It’s over… or is it? (by the time I actually finish this post, it’s probably over.)

I’m happy to say that I’ve participated in the Encompass Summer Institute. After following the rouges gallery of fellows on twitter all summer it was almost like a Hollywood red carpet when they started pouring in.

My role in developing the encompass software is mostly quality assurance; as in, being another pair of eyes to make sure the scripts and codes do what they’re supposed to be doing. Though, my work is not limited to just bug hunting. As an engineer, testing the software and writing bug reports is how I mediate between the teachers and programmers at the math forum. Essentially, I try to translate from programmer to teacher and vice versa.

Either way, it came and went and in the aftermath I’m picking up the pieces and helping to develop software.  ESI was quite a boon to us.  I’ve been slamming my skull against the concept of “software” and “formative assessment” trying to think of ways to envision pathways to develop new features that teachers at ESI have expressed a need for. Until now, the reverberations of the Institute have been rather fruitful. Damola, Amir, Steve, myself et al have been working hard to create new features and have brought the encompass software miles and miles closer to a final point of development.

On the topic of the event itself, one new tradition that Steve brought to ESI was “Connections”. This was a segment of time devoted to quiet contemplation of life, the universe and everything; though the fellows and staff tended to focus on teaching and the myriad challenges and triumphs therein. It wasn’t entirely silent. One person at a time were allowed to speak their thoughts without expecting a response, praise or judgement. Their words were meant to resonate among us, or as steve put it “ripple”, and inspire new ideas or help us to find new perspectives on things. For some it was very inspiring, and for others cathartic. Some ripples were stories rife with fear, uncertainty or regrets, yet these were just as profound as any other ripple. I’m not one hundred percent sure if this was Steve’s original idea, but even though the ripples were rather deep cuts I think the catharsis helped our fellows focus on the future of the Encompass program. On the penultimate connections session, I had drawn a parallel to what actually occured to a passage in the Tao te Ching.

The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is on the empty
space, that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is
fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness, that
their use depends. The door and windows are cut out
to form a home; but it is on the empty space, that its
use depends. Therefore, what has a existence serves for
profitable adaptation, and what has not that for usefulness.

I think that the ripples we created were our best thoughts and our worst memories being emptied from the vessel that is our collective mind. Though concerning Eastern philosophy, perhaps I should stick to Samurai history.

It’s now a few months away from ESI 2014, but the memories and lessons are still rippling with me.