the opportunity to learn from each other, and to create new network connections with other people that participate in the tutor/mentor world.
Daniel and I “met” each other during a Deeper Learning MOOC, at which time he invited me to present a #PBL workshop at the conference. I must admit I initially had some questions as to whether/what attendees at this conference would like to learn about PBL, or at least from me, since I have limited experience in the tutor/mentor world.
After perusing the Tutor/Mentor Institute website, and after reflecting for awhile, I concluded that PBL applies to disadvantaged youth perhaps even more than others. These young people are struggling to feel empowered, to be recognized as capable, and to have control of their lives. The PBL model can be applied to a wide diversity of activities, not only those considered “academic,” so can be used in pretty much any environment that provides support and encouragement as learners seek to attain authentic, real-world goals.
So, I took the plunge and agreed to present a workshop on PBL. Dan and I interacted a few times about the conference, how many copies I should make of materials, etc. I also checked the registration list, to try and get a feel for the audience. Nonetheless, given I had no previous exposure to this audience, I felt unease as I marched in. What did this audience hope to learn? How could I engage them to the fullest? How could I add value?
At the beginning of my workshop, I asked each person to introduce themselves, and to state their purpose in attending this particular workshop. I was thrilled with the eagerness the audience expressed to better understand how to apply PBL to their work with young people; in after-school programs, in classrooms, in young-adult life skills training programs. Many already recognized that PBL provides authenticity and real-world value.
I especially appreciated the last segment of the workshop, when participants brought their questions and problems to the group, and the thoughtful responses they received. There was strong evidence of 21st-Century skills – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity – in the way the group interacted. This group of committed adults will undoubtedly teach those skills to those they mentor.
To add to my elation, the keynote speaker during the luncheon was Eric Davis, the founder and director of GCE High School, in Chicago. This is a PBL school; a large percentage of the students come from disadvantaged circumstances. Eric stated that the school has ties into 200+ organizations that the students work with to acquire hands-on, real-world experience. Among the statistics on their website are: “College Acceptance Rate: 100%, First Choice College Selection: 100%, Graduation Rate: 100%.” This school is high on my list of places to visit!
So, thank you Dan, for inviting me into your world! I look forward to further collaborative efforts, and to ongoing #deeperlearning.