Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Here We Go Again

I have been reminded over the past several days that it is midterm season.  On the way into work several high schools have the midterm schedule posted on their electronic billboard.  Teachers have also shared commentary about the growing stress level amongst students. Like in previous years around this time I wonder why is this still happening.

Why is there a need to ratchet up the stress level, create alternative testing schedules and sacrifice learning for the sake of exam prep?  I have always felt there is something better we could be doing than adhering to the tradition of delivering midterm exams.  For instance, I wonder if this time could be used for students to actual reflect on the first part of the school year.  As opposed to cramming for a midterm exam could students spend time self-assessing progress since the start of school.  Instead of carving out large block of time to deliver and grade exams, could that time be used for students and teachers to convene to discuss the first half of the school year and for both parties to work towards establishing goals for the second part of the year.  Exchanges between students and teachers could stem from the examination of student work where collectively, a student and teacher(s) examine products that were part of a portfolio  Personally, this would seem like a far better use of time and result in a more accurate assessment of growth than the stress charged atmosphere caused by delivering an avalanche of assessments in a condensed period of time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Worth Reading

Passing along a few interesting posts from the past few weeks.

1. Launching the Workshop School:  How technology can support radical redesign (Riggan)- how technology is leveraged at the newly opened Workshop School in Philadelphia

The sense that maybe schools teach the wrong things—or teach the right things in the wrong ways—is what gave rise to the Workshop School (the Workshop), a new high school in Philadelphia. The Workshop opened in September 2013 with an inaugural class of nearly 100 students in grades 9–12. The curriculum is organized around projects rather than subjects, and students build content knowledge through their project work. Equally important, they learn how to decide what work needs to get done and create a plan for doing it. They learn how to work together and to be aware of themselves inside the classroom and out—when they are at their best and when they struggle. This awareness is what helps them grow and self-correct. 

2. Making The Community The Curriculum (Cormier)- free ebook about rhizomatic learning.  In rhizomatic learning, knowledge is composed through connecting with others and in a sense sees the community/world as the curriculum.

Learning is a messy journey. We are all different, and we skip, slip and jump our way towards becoming knowers... towards creating our own sense of meaning in any discipline. The abundance of information we now have at our fingertips combined with the indefinite capacity for making new connections, has opened new avenues for structuring our classrooms. 

3. Are We Missing Something (Canales)- thoughts on creating and healthy and productive learning environment for all stakeholders

Which is why modern educational leaders have to be committed and (connected) if they are going to engage and acquire the learning and skills necessary to lead their organizations forward, especially at the pace of change that today’s society is pushing.  Which means moving beyond the walls of our schools, the walls of our districts, and even the walls of our state and country.  We have to take on a global perspective to learning.

4. CVHS Mosaic- One high school's view of redesign

And yet the mammoth institution of public education remains largely unchanged. To “do well” in school often means students must detach from real-world problems and opportunities in order to learn isolated and seemingly useless bits of information. Many teachers continue to simply lecture content to students, which completely ignores the ever-increasing number of verbal and nonverbal signals our students continuously send us. They’re practically begging us to stop and let them explore, discover, and connect in real, authentic, and meaningful ways. 

5. NASA's plan to build homes on the Moon: Space agency backs 3D print technology which could build base (ZOLFAGHARIFARD)- 

Creating structures in space that astronauts can live in has become a priority for Nasa.  With a manned mission to Mars on the agenda, and plans for lunar exploration underway, scientists are increasingly looking towards unconventional construction methods.  The most promising of these is 3D printing, which could make building a lunar home in space a matter of pressing a button and letting a robot do the work.

6. 50 Things 5th Graders Wonder (Reilly)- list a things a group of 5th graders are wondering about
  • Is the Earth be duplicated?
  • I wonder about this quote: "Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen I thought we agreed to not lie to each other.
  • Why do people say, "It's going to be okay," when it is not
  • What is beyond our universe?
  • How did scientists learn about the moon before traveling to it?
  • How many different worlds are there?

7. Ira Glass On Storytelling- and key creative lessons for schools (McIntosh)- Ira Glass speaks to ideation and prototyping

You can't just do ONE or TWO drafts of thinking; you have to make it double-digit drafting, prototyping thinking, gaining feedback and doing better next time.

8. Success In The New Economy- Citrus College supported the production of “Success in the New Economy” to help a broader audience begin to understand preparation today for tomorrow’s labor market realities. The end result is a compelling case for students to explore career choices early, make informed decisions when declaring their college education goal, and to consider technical skill acquisition, real-world application and academics (career technical programs) in tandem with a classic education.

Monday, January 6, 2014

What All Children Need

Thanks to @KaraAlyson22 for sharing What All Children Need.  Definitely worth reading the entire article.  In particular I enjoyed the concluding stance:

That is our job as we design children’s environments, to create a nest for children as they navigate the demands of growing up and to make them believe that they can fly in the world which they will inherit. We help provide them security and the freedom to adventure. At both a conscious and unconscious level, the child has to feel secure here and now, but at the same time learn that the world out there is not an insurmountable risk, but a place that she can and will learn to manage, learn from, be a part of, and love.
The drive to protect our children is profound and easily can extend to scotchguarding their lives. Reality is difficult. It is messy and loud and profane. There are people with warts and frowns, and decidedly mixed virtues. But childhood is a time when we help children begin to live in the world and love the world; and we can’t do that fenced off from it in a world of two dimensional glowing screens and plastic balls and slides. Scrubbing and polishing every raw experience in the name of health and safety, or protecting innocence scrapes away the natural luster of childhood. Some of the wonders and joys of childhood that fuel the best in our adult selves is unavoidably birthed in bumps and bruises and tears.

From an education perspective we are reminded to value play and simple experimentation.  Providing time for students to tinker is important but for some reason(s) seems to dissipate as learners progress through a K-12 system.  The habit of experimenting /tinkering is critical in a world where rapid change is a defining characteristic.  Experimentation and tinkering leads to asking more questions and seeking continuous improvement. "Some of the wonders and joys of childhood that fuel the best in our adult selves," is possible if schools value play across the K-12 spectrum.   Additionally, the article  is a reminder about the importance of failure.  As opposed to failure carrying with it some irreversible negative connotation, iteration is to be embraced and an expected part of the learning process.  I think the statement, "At both a conscious and unconscious level, the child has to feel secure here and now, but at the same time learn that the world out there is not an insurmountable risk, but a place that she can and will learn to manage, learn from, be a part of, and love." hits at this point.  We want students to take risk, seek adventure and strive for unique intellectual experiences.  Schools should provide a safe environment for students to explore new academic/intellectual possibilities without the penalty of  harsh consequences.