Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Getting Out Of The Classroom

I had the pleasure today to participate in a walking tour of Morristown, New Jersey.  The tour was for students in our Latin American Studies course.  Over the course of one hour, we were able to stop at several different locations within the town, interview residents and visit local businesses.  At various points during the tour the group stopped to share insights and to discuss town geography. 

The Latin American Studies course dedicates time to investigating the Latino history in Morristown.  It aspires to build a historical picture of the Latino community in Morristown and engage students in examining present day circumstances.  As part of the investigation for both the past and present, students take a critical look at how people from very different backgrounds interact in the town. 

As students walked through the town they had to reflect on the architectural design of specific buildings, the use of commercial and residential space and designation of public spaces, particularly parks, in the town.  Students had with them an iPad or phone and were encouraged  to take pictures.  They could further reflect on the tour through their pictures at home.  Also, students were encouraged to interview residents and in a few instances, planned stops were arranged with owners of local businesses.

Being able to walk through the town provided a different lens for students.  I'm sure our two Latin American Studies teachers could reference a familiar structure during a class discussion.  However, it is a far different experience when stakeholders are walking around a structure, freely taking pictures and speaking to local residents.  You could witness during the walking tour our students were considering different perspectives.  A previously held opinion might not have changed but all those who participated were compelled to reflect, analyze information, assess new possibilities and formulate an informed response. 

Being able to experience a topic in the physical world raised the level of discourse between classroom stakeholders.  The ideas exchanged during the walking tour and what hopefully will continue to transpire in the next days and weeks was only possible through getting out of the classroom.  I truly hope that in a world where student growth objectives influence evaluation systems and standardized tests determine a school's report card grade "field trips" will not slowly become something we used to do.

Worth Reading...

From the archives...

1. There Goes Pig Farmer Pete Langley (Stanford d. school)- application of design thinking to explore what makes us passionate about our heroes.  The field of study includes the fans of the Dale Earnhardt Sr, Michael Jordan and Stephen Colbert.

Design thinking has always been keen on observing and interviewing extreme users to learn how their needs and workarounds are amplified; this tends to expose meaningful insights that aren’t easily visible in the middle of the bell curve. But how does a superfan relate to an extreme user and what exactly are they ‘using’? If we think of the hero as a consumable, the superfan is its most ardent extreme user.

2.  The Forefront of Performance-Based Design- insight into an attempt to build the greenest commercial building in the world.  The building is seeking to meet the ambitious goals of the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most strenuous benchmark for sustainability.

The goal of the Bullitt Center is to change the way buildings are designed, built and operated to improve long-term environmental performance and promote broader implementation of energy efficiency, renewable energy and other green building technologies in the Northwest.

3.  How We Might Use Social Business to Improve Health In Low Income Communities (Open IDEO)- OpenIDEO has partnered with the Holistic Social Business Movement (HSBM) of Caldas – a joint venture between the Grameen Creative Lab and the Government of Caldas, Colombia – to consider how social businesses can improve the health of low-income communities in Colombia and around the world.  Leveraging social business and the entrepreneurs who buil them to improve healthcare in low-income communities.  

4. Innovation Enters the Classroom- more about the impact they physical classroom has on learning.  Ideas for creating flexible learning spaces. 

“We like to offer different types of spaces for students to work in so that they can be intentional about what space they want to work in during that phase of their process,” says Scott Doorley, a professor at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. “So we can have students jump into a space that has low couches when they want to have a discussion or reflect. Or a space that has tools if they want to be building, or a space that has whiteboards and stools if they want to have a brainstorm and be active about sharing ideas. We try to give students an environment that allows them to be intentional about what they need at any given time.”

5.  Why Primary Kids Tweet (Cassidy)- sharing benefits of having primary school kids tweet.  Development of key literacy skills through composing a message.

The tweets we composed together were authentic writing. They came from something that the children wanted to say and were directed at a real audience. Let’s see–meaningful text, authentic writing and a real audience. Isn’t that a good recipe for successful writing instruction? The development of empathy for people in another culture and the beginnings of a worldview were just delightful side benefits.

6.  Interactive User Experience On The High Line- One of my favorite spots in NYC.  Also a great walking tour experience for students.  School of Visual Arts students ere asked to create a networked, mobile or interactive installation that enhances or extends the experience of the High Line park in NYC. Each group presented a concept document that included research documentation and an experience journey of the concept to a guest panel which included a representative of Friends of the High Line. 

7. Teacher Remixed: 5 Ways To Change Our Profession-  rethinking what it means to be a teacher

from answers to questions.
Another way to put it: we should help kids find the answers to their answers. Our questions should be meant to elicit kids’ questions, not to cue “correct” answers, reward “proper” behavior, or trigger deflective behaviors that “justify” the punishments we dole out to kids. Inquiry should be our foundational pedagogy, but not our only one. Questioning our own beliefs and behaviors should come before questioning our kids. We should ask and learn to discover, not to confirm.

8. A Lesson In Empathy

Friday, April 19, 2013

Inspiring Words

Just had the chance to read through the President's remarks from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End on Thursday.  Inspiring commentary for both the country, for anyone who has ever competed and for all who face obstacles.

Like Bill Iffrig, 78 years old -- the runner in the orange tank top who we all saw get knocked down by the blast -- we may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going. We will finish the race. 

In the words of Dick Hoyt, who has pushed his disabled son, Rick, in 31 Boston Marathons, “We can’t let something like this stop us.” This doesn’t stop us.

 And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us -- to push on. To persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on. We finish the race. We finish the race. And we do that because of who we are. And we do that because we know that somewhere around the bend a stranger has a cup of water. Around the bend, somebody is there to boost our spirits. On that toughest mile, just when we think that we’ve hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick us up if we fall. We know that.

And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Walking On Water: Reading, Writing And Revolution

Sharing a few personal highlights from Walking On Water: Reading, Writing And Revolution by Derrick Jensen.

Here are some questions I’ve been asking lately: What are the effects of schooling on creativity? How well does schooling foster the uniqueness of each child who passes through? Does schooling make children happier? For that matter, does our culture as a whole engender happy children? What does each new child receive in exchange for the so many hours for years on end that she or he gives to the school system? How does school help to make each child who he or she is?

Another way to say this is that before asking whether I or anyone else has been successful in the classroom, we need to ask what we want to accomplish. And before we can rely on our answer to this second question, we need to ask what we are already doing and what we are currently creating by the process of schooling, because that understanding will help us understand—all rhetoric aside—what we really want, and will also make clear the stakes involved in the formation of students’ characters

“Power. If I’ve got power or authority over someone, it’s my responsibility to use that only to help them. It’s my job to accept and praise them into becoming who they are. But if I see someone misusing power to harm someone else, it’s just as much my responsibility to stop them, using whatever means necessary.”

“Passion, love, hate, fear, hope. The best writing springs from these sources. Life itself springs from these sources, and what is writing without life? Writing and life. Life and writing. One is the stuff of the other, and the other is the stuff of the one. So by definition this is as much a class in life—in passion, love, fear, experience, relation—as it is in writing. Be warned. If you’re here purely for credit, hoping to sleep through yet another quarter of semicolons, diagrammed sentences, and five-paragraph essays, this class will be an incredible drag both for you and for me. If you’re not interested in approaching the ragged edge of control where instinct and euphoria set you free from time and consciousness, you would in all honesty be better off in another class

deconstruction of what I believe and perceive to be the way things are, to continuously break down in my own mind what I believe, and continuously add to my knowledge and understanding. In other words, never to be satisfied that I’m satisfied. That sounds like I’m dissatisfied, but it doesn’t mean that. It means never to be complacent and think I’ve come to a conclusion about things, to always question my own thinking

The foundation of my work in the classroom remains the same for both college and prison, which is to respect and love my students into becoming who they are

“One of the most important things we can do is help young people find their way to be in service to something larger than themselves. Normally the only reason kids go to college or graduate school—and, in Wes Jackson’s words, the only real major offered—is upward mobility. But we fail to teach our children that service to something greater than themselves is far more likely to lead to a joyful and satisfying life, and one that is environmentally rich.

It becomes our task in this world to remember our gifts, our task, and to realize them, with the help of guiding spirits, or daimons. Thus eudaimonia, which literally means “having a good guardian spirit.

Design School Presentation

Presented the other day about the potential of a Design School.  The presentation was anchored by a belief in the design process and structuring learning engagements around things that matter.  Also, the presentation was framed through the lens of a slide ripped from a presentation given by Chris Anderson.  In speaking about the New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson offered the following:

The History of 20 Years In 2 Sentences

The past decade was about finding new social and innovation models on the web

The next decade will be about applying them to the real world
A driving force behind the Design School is a focus on what students do and why they are doing it.  In structuring learning around real-problems or human-centered design challenges, students are pushed to think critically, conduct extensive research inquiries, embrace the concept of prototyping and even understand the importance of failure, work collaboratively, build meaningful social networks and realize unique talents and potential.  In a process of creative innovative problem-solving students are engaged in the New Industrial Revolution / Maker Movement and not bystanders waiting they get older to begin building, creating and making a difference.