Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fostering Creativity

I came across three videos which call into question whether we are fostering  spaces in our schools where creativity can flourish. In the first two videos both students raise concerns about public education and whether the traditional structure, which still governs how students progress through a K-12 system, stifles creativity and never truly embraces individual interests.  The third video talks to the idea of following a personal passion.  The joy with which Clark Little talks about his passion for shooting waves is infectious.  I often wonder about what the outcomes would be if the focus were more on helping students pursue a passion.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Idea For Next Year

Yesterday was the last day of school for students and teachers until September.  Before teachers walked out the door I shared the following post with K-5 teachers from Fast Company on how making connections fosters creative thinking.

"that knowledge alone is not useful unless we can make connections between what we know. Whether you use the terms “knowledge” and “experience” to explain the difference or not, the concept itself is sound.
Lots of great writers, artists and scientists have talked about the importance of collecting ideas and bits of knowledge from the world around us, and making connections between those dots to fuel creative thinking and new ideas."
Over the past year, K-5 teachers have started to reflect on the elementary school experience and begin to wonder whether what else could occasion for students.  A common thread amongst elementary school teachers is trying to cultivate interdisciplinary learning environments.  To an extent, the departmentalization of subjects exists in our K-5 classrooms.  Teachers would like to explore how to break down barriers between subjects and fuse disciplines together.  I thought the article from Fast Company spoke to the need to develop integrated experiences for students and shared it to further reflection over the summer months.
Last night I received the following response from a 1st grade teacher.
I loved this. Here's an  idea for the elementary principals per this article: Distribute small spiral flip notebooks and shiny new pencils to all staff members at the first faculty meeting to encourage the practice of recording ideas. Have staff members share their ideas  at the beginning of staff meetings.
As much as I push for the use of technology as  vehicle to exchange ideas between colleagues, I appreciate the simplicity of providing teachers with a blank notebook and inspiring the idea within our staff to record what one observes/dreams/thinks and more so what one wonders.  It would be intriguing to have a significant mass of teachers and administrators commit to journaling next year and to periodically share random or not so random thoughts with one another. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


From Stanford 2025 Project:


Stanford also revolutionized the transcript, an obsolete, retrospective, and metadata-poor record of time spent, rather than skill or knowledge acquired. 

It was replaced by the “skill-print,” a unique, living artifact of competencies that became a coveted tool for employers to assess the potential of a candidate. Stanford students were aggressively recruited for their versatility and their ability to learn and adapt as rapidly as their companies and organizations evolved. 

Though many students continued to work within existing organizations, the majority began charting new career paths and defining new roles that did not exist when they entered their undergraduate experience.

The rallying cry upon the inception of this paradigm shift was “Get off your axis!” AXIS FLIP: It’s not what you know. It’s how you use it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Worth Reading...

Passing along a few interesting posts.  

1. Looking at Student Work With (Reich)- Harvard ed professor talks about cultivating in future teachers a desire to examine and talk about student work.  This is more than just glancing at student work but developing a meaningful professional conversation around student product.

In my Introduction to Education class, one of my goals is for students to get a sense of the value of looking at student work. Not just glancing at it, reading it, or grading it, but really trying to understand what we can learn about students' thinking by examining their performances. 

2. Pace Final- a final exam from an AP Lit teacher.  I appreciate the reflective presence embedded into this final exam.

Create a product of your choosing that demonstrates what you've learned about yourself, about how learning/understanding/education works, and about others this year in PACE. Apply vocabulary from this year into your final product and create something worthy of being displayed and discussed. Additionally, complete the graphic organizers based on the reading choices provided to you and be prepared to participate in a graded class discussion of your projects, the readings, and the year in review.

3. Greater Possibilities (Richardson)- continuing on the theme of making class a place where students get to work on things that matter.

As usual, Gary is spot on here. Last week during my Australia visit, I was asked on a panel how we prevent kids from being disruptive or off task when every one of them has a device in the classroom. I think the questioner was almost shocked when I started my answer by channelling Gary, saying “I don’t think we give kids enough credit in their ability to stay focused when they’re doing work that matters.”

4. You Can Always Add.  You Can't Subtract (Meyer)- providing space for students to ask questions and to define a problem themselves as opposed to having a text book or an adult do it for them.

In sum, much of the problem has been pre-formulated, which is a pity, seeing as how mathematicians and cognitive psychologists and education researchers agree that formulating the problem leads to success and interest in solving the problem.
So again I have to remind myself to be less helpful and be more thoughtful instead.

5. Catholic Prep Chain Helps Detroit's Minority Students Go On To College (Guerra)- approach taken to provide high school students with meaningful internships.

Four days a week, Idalis Longoria does what pretty much all high school juniors do. She goes to school, takes notes in class, hangs out in the cafeteria with her friends - but on the fifth day of the week - well that's when Longoria trades in her Catholic school uniform for a pair of light blue scrubs.

6. Schools Fight To Skip Standardized Tests, But Keep Learning Standards High (Kamnetz)- how one school district in Kentucky is by-passing standardized exams in favor of homegrown authentic performance-based assessments.  Please watch the case of the hungry hound...
One assignment in particular captured Swann’s attention. “The teacher asked the students to design an amusement park ride. They had all the math in there, and physics, and it just really sparked something in me: That math doesn’t have to be this boring class with lectures and standardized tests. I said, ‘Let’s take this back to Danville.’”

7. The Fire Hydrant Gets Its First Major Redesign in 100 Years- great little piece about striving to amke something better
Today's hydrants break, leak, and freeze, sometimes costing people their lives. The tamper-proof and incredibly durable Sigelock Spartan, designed by a former New York firefighter, is intended to work when people need them.

8. Amazing Perspective in GoPro Videos (Fryer)- "I have seen the GoPro camera and been a little more aware of it because how our church videographers have used one in the past few months to create some pretty stunning perspective videos about individuals. This video from GoPro, however, takes the idea of first person perspective to a whole different level."