Friday, July 19, 2013

Precious Time

I meant to post this last week but life got in the way.  Last week I was part of a summer institute for 20 teachers.  We worked together to build challenge-based learning experiences for students.  The cohort, made up of educators from both middle and high school, was formed to spend the year engaged in a form of instructional prototyping.  Experiences structuring classrooms around "real-life" challenges or dictated by determining a human need would be shared within the cohort and across department or grade level PLCs.  The cohort spent the first two days of the week long summer institute working with a representative from Apple to deconstruct the nuances of challenge-based learning.  The remaining three days were spent developing viable challenges.

Throughout the week teachers organically formed connections with other group members to build cross-curricular challenges.  However, teachers splintered off from their initial pairings to connect with others and in one case a challenge has been formed spanning the middle and high schools.  From the perspective of a facilitator the most noticeable aspect of the week was the intensive level of  collaboration between teachers.  Teachers used every once of time to share ideas and develop potential experiences for students. 

Last week posed an interesting conflict to what is viewed during the year.  There is lack of time to having sustained conversations.  Professional development, staff or department meetings and even PLCs are small moments within a day, week or month.  The virtual world and the development of personal learning networks has changed to concept of professional development.  Still personal and intimate exchanges are needed and within a school building or district bind teachers together in ways that could become lost amidst the daily school routine.  The same could be said of students as well.  How often do we provide sustained uninterrupted time for students to brainstorm, reflect, discuss, debate and experiment.  The bell to bell movement of students through a building and departmental approach to learning detracts from a collective sense of scholarship. 

Looking ahead a challenge for this upcoming year is to experiment with providing educators and students extended time to work.  How do we create "think tanks" within our schools and even explode the concept of Google 20% time to change the way we view collaboration?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Late Addition to Worth Reading...

Just came across this. Thanks to @maryannreilly for this post

"I so appreciate the thinking that informs Imagination Playground: Provide kids with open space and portable blocks and observe how they make their own play space and what gets enacted and invented within that made space. If I had a school, I'd invest in this type of product along with lots and lots of blocks, sand, water, paints, musical instruments (especially different types of drums and sticks), and other stuff children can find and use to make things.- Mary Ann Reilly"

Worth Reading...

Sharing some good reads I have come across recently

1. As Demographics Shift, Kids' Books Stay Stubbornly White (Blair)

When it comes to diversity, children's books are sorely lacking; instead of presenting a representative range of faces, they're overwhelmingly white. How bad is the disconnect?

What Shakespeare understood, Professor Sandel insisted, was the transformative power of money. When it enters into social relations it changes things. When economists asked the citizens of a Swiss village if they would accept being designated a nuclear-waste storage site, 51 percent said yes. When the question was posed again, this time with the promise of a cash reward for living with the waste, the yea votes plummeted, to 25 percent. The money, they said, made them feel that they were being bribed to perform a civic duty.  

I'm convinced by the arguments of Mimi Ito and her various colleagues associated with MacArthur's Connected Learning movement that in the future, learning will take place from cradle to grave--in schools, online, in museums, libraries, makerspaces, and all kinds of other "third spaces" for learning that we have yet to imagine. Young people need access not just to schools but to ecologies of learning that envelop students in learning opportunities.

What they've been flocking to see is mostly invisible: 12,000 sensors buried under the asphalt, affixed to street lamps and atop city buses. The sensors measure everything from air pollution to where there are free parking spaces. They can even tell garbage collectors which dumpsters are full, and automatically dim street lights when no one is around.

5. Diana Rhoten on Sparking Student Interests with Informal Learning 

6. How Building a Car Can Drive Deeper Learning (Is School Enough?)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Free to Learn

Sharing a few highlights from Peter Gray's Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

Lack of free play may not kill the physical body, as would lack of food, air, or water, but it kills the spirit and stunts mental growth

Nothing that we do, no amount of toys we buy or “quality time” or special training we give our children, can compensate for the freedom we take away. The things that children learn through their own initiatives, in free play, cannot be taught in other ways

Not only has the school day grown longer and less playful, but school has intruded ever more into home and family life. Assigned homework has increased, eating into time that would otherwise be available for play

Looked at in another way, five to eight times as many young people today have scores above the cutoff for likely diagnosis of a clinically significant anxiety disorder or major depression than fifty or more years ago. These increases are at least as great, if not greater, for elementary and high school students as for college students

In free play, children learn to make their own decisions, solve their own problems, create and abide by rules, and get along with others as equals rather than as obedient or rebellious subordinates

The intense drive that children have to play with other children, therefore, is a powerful force for them to learn how to attend to others’ wishes and negotiate differences

But regardless of the lectures that students might hear in school about the value of helping others, school works against such behavior. By design, it teaches selfishness. The forced competitiveness, the constant grading and ranking of students, contain the implicit lesson that each student’s job is to look out for himself or herself and to do better than others

Under normal conditions, children develop their abilities to cooperate and help one another in free, self-directed, social play, where they learn to resolve their differences and take into account one another’s needs in order to keep the game going

Self-education also requires space—space to roam, to get away, to explore. That space should, ideally, encompass the range of terrains relevant to the culture in which one is developing