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?