Prototyping…for 3six5…#1

By the calendar, epiphany has ended. On this 12th day of January, though, we Atlantans just experienced our third snow day…SCHOOL IS CLOSED! Already, as a principal of a middle school, I am receiving texts, tweets, and emails asking, “When will we return?,” “Will we make up these missed days?,” “Could the make-up days interfere with our family vacations?,” “Can your teachers send some homework for my kids to do?” I actually received more than one message posing this last question. When I tweeted about this parental request, I received this immediate reply:

Of course, not all parents have forgotten that learning starts with curiosity and interest. Could it really be possible that even a few have forgotten? While I have never met @dcinc66, he is a member of my PLN, and I believe he has a valid point.

Another member of my PLN is my oldest son, PJ. During our third snow day this week, PJ insisted that we build a robot. After watching the 1980s classic (at least to me) Short Circuit, PJ began saving kleenex boxes, old food boxes, toilet paper rolls, and any other discarded piece of trash that looked like a robot part to him. Today, PJ made it clear that it was prime time to put his corrogated collection to good use. PJ’s brother JT entered the fray, and we three Adams boys felt transported to the robo-lab.

Learning is the hallmark of humanity. When I feel most engaged, I am learning. When PJ and JT are most engaged, they are learning. For me, epiphany continued today. PJ reminded me that learning most often looks like a project. The best learning happens when we choose to explore and discover.

After our robot skeleton was complete, PJ and JT became interested in heartbeats. After all, in Short Circuit, Number 5 was alive! With a stethescope, we measured our heart rate at rest and after a few laps around the house.  A fourth snow day was just announced. Tomorrow, I will not be surprised if the boys ask to shock the kleenex boxes to see if we can jolt Number 6 to life. I think they just assigned themselves their own homework.

Bo Adams serves as principal teacher for the Junior High at The Westminster Schools, in Atlanta, GA. First and foremost, he considers himself a dad. Close behind on the list, he thinks of himself as a “learner-preneur.”

2 thoughts on “Prototyping…for 3six5…#1

  1. And, another thought because I can’t get enough of Joshua Cooper Ramo these days…

    Your boys would make Ramo proud. In a chapter about mashups, he writes that “mashups capture a sense of creativity that passes established borders, that combines a sort of deep, curious yearning with a hands-on, practical tinkerers spirit…when these two are welded, innovation becomes inevitable.”

    We MUST infuse our schools with more mashups, more tinkering, and more deep and curious yearning. We also must work collectively to identify those cul-de-sacs (Greene) — in our schools, in our classrooms, and in our pedagogy — and turn them into openings despite the mess they could create.

    On the snowy walk I’m about to take, I’m going to think of a Trinity cul-de-sac and hopefully, start brainstorming a way to blow it up.

  2. I have to admit, I’ve never seen Short Circuit. I had pretty abnormal fears as a child (Toucan Sam being the most bizarre), and after I saw ET in theaters and had nightmares for weeks, robot movies were never at the top of my list.

    I do, however, love this post (and the fact that it’s one of many to come as we think about edu365 and the already established global 3six5 project). PJ and JT’s expressions in the video demonstrate that they are fully engaged in their “work.” They are collaborating and solving problems. And, most important to this type-A reader, they are reminding me that learning is messy.

    If you haven’t read Maxine Greene’s essay entitled “Teaching as Possibility: A Light in Dark Times,” drop everything and read it now. One of my favorite passages that speaks directly to your boys’ robot building experiences (from start: the movie to end: TBD) talks about the importance of messiness and that we must release young people to learn how to learn. She says it better here:

    “If our purposes were to be framed in such a fashion, they would not exclude the multiple-literacies and the diverse modes of understanding young persons need if they are to act knowledgeably and reflectively within the frameworks of their lived lives. Situatedness; vantage point; the construction of meanings: all can and must be held in mind if teachers are to treat their students with regard, if they are to release them to learn how to learn. Their questions will differ, as their perspectives will differ, along with their memories and their dreams. But if teachers cannot enable them to resist the humdrum, the routine, or what Dewey called the “anesthetic,” they will be in danger of miseducative behavior, ending in cul-de -sacs rather than in openings.”

    I keep thinking that in order to release them…we must release ourselves. What can we (I) do to get more comfortable with messy learning? How can we (I) lead by example?

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