Who’s the author and DJ of a student learners’ school experience?

A few weeks ago, one of my relatively new colleagues – an incredible learning partner of mine – shared this quote:

If your time at school is a story, then who’s writing it.

from Hathaway Brown: Institute for 21C Education

I can’t get this question out of my mind. I’m wondering if we teachers insert ourselves into our student learners’ stories, or if it’s more like we ask (require?) them to insert themselves into ours.

As many of you readers know, I watch a TED talk every day. This morning, I watched “Mark Ronson: The exhilarating creativity of remixing.”

During the viewing, with the Hathaway Brown quote freshly on my brain folds from a morning mediation walking Lucy, I wondered if student learners are the mixologists of their school learning episodes. How are they remixing the samples of “melodies” that they hear in various classes and schedule periods? How are we making time and space for them to be the authors and DJs of their stories as learners in school? Where is the primary agency in the relationship between student learner and teacher learner?

3 thoughts on “Who’s the author and DJ of a student learners’ school experience?

  1. I don’t know if I really understood the question or questions your posing, but The question I heard was “Who is the author and DJ of your school experience?”

    Bo, when I first read this I felt annoyed, and then irate. The more I thought about your questions, the more hot and bothered I got. My initial response was this because from my perspective, there is no author, there is no DJ–it’s all just habitual, conditioned, status quo thinking that has us doing what we do. And to me, it is a tragedy. I realized that I have such a strong reaction to this post because of how much I care. I am grateful for this post because it brought to my awareness how deeply I care and how much I wish I could improve the UX of schools for student learners, teacher learners, school leaders, parents, and the community.

    Maybe this is terribly naive, but I don’t think there really is much authorship or DJing going on. Maybe I am a romantic fool to think so, but I’d say that useful, valuable authorship and DJing of the school experience can only happen when students have more than 50% of the decision making about what they are going to do as a learner. And then the student and teacher become partners and fellow practitioners of learning.

    Maybe I am being ridiculous, Bo, but your posts and your questions point to an Unschooling-Approach (John Holt) combined with John Dewey that would somehow occur within a brick-and-mortar school. Maybe I’m taking it too far, but let me know if I’m on the same page or in a different book altogether.

    You recently said “learning is connections.” That implies so much, but one key thing it implies for me is that if we want kids to be learning in a brick and mortar school, then we must design the UX to encourage lots of connecting–virtual, f2f, and with all ages.

    Is it possible to use DT to improve the UX for all? Yes, i believe so, and it would require constant iteration. This isn’t some permanent model or fixed state we’re talking about, right?

    The meta-study of educational research you pointed me to last year has one stand-out point that rose to the fore in all the research: When students become their own teachers is when they excel the most.

    So I think that when it comes to authorship an DJing, we really need to keep this point in mind: the education design must have this at the forefront: designing education so that students become their own teachers as early as possible. The role of the adults is to facilitate this, support it, make a deliberate structure and intention for this to occur. The aim is to make everyone their own teacher and everyone is learning from everyone else. So it gets back to what you said–learning is connections. The student learner and teacher learner then become a community of practitioners; and then you have a global meta-community of practitioners where everyone is learning from everyone else.

    The student learners must become the authors and DJ’s of their own education. Perpetually using design thinking in education will make student learners into their own teachers.

    Now the question I’m wondering about is how, and what can I do about it?

  2. An excellent reflection Bo. I just posted on a similar topic as this has been on my mind for years but recently with gravity http://steelemaley.net/2014/05/09/in-our-theorizing-design-and-prototyping-for-institutional/ . My wife and colleague was challenging me just yesterday on the root of inspiration–can we “inspire kids” (the reference was to DIY.org and whether it was the democratic and networked (connected) space (a space of permission) that was working to inspire or the simple fact that adults had gotten out of the way.)

    I have asked the young people I work with “who controls your learning” since 2006. Those who reflected on the question for a period where universally changed (at times to the core, at times angry at a system, and always they had questions for me….the most enduring still…. “If I am in control of my learning (writing my story) what happens if it does not look or feel like the proscription adults deem necessary as “outcomes” for success.” They challenged me about governance, curriculum, schedules, justice….they even pinned a “theses” to the headmasters door (I did teach world history…..).

    I would love to revisit Crito with our network. Where are our ships off shore waiting to take us and why? What happens if we stay….? I think our fates will be categorically different (per the Crito reference) if we see the complete topographies of our world and education and weigh the import and prescience of our actions.

    As always, thank you for posting Bo.

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