I want to Make…

The following is a list of disparate lines from previous blog posts that highlight / describe / articulate what I want to Make:
  • What if [students] only gave their attention to the things they cared about? What if they could subscribe and unsubscribe to any class or subject or group or community of practitioners?
  • Create multi-age classrooms and multi-generational learning spaces.
  • Why do we still have classrooms anyway? We need to call them a new name. Also, why do we call it “first grade” and “second grade” and so on? We need new names for these learning spaces: Individuals sign up for different groups of practitioners. Each learner subscribes to a community(s) of practitioners that they are drawn to, such as “Makers,” “Innovators,” “Speakers,” “Readers,” “Experimenters,” “Writers,” “Researchers,” “Designers,” “Artists,” “Storytellers.”
  • Will Wright, the designer of The Sims, who knows how to get millions of teenagers to engage in an activity, told the New Yorker magazine what he would do with education: “The problem with our education system is we’ve taken this kind of narrow, reductionist, Aristotelian approach to learning. It’s not designed for experimenting with complex systems and navigating your way through them in an intuitive way, which is what games teach. It’s not really designed for failure which is what games teach. I mean, I think failure is a better teacher than success. Trial and error, reverse-engineering stuff in your mind, all the ways that kids interact with games – that’s the kind of thinking schools should be teaching. And I would argue that as the world becomes more complex, and as outcomes become less about success or failure, games are better at preparing you.” Even the most sophisticated digital simulation game is going to impose restrictions on what you can attempt and not attempt. What I mean is that tabletop games (as opposed to digital games) are more versatile, more divergent, and more open-ended allowing for more disruptive and innovative solutions to problems.
  • This is exciting to me as an educator because I want my students to grapple with complex questions and ambiguous problems and then seek out answers and solutions. I’m curious to investigate more about the value of tabletop role-playing games, Process Drama, and Serious Games as learning tools.
  • You cannot transmit wisdom and insight to another person. The seed is already there. A good teacher touches the seed, allowing it to wake up, to sprout, and to grow.

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Planting Seeds

  • But why should work be separate from school? And when I say work, I’m talking about doing the work that you love to do, spending time creating or building or making or directing or organizing something.
  • Now this doesn’t mean you work in a vacuum, of course. You find communities of practitioners, or experts, or mentors to learn from. Independent Learners have always met regularly for shared classes or for just to play/socialize. When you teach yourself, you’re always listening and reading and talking to others. “School is connections.” (HT to @boadams1)
  • Progressive businesses care about What can you do, and What have you already done. (Also very important: superior writing skills and exceptional “soft skills”–patience, empathy, pitching, compassion, storytelling, genuine deep listening, communication, people skills).
  • I just came across this Alice Walker video on youtube. She says:

It’s so important to do work that you absolutely love. It’s the only way you really grow; is who you’re meant to be.

Olympic Studies

I just found out about Mountain Shadows School in Dublin, NH. They are a small private school.

Every spring, they suspend all classes for about five weeks for the middle school (except math) and the students are engaged in some kind of hands-on experience all day with a mentor in a field they are passionate about. The student chooses the field of interest, and the school finds someone who is an expert in that community of practice (from video-making to paramedic).

They call it Olympic Studies, for some reason. When the weeks are over, each students stands beside their mentor and gives a presentation to the whole school community.

I will continue to be in touch with them to learn more and I look forward to posting more about their approach so we can hopefully do the same at Hess Academy, Decatur, GA.

Using the Outdoors

As a new and enthusiastic sixth-grade teacher, I was bringing my students back to the classroom after doing a math lesson outdoors. I passed a colleague in the hall who stopped, smiled, and said, “Must be nice to go outside and play instead of teach.”

Although the comment was just lighthearted kidding, I still couldn’t help feeling annoyed and even a bit uncomfortable. I was annoyed that my colleague obviously defined “real” teaching as something that could take place only inside a classroom. But I was a new teacher, and the remark also raised the uncomfortable notion that maybe I wasn’t making the best use of time. After years of reflection and experience though, I am more convinced than ever that the best use of time occurs when kids are actively engaged in motivating learning activities and environments, either indoors or beyond the walls of the classroom.

Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning, by Herbert W. Broda, page 1


‘Start With Why’ for Your Class

You know that book, Ways We Want Our Classroom To Be? That book largely answers the question of “How.” How do we want our class to interact together?

But I think asking “Why” is even more important, especially in the midst of the radical transformation happening in education. I think we need to ask “Why” first, before we even ask any questions about “How.”

For example, I think we should ask first day, first hour, “why are we here?” Why are we all here?” Now there’s some trite answers like, “My parents made me come here.” And that is valid, yes. It is true. But on a deeper level, why will we continue to come here every weekday and become a group for the rest of the school year? “What reasons do we have for coming together as a group, as a team, every weekday?”

Consider a homeschooler. If you were homeschooled, you’d be able to accomplish a lot, right? And you’d meet with all kinds of people in other groups, right?

“So what can our group do that we wouldn’t be able to do with any other group? What can we do collectively that we wouldn’t be able to do as an individual? What impact can we have on our lives, on our communities, on our world?”

Like a start-up, or an established organization, we can create a statement of our purpose, our reason for existing. We can make it enlivening. It can be the central focus of all our activity.

Such a basis creates an identity. We all become practitioners in our self-created community of practice. We identify and highlight our significance. We create and label the way that we are essential to the community and to the world.

We arrive at this statement of significance by consensus.

“What do we want to accomplish or achieve that we can only do with this specific combination of people, this unique group? What change do we want to make in our life or in lives around us? What contribution do we want to make? In what way will we serve, be servant leaders?”

Simon Sinek had a Ted talk and has a book: Start With Why. And I think we need to do that for our class.

Someone might say, “We’re here to learn stuff.” But is that the real reason? Is that something you can’t do by yourself? Is that something you need all of us for? So then what is a better reason?

And whatever we co-create, it doesn’t new to be fixed or permanent. Maybe later we find it needs to be fixed or modified or re-imagined completely. So we can keep coming back to it and refining it if need be. We can keep checking in on our statement of significance and reflect: “Is this still our significance? Is this still out purpose, our reason for being?”

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I feel excited, intrigued, and enlivened by this news! Thank you, Bo Adams.

it's about learning

  • HT @MikeyCanup

    tags:school modelschools of the futureSchool Changeschooldesignschoolreform#MustRead

    • But what are they betting on? AltSchool is a decidedly Bay Area experiment with an educational philosophy known as student-centered learning. The approach, which many schools have adopted, holds that kids should pursue their own interests, at their own pace. To that, however, AltSchool mixes in loads of technology to manage the chaos, and tops it all off with a staff of forward-thinking teachers set free to custom-teach to each student. The result, they fervently say, is a superior educational experience.
    • heir own weekly “playlists,” queues of individual and group activities tailored to the specific strengths and weaknesses of each kid.
    • This puts AltSchool at the intersection of two rapidly growing movements in education. Along one axis are the dozens of edtech startups building apps…

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