Process Post, Draft 2: Writing is Thinking – Prepping a Bit for Panel Discussion at #MICON12

Writing is thinking. I would deeply appreciate your thoughts on these 7 questions – please feel encouraged to add your voice in the comments field. As you can see from my pondering, my thinking is not wholly formed yet either. Don’t let formative thinking prevent you from contributing to our growing understandings…

As part of The Martin Institute’s 2012 Summer Conference, on Thursday morning, June 14, I am so very privileged to serve on a panel with featured speakers John Hunter (@worldpeacemovie) and Dr. Sande Dawes (not sure of a Twitter handle), and we have been asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What are your thoughts and reflections from Day 1?
  2. What is understanding and how does it develop?
  3. How can you best inspire and nurture creative thinking and problem solving in your students and yourself?
  4. If teachers, students and parents are generally satisfied with their schools, why should their schools consider moving in new directions?
  5. What are some practices that you’ve seen for implementing 21st century skills in the classroom?
  6. How can you foster a school culture that promotes this kind of learning?
  7. If we are serious about excellence in our classrooms/schools then what questions should we be asking?

Playing with my thinking by writing to see what I think… (“scratches on the surfaces”)

  1. What are your thoughts and reflections from Day 1? Much of Day 1 centered around John Hunter and the World Peace Game. At the day’s beginning, as a collected whole of community, we viewed a new cut of World Peace and Other 4th Grade Accomplishments (extended trailer linked here). At day’s end, we were blessed to listen to a keynote from John Hunter. As I increasingly consider myself a student of John Hunter’s approach to teaching and learning, I am struck by his intentional creation of space and opportunity for students to engage with the world in a way that is paradoxically the real world and a simulation of the real world. Through the World Peace Game, Hunter provides a multilayer, complex simulation in which students take on role play as United Nations ambassadors, kings of monarchical domains, presidents of democracies, arms dealers, World Bank officials, etc. Participants (4th graders) get into character and face life-like simulations involving global climate change, war, economic opportunity and crisis, fuel dilemmas, etc. And they real-life interact with each other in collaboration and conflict. John blurs the line between school and life, and he allows for (demands that) students stretch their brains and hearts as real, empathetic, problem-creating and problem-solving humans on the world stage. He lets questions linger and fill the atmosphere. He mixes in critical content…in context. He trusts and empowers children to rule and lead and serve the world. And they do. They measure up to the expectations because of the relationship and confidence that Hunter models and spreads to his learners and leaders. At the conclusion of the day, Hunter revealed that the World Peace Game is a “trick” or a Trojan Horse as Jamie Baker referred to it in a question to Hunter. The game is designed to fail. The only way for real success is for students to hyper-focus on collaboration and beating the game rather than on each other. He provides an emptiness for the students to fill with trial and error, argument and compromise, inhumanity and humanity. The game is just the string on which to hang the lights and enlightenment. Hunter also revealed that a trick to “teaching for tomorrow” is to work together with other teachers. And that’s how we spent the time sandwiched between the opening movie and the closing keynote. We exchanged ideas, motivations, practices, and possibilities. We built our understanding of our calling and our days’ work as a collective community of educators – those who commit ‘educare’ – to draw out that which is already there.
  2.  What is understanding and how does it develop? I believe “understanding” is a journey of hypotheses testing and re-trialing. I think understanding is constructed through learning by doing. I see understanding as akin to a sailboat tacking back and forth to reach a destination that cannot be reached in a straight line due to alternating currents and winds. When I listen to students who return to school as alumni recount what they remember and cherish, I come to love that understanding is gained through experience, failure, resilience, and fortitude. Understanding exists with a core of empathy, a sheath of curiosity, and a outershell of permeable attempts at discerning. It is a layering on. Yet, understanding is also a carving out of our being – like a sculptor revealing what lies in a monolith of granite. Service leads to deep understanding. Love is understanding at its purest sense.
  3. How can you best inspire and nurture creative thinking and problem solving in your students and yourself? Tear down the walls that segregate school and real life. At life’s beginning we are made lifelong learners through curiosity, attempts to engage and taste and feel our environment. Then we start to box and segregate the interconnected pieces of learning and understanding. I think we can nurture creative thinking by trusting our students to wade in and deal with conflict and confusion. We can model and guide toward empathy and coaching about the needs and issues of our world. We can play to the passions of our students by KNOWING them and encouraging their pursuits while layering in the critical components from the various ways of thinking and learning. We can create space and time for them to create and problem solve. We can manifest our own versions of things like John Hunter’s World Peace Game, Gever Tulley’s Tinkering School, Kiran Bir Sethi’s Riverside School, etc.
  4. If teachers, students and parents are generally satisfied with their schools, why should their schools consider moving in new directions? As the world changes, so must our schools. We need to design schools to be leadership centers for research and development, as well as implementation, for addressing the real issues that we face in our world – poverty, hunger, racial discord, fuel crises, water and energy mismanagement, etc. We need to make sure that school is preparing students for the citizenship that our world yearns for and craves. Are we?

Foiled by time again! I’ll keep thinking. I would LOVE and CHERISH your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

 

Process Post: Writing is Thinking – Prepping a Bit for Panel Discussion at #MICON12

Writing is thinking. Therefore, I am writing so that I might learn more about what I am thinking. On today and tomorrow, I am attending, “paneling,” participating in, and facilitating at The Martin Institute’s 2012 Summer Conference. On Thursday morning, I am so very privileged to serve on a panel with featured speakers John Hunter (@worldpeacemovie) and Dr. Sande Dawes (not sure of a Twitter handle), and we have been asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What are your thoughts and reflections from Day 1?
  2. What is understanding and how does it develop?
  3. How can you best inspire and nurture creative thinking and problem solving in your students and yourself?
  4. If teachers, students and parents are generally satisfied with their schools, why should their schools consider moving in new directions?
  5. What are some practices that you’ve seen for implementing 21st century skills in the classroom?
  6. How can you foster a school culture that promotes this kind of learning?
  7. If we are serious about excellence in our classrooms/schools then what questions should we be asking?

To be honest, I am feeling a bit guilty for writing just now. I am stealing 30 minutes to journal instead of attending Session #4, and I know I am missing some superb leading and thinking from conference presenters and attendees. Yet, learning and understanding involves a fair amount of quiet, processing time for me. So, I had to steal away for some deliberately quiet processing. Of course, now I am wondering if we would allow our students to do such in schools. Don’t they feel overwhelmed sometimes by the sheer volume of teaching, learning, and information? Can such quiet, reflective time be scheduled and scripted, or is it more valuable to choose to take this time, as I am doing now? For if we are trying to build understanding, there are certainly steps, stages, and phases to such a construction process, and time to reconsider the blueprints seems fundamental and paramount. But I digress, a bit. Tis okay…I am “just journaling.”

As I began my Wednesday at #MICON12, I watched John Hunter’s World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements (http://www.worldpeacegame.org/). This movie by Chris Farina, and John Hunter’s related TED talk, are amazing. The Martin Institute is doing phenomenal work promoting and igniting this teaching, learning, and storytelling.

This morning marked my tenth viewing of this incredible film. Each time I watch, I learn something new, and I am always spurred to think deeply about the nature of learning and preparing citizens for life in this century. And this viewing included a new cut of the film – more to take in and learn. As I watched the film and followed the tweets (I made a Storify of some of the most profound), I continued to be deeply moved by the blurring of school and life that John Hunter facilitates. If you read this blog, then you probably know that I am a huge fan of Kiran Bir Sethi’s work at Riverside School and her TED talk “Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge.” Like Kiran, Hunter believes that school is not just preparation for real life…school IS real life. Students can make an impact NOW on the positive changes that we need in our world. For me, so many of my responses to the questions posed above are fused and webbed and linked together by this fact and approach to “the classroom.”

Does “school” tend to look like real life? Well, it should – if we really hope to prepare students to serve and lead in a changing world.

Oh well, my 30 minutes are up. I didn’t even scratch the surface…very much. But I have some beginnings of a scratch. More later.

Thinking is iterative and prototypical, so I know that my thinking will change as I continue to interact – face-to-face and virtually – with the amazing people at The Martin Institute 2012 Summer Conference.

 

Synergy – Questions are the waypoints on the path of wisdom #MICON12

On Thursday, June 14, Bo Adams and Jill Gough are facilitating a double-session at The Martin Institute’s 2012 Conference (#MICON12 on Twitter). Below, conference participants and blog readers alike can find an outline of our session (at least as we intend it before we start!), complete with links to the resources we plan to use.

Synergy – Questions are the waypoints on the path of wisdom (Framework Plans) [100 minutes]

  1. Marshmallow Challenge [18 minutes + setup + debrief = 30 minutes]
  2. Synergy 8 Preso + Showcase Project Products/Q&A [15 minutes + 15 minutes = 30 minutes]
  3. Reading from The Falconer re: Questions [5 minutes]
  4. Gamestorm to share about others’ experiences/practices with PBL (see “Post-Up”) + Gamestorm to generate future ideas for PBL (see “Storyboard”) [30 minutes]
  5. Wrap-Up + Goodie Bag[5 minutes]
    1. “7 Essentials for Project-Based Learning” article + “4 A’s” protocol
    2. Peak Learning Experience Exercise – “Think about your own life and the times when you were really learning, so much and so deeply, that you would call these the ‘peak learning experiences’ of your life. Tell a story (you may include pictures, symbols, or other icons, too) about this peak learning experience, and respond to the question, ‘What were the conditions that made your high-level experience so powerful and engaging?'(adapted from 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, Trilling and Fadel, 2009). Jill and Bo often use this prompt as a pre-writing exercise in order to connect people with the project-based nature of our most enduring learnings throughout life.
    3. Synergy2Learn (resource on PBL)
    4. Synergy 8 Logo, Essential Learnings, and Learning Targets (via Scribd) [also embedded below]

Title of the Conversation
Synergy – Questions are the waypoints on the path of wisdom

Conversational Focus/Audience
High School
Middle School
Upper Elementary School

Short Description
Like a tribe around the fire, let’s discuss how we implement PBL as an entire course or as an input to a class. The conversation starters will describe Synergy – an 8th grade community-issues course. Then, through story exchange, we will share a variety of PBL ideas and implementation methods.

Extended Description
In Westminster’s 8th grade, we are experiencing year two of a new course called “Synergy 8.” Synergy is a non-departmentalized, transdisciplinary, non-graded, community-issues, problem-solving course. While we begin with an “alpha project” to practice project process, we use the “Falconer” method to empower student questioning and curiosity. From the student questions, the entire team generates the projects on which learners of all ages ultimately work.

Our conversational focus will be PBL (project-based learning, problem-based learning, passion-based learning, place-based learning, etc.). We intend to generate ideas from an exchange of current practices and possibilities. We hope to move beyond mere conversation and bridge into collaboration by building for the future more student-learner generated PBL…perhaps even “big, hairy audacious” PBL that unites our various schools and increases the mass of folks working on the problems which define our world.

For more detailed stimulus about “Synergy” and “PBL,” see categories and tags on Bo’s and Jill’s blogs: It’s About Learning (Bo’s blog) and Experiments in Learning by Doing (Jill’s blog).

[Cross-posted at Experiments in Learning by Doing]

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Lovett’s 2012 American Studies Institute #ASI2012

Are we Americans currently living through revolutions in art, politics, music, journalism, economics, and education (just to name a few)? What is the nature of a revolution? Are there common characteristics and traits among revolutions? Are we teaching our students about the foundations and aspects of revolutions in American history and around the world?

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” breathed rhythmically as the theme of this year’s American Studies Institute at The Lovett School in Atlanta, GA. As participants gathered on Thursday morning, June 7, Gil Scott-Heron’s poetic stoker was playing on an audio loop (lyrics). Then, after brief opening remarks from conference organizers, a Lovett senior recited the piece in a beautiful and surprisingly personal reading.

Over the course of nearly two days, through hour-long lectures from a variety of speakers, we were exposed to select individual’s perceptions of what we have experienced, and are experiencing, in the way of revolutions in American art, music, politics, economics, journalism, and education. Normally, I am not too keen on “sit-n-get” instruction for an entire conference, and I have grown disenchanted with this pedagogy as a primary means of schooling. I find it ironic that progressive educators talk of revolutionizing education by subjecting conference attendees to quintessential, industrial-age methodology. Nevertheless, Lovett’s #ASI2012 organizers made this lecture format work, at least for me. I was drawn in, turned on, and engaged deeply.

To try to summarize all that I thought and learned would prove impossible and short-selling of the event. My recap would do as much justice to #ASI2012 as a family slide show would do of a week together exploring some European city. Snapshots often fall short of deep, meaningful experiences. However, a few interesting themes did emerge for me, and I want to open the door to exploring these more fully in future thinking and posting:

  1. As explained by Dr. Cobb in the opening lecture, revolutions are rarely instantaneous. Rather revolutions are incremental. Moreover, revolutions rarely, if ever, sweep away all that was there before. I am curious how this theory and view relates to Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point.
  2. People seem to believe that many current-day revolutions involve the democratization of previously elite-controlled activity and removal of gatekeepers. For instance, through technology now, individuals who used to be resigned to the role of “consumer” may now also contribute as “producers” – through music production, like on Garage Band; through journalistic contribution, like on Twitter or long-post blogs; through video creation, like on iMovie and YouTube. I am curious how this ties into thinking such as that exposed on NPR’s TED Radio Hour featuring the Power of Crowds.
  3. Related to #2, there was a theme of curiosity about revolutionary veracity and integrity when just about anyone can remix, touch-up, or enhance a recording, image, or piece or writing. Interestingly, I got the sense that folks did not question Cindy Sherman’s creativity as presented by Jordan Clark, but they did wonder about a musical artist remixing a set of tracks on a piece of music as teetering on the edges of honesty (as presented by Stutz Wimmer).
  4. As Dr. Cobb and Patrick Hastings and Jay Bonner expressed in separate talks in different ways, revolutions are often returns to things of the past. Jay Bonner expressed it with elegant articulation about the meaning of “revolution” as something turning, revolving, and cycling through phases. This built on earlier foundations laid by Hastings as he compared Outkast to Homer and demonstrated the historically appreciated literary forms of poetry in more modern rap, hip hop, and slam poetry. I am curious how all of this cyclical, incremental, return-to-the-past nature of revolution makes revolution different from and similar to evolution.
  5. As Mary Louise Kelly detailed in her case-study approach to revolutions in media and journalism, revolution often involves searching for truth, discovering where facts and opinions merge and diverge, and improving evolving iterations. And, of course, real-life truth seeking and iterative prototyping naturally involves failure and learning from mistakes – something we need to explore much more purposefully in school proper.

I am not yet the writer to do any necessary justice to the closing presentations, but I will try to shine a spotlight on the brilliance of how Lovett closed the #ASI2012. In the penultimate session, participants walked through an art installation by Lovett students who had completed the school’s American Studies program. Through a combination of visual-and-audio mixed media, the Lovett artists invited us into their expressions of American Studies that could not be captured by mere essays or stereotypical reports in English or history.

In the final session, Asheville School highlighted integrated studies as a revolution in education by showcasing the work of nine faculty and administrators, many of whom work in teaching pairs in such courses as American Studies, European Studies, and Ancient Studies. In a brilliant Prezi visualizing the cyclical, turning, RPMs nature of “revolution,” the major-league Asheville School team demonstrated how lines artificially erected between the disciplines need to be re-blurred, permeated, and blown up so that school might model the integrated nature of the real world in which we live. Like Lovett’s art installation, Asheville utilized dance, art, and music to create the threads that could weave together English, history, science, politics, economics, etc.

What genius for Lovett to save its own student installation and Asheville School for the finale – to migrate from hour-long lectures on possible content and current events in American Studies to the already-being-done examples of how these two schools are implementing revolution in the too-often siloed nature of American schooling. For any naysayers, they could see, “Oh, that’s what it could look like, sound like, smell like, and taste like.”

May more of us go and do likewise…may we “revolutionize” schooling by making it more like learning and education, in which content and skills are integrated and mixed in true-to-life human-ness of exploration, truth-seeking, discovery, artistic expression, and problem solving.

Inspired by Jackson 4th Graders’ Common Sense

Yesterday, someone sent me an email about Warren T. Jackson’s 4th Grade Class led by Ms. Campbell. In part of the email, Ms. Campbell explains,

Earlier this year, my students were inspired by the Apple Education Summit and its introduction of interactive, digital textbooks on the iPad. In class we tied what we learned about this new technology in with American history to produce our persuasive essays titled, Common Sense: 2012,” inspired by Thomas Paine’s original “Common Sense in 1776.

In their writing my students discussed and persuaded why textbooks on the iPad were the inevitable replacement of the paper textbook, and the time is NOW.

Their ideas were so spectacular, Dr. Reich encouraged us to film them. I took it a step further by applying for the PTA “Teaching in Excellence” Grant. We ended up winning and produced it as a professional movie!

I am inspired by Ms. Campbell’s classroom leadership and educational innovation. I am inspired by Dr. Reich’s administration encouragement. I am inspired by the support of the PTA. I am inspired by one of my local, public elementary schools! And I am inspired by those amazing 4th graders. KUDOS to you for what you created and for that which you are advocating! [Watch them at http://www.commonsensekids.org/ to be inspired!]