Monday, May 2, 2016

Unseen City: Wonders of the Urban Wildlife

I regularly listen to several podcasts.  One of my favorite podcasts is 99% Invisible.  The most recent episode, Unseen City: Wonders of the Urban Wildlife, broadcasts an interview with author and amateur naturalist Nathaneal Johnson.  In the book, Unseen City, Nathaneal Johnson shares stories of plants and animals which thrive in urban landscapes.  In the podcast, Johnson explains how he became intrigued by animals and plant life that many of us simply overlook on a daily basis. However, as the podcast and book highlights, urban creatures reveal fascinating stories of fortitude and survival.

What resonated during the podcast was a subtle message to take the time to observe the natural world.  We often take for granted the natural world and rarely stop and think about how aspects of the natural world evolved.  To an extent, this is true in education.  Students rarely slow down to observe the natural world or for that matter, the subtle developments within a given day.  As a result, meaningful opportunities to reflect and to dig deeper are lost.  The same is true for educators.  How often do teachers and administrators just simply observe students not necessarily to assess, but instead, to uncover hidden facts about how kids learn, interact with peers and manage the realities of being a student? Educators can take a cue from Johnson and carve out time to observe and to think deeply about what is noticed.  It is important to uncover the hidden/unseen stories and not take for granted certain developments within a school building or classroom.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few posts from the past couple of weeks.

1. Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good Through College Admissions- Report making the case that the college admission process can promote that ethical and intellectual engagement are both highly important

How might we construct an admissions process that sends compelling messages that both academic achievement and commitment to others and the common good are highly important? How might we construct a process that motivates young people to contribute to others and their communities in ways that are more authentic and meaningful and that promote in them greater appreciation of and commitment to others, especially those different from them in background and character? How might we increase young people’s understanding of and commitment to the public good? Just as important, how might the admissions process assess young people’s contributions to others and their communities in ways that are more valid and meaningful, especially students varying widely by race, culture and class?

2. Using Snapchat to Develop Empathy in a Technology Driven World (Holland)- using snapchat to tell stories as a way to develop empathy as part of the problem-solving process

Imagine asking students  to watch the Snapchat story featuring the city of the day and respond to the visible thinking routine, "I used to think.... But now I think..." Consider the discussions that could take place as we come to a self-realization about the depth of people around the world and what it means to be a global citizen. That moment of self-assessment, where you realize what you used to think and what you now have learned, truly leaves you feeling more cautious about the biases you develop towards people and places with which you are not familiar.

3. Why Coding is the Vanguard for Modern Learning (Olsen)- learning to code isn’t acquiring skills but rather how coding enables development that is not possible without coding

Code enables us to experiment. To imagine solutions or creations, and then see if we can in fact make them. Code enables us to solve problems that would otherwise be beyond our capacity because they would take far too long, or be difficult not to introduce mistakes. The computer language provides precision and consistency to a level beyond what we can usually do by hand.

4. Welcome to the Postnormal Paradox (Boyd)- thoughts on the changing economy and how what people are investing in is evolving

Through the 20th century, as we shifted from a horse-and-sun-powered agrarian economy to an electricity-and-motor-powered industrial economy to a silicon-based information economy, it was clear that every company had to invest in the new thing that was coming. These were big, expensive investments in buildings and machinery and computer technology. Today, though, value is created far more through new ideas and new ways of interaction. Ideas appear and spread much more quickly, and their worth is much harder to estimate.

5. The Math Class Paradox (Boaler)- how the growth mindset can save math class
Educators know that the most productive math-learning environments are those in which students receive positive messages about their unlimited potential and work on interesting and complex problems; in which they feel free to try ideas, fail, and revise their thinking. Students with a “growth” mindset are those who believe that their ability is not “fixed” and that failure is a natural part of learning. These are the students who perform at higher levels in math and in life. But students don’t get the opportunity to see math as a growth subject if they mainly work on short, closed questions accompanied by frequent tests that communicate to them that math is all about performance and there is no room for failure. When students inevitably struggle, most decide they are not a “math person.” The last decade has seen a nation of children emerge from our schools terrified of failing in math and believing that only some students can be good at it—those who can effortlessly achieve on narrow tests.

6. How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative

7. Team 19: Rapid Innovation in Public Schools

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Few Highlights

Sharing a few highlights from OPEN: How we'll work, live and learn in the future by David Price.  A worthwhile read as Price discusses how going 'open' has the potential to change the professional world and education.  Even though examples of successful businesses and schools are presented, a key point is that certain changes are beneficial regardless of the type of organization.  The latter point is important to serve as a reminder that schools need to reflect larger societal changes and that the work students do needs to resemble the manner in which the global community interacts, creates and makes meaning.

Gee and Shaffer argue that the US education system is still preparing students for commodity jobs, and thus facing overwhelming competition from developing countries, when it should be educating and training for ‘innovation jobs’, which are less easily outsourced

In almost every form of transaction we make, social and cultural as well as financial, we’re removing the ‘middle-men’ who historically have connected producer to customers, experts to novices

We need asset-based approaches to education – what do you already know, what have you got to share, what can we build on?

The opening of learning is transforming every aspect of our lives. It offers the promise of a more equal distribution of wealth, opportunity and power. It can close the gap between rich and poor, sick and healthy, strong and weak, and it accelerates the speed at which we solve intractable problems.

‘Open’ is shifting the focus of attention from how we should teach, to the best ways to learn. It’s no longer about traditional vs progressive, didactic vs experiential. Instead, it’s about what we can do for ourselves, how we can tap into the knowledge and expertise that is within all of us, but rarely mined. In short, it’s about the rise of informal learning

Polyani, however, argued that when it comes to learning, true objectivity is impossible, since all acts of discovery are personal and fuelled by strong motivations and commitments

The wisest course of action is to create the right learning environment, culture and context, which brings people together to learn from each other. The old joke that ‘collaboration is an unnatural act between non-consenting adults’ may have had its roots in corporations trying to break down silo mentalities. But if ‘open’ tells us anything, it points to a realisation that we have to understand how people learn when they have a choice (in what to learn, and who to learn with) and bring that into the places where they are required to learn

“If you have a work culture where bringing your mistakes to the table every week is a normal thing to do, it feels less like failing and more like learning”

Great learning environments aren’t afraid of passion, because of its key role in motivation. Being passionate in formal learning situations is so unexpected that it’s frequently confused with eccentricity

Vimeo, YouTube and Twitter are filled with examples of extraordinary student work, where the public assessment means far more to these young people than whether they got a B+ from their teacher

‘when people are intrinsically motivated, they engage in the work for the challenge and enjoyment of it… Managers in successful, creative organisations rarely (need to) offer specific extrinsic rewards for particular outcomes… The work itself is motivating… the most common extrinsic motivator managers use is money, which doesn’t necessarily stop people from being creative. But, in many cases, it doesn’t help either

Most of the powerful learning experiences happened outside school or college (e.g. learning to swim, ride a bike, process life-changing events). They involve some kind of mentoring, backed up by some form of study group. They arise from some form of project – putting on a play, realising an ambition – that blends thinking and doing. They involve challenge, risk, and learning from failure. They force us to put ourselves outside our comfort zone, working through our doubts and fears, often by trial-and-error. There’s invariably that light-bulb moment, followed by a gain in confidence and pride. People frequently recall some form of public presentation helping to cement the experience in our memories

Monday, January 18, 2016

Remembering Dr. King

A poignant way to remember Dr. King is expressed by Michael Eric Dyson in I May Not Get There With You. Among other comments in the concluding chapter, Dyson talks about the King holiday and offers his opinion on how the day should be celebrated. I tend to agree with his position.

 When we celebrate the King holiday, we do not simply celebrate the life of Martin Luther King. We celebrate individuals like Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses and Charles Sherrod, Septima Clark and Harry Moore, Emmett Till and Medgar Evans, Victoria Gray and Malcolm X, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young, Angela Davis and Huey Newton, Mickey Schwerner and James Chaney, Andy Goodman and Bayard Rustin, Viola Liuzzo and James Reeb, Addie Mae Collins and Carole Robertson, Denise McNair and Cynthia Wesley, Julian Bond and John Lewis, Andrew Young and Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams and Jesse Jackson, Diane Nash and James Bevel, Dorothy Cotton and Johnnie Tillmon, and legions of other souls who sought to bring justice and freedom to Southern black doors and Northern project apartments. We celebrate King's insistence that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," as we extend his radical legacy to embrace citizens who are oppressed...

Friday, January 8, 2016

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few highlights from this week's collection.

1. We Need More Curious Dreamers, Tinkerers, and Makers (Fryer)- several great embedded videos and links.

all it takes is a dreamer. Can you imagine the Wright Brothers if one was a lawyer and one was an accountant? Why are you going to build this stupid airplane? It only carries one person. Who’s going to buy it? What kind of a profit margin are we going to get? We’ve got forty percent on bicycles. What are we doing this for? Think about the liability! Everybody can sue us! It’s a bad idea. Yeah, let’s not do it. As long as we have that opinion, we’re stuck. What you have to say is, “Gosh it’s something no one has ever done before. Let’s try it.

2. Denis Dutton: A Darwinian Theory of Beauty- TED collaborates with animator Andrew Park to illustrate Denis Dutton's theory on beauty- that art, music and other beautiful things, far from being simply "in the eye of the beholder," are a core part of human nature with deep evolutionary origins.

3. Looks aren't everything.  Believe me, I'm a model (Russell)-

4. A Radical Rethink of School (Educating Modern Learners)- Jim Calhoun, the principal of Castle View High School in Castle Rock, CO, talks about a school within a school he has helped develop.

5. Maker-Centered Learning and the Development of Self (Agency by Design)- a white paper presented by the Agency by Design.  Identifies beliefs of maker-centered learning for young people.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bliss of Intrinsic Learning

Vision and Mission statement from the Mosaic Collective which is part of Castle View High School in Colorado.  Short, to the point and enjoy the phrase, "the bliss of intrinsic learning".

Born from experience, frustration, curiosity, and a sense of educational righteousness, the Mosaic Collective exists to promote the bliss of intrinsic learning and a strong focus on community by intentionally practicing and reflecting on what is good for learners – of all ages and backgrounds.

Worth Viewing

Sharing a few videos worth viewing.  To some extent, each video asks the "what it" or "what could be question"about schools and education and forces the viewer to consider whether the current paradigm is successful.

1.  The Surprising Truth About Learning in Schools (Richardson)

2. The Rhizomatic Lense: Seeing Learning From the Perspective of Abundance (Cormier)

3. Innovation Specialist Don Wettrick on Unlearning

4. Building Children's Writing Skills Through Learning Through Play

Building children's writing skills through learning through play from LEGO Foundation on Vimeo.