Murmurations on Schools of the Future #WhatIfWeekly

Openness. Schools that embrace it and welcome it will thrive. Schools that resist it or imagine that they can control it will struggle significantly.

In sequel to yesterday’s post, I offer this #MustWatch TED Talk by Don Tapscott. Brilliant! In 17 minutes, Tapscott summarizes the essential path points to thriving as a school of the future:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Transparency
  3. Sharing
  4. Empowerment

From the admin to the teachers, from the students to the parents…from the interior to the exterior, from the past to the future – the four principles above will define the schools of the future and the future of schools.

If you are serious about enhancing and improving education and school, watch Don Tapscott’s TED. Be a part of, not apart from, the murmuration.

CHANGEd: What if we schools collaborated more purposefully? 60-60-60 #43

In all of the talk about 21st Century learning, one would be hard pressed not to hear “collaboration” mentioned. We expect students to learn to collaborate, and we structure more opportunities for students to co-labor. Certainly, we expect our teachers and faculties to collaborate more deliberately. What if we schools collaborated more purposefully? Isn’t more intentional school-to-school collaboration the next (and critical) ripple in the pond? [Maybe it should have been the first!] When do we put aside unique branding, competition, rival mascot bashing, and realize that deep, systemic educational transformation will demand that we work together.

When Hollywood has a big issue to address – an humongous asteroid hurtling towards Earth or an evil Empire building a Death Star that can destroy planets, for instance – they always create a crackpot team of amazing strength-diversity, and they co-labor to save the day. When might “School Wars” hit the big screen…not because we are battling each other – public vs. private, private vs. private, etc. – but because we are teaming and collaborating to make big, needed change in our universe?!

“Use the Force!” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained

Curiosity and Connections – #edu180atl 11-29-11 cross-posted

Curiosity and Connections

This morning began like most mornings for me. I rise early so that I can read and write, mostly about educational ideas related to the future of schools and schools of the future. I began this practice years ago because I wanted to enhance my own knowledge and understanding so that I might better serve others on this dynamic path of school transformation in the 21st century. My formula is easy: maintain deep curiosity and make strong connections. The catalyst for the reaction, though, demands constant commitment and daily practice. Like I tell my two sons, ages seven and four, “If you want to get better at anything, you must practice.”

So, by 5:30 a.m., the time at which I am drafting this post, I already have two more hours of learning practice under my belt. I have made a field of mental Velcro so that I can be ready for connections of curiosity throughout the day. This Velcro is made of numerous “curiosity-connection hooks and loops” formed by the countless curiosities and connections pursued by others. I am indebted to others for sharing openly. For you see, my morning routine utilizes Kindle, Twitter, Google Reader, and the blog-o-sphere to connect me to curiosities and connections from vast numbers of amateur and professional educators around the world. Every morning, I am fortunate enough to enter the greatest faculty lounge on the planet wearing David Letterman’s Velcro suit!

Today, I feel Velcro-ly grateful for curiosity and connection practice!


Bo Adams (@boadams1) is a learner first and foremost. Currently, he is the principal learner at The Westminster Schools Junior High School. The photo shows his older son’s recent artwork as he, too, pursues curiosity and connections.

[This post was created and posted originally for edu180atl (, on Nov. 29, 2011.]

Connections, Frontiers, Oxytocin, Empathy, and Walls…Say What?!

Connect! Relate! Become interdependent! What if these pursuits had been immortalized as the motto of the American Dream? I wonder where we might be as a whole culture by now, if we had as much focus on relationship and connectivity as we seem to have on getting ahead and achieving at all costs.

This morning, as I engaged myself in my typical a.m. routine of learning, I watched a few TED talks, I studied a few resources on PBL (project-based learning, problem-based learning, place-based learning, etc.), and I immersed myself in my Feeddler RSS to catch up on some coveted blog reading. Among all of that, two pieces of that learning web really called out to me. Perhaps they were like the chief anchor points on my learning web – the foundations on which the web stands when possible learning meals go by.

From the Paul Zac TED talk embedded below, along with the @occam98 blog post linked below, I am reminded and pre-minded of the power of human connection. Actually, as I write, another chief anchor point comes to mind – Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From.

Empathy, trust, morality…they may originate from those moments and places of collision. May we be careful of the walls and fences that we build to prevent these critical collisions. [See Robert Frost poem below, too!]

Learning Web Anchor Point #1: Paul Zac: Trust, morality — and oxytocin

Learning Web Anchor Point #2: Blog Post from Quantum Progress

Reaching Out to Dispel the Myth of the Wild West Internet

Learning Web Anchor Point #3: Steven Johnson’s RSA on Where Good Ideas Come From

Some Dew on the Learning Web: Mending Wall, Robert Frost,

Mending Wall
SOMETHING there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:          5
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,   10
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.   15
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.   20
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.   25
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.   30
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down!” I could say “Elves” to him,   35
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,   40
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Synergy: Selecting next projects

Our team has over 300 observation journal entries from which to brainstorm questions and projects. See Synergy: Complexity~Simplicity, Collaboration & Brainstorming for the beginning of this work.

After Monday’s work in class, our learners were prompted to use a quick-write to reflect on the process of narrowing the project ideas using the idea wall as shown in the Synergy: Complexity~Simplicity, Collaboration & Brainstorming blog post.

The prompt:  Do you think our Synergy team’s project possibilities are accurately and fairly represented? Why or why not?

“I think they are accurately represented because it’s easy to see and understand, as well as find one in a group of many that you are passionate about. I think we should have a survey. I think they are fair to everyone’s choices, and I like that everyone got three post-it notes.” ~ BM

“I think our Synergy team’s project possibilities are more accurately and fairly represented with the idea wall system, because we thought of what projects we were most passionate about, and then as a class they were organized into groups on the wall, according to their topic. With the other system they were categorized under tags that each of us individually had tagged, in our own language, and five out of 300+ of our tags were represented with that system. I think this left out a lot of other project possibilities that many people in our class feel passionate about.  In my opinion, both of these systems were flawed, but I am excited about many of the projects, and with both I was able to see one or two projects that our class had identified, that’d I’d love to start working on.” ~ OK

“I think that the project possibilities that are represented are fairly represented but we have more ideas that we can add to the wall. Also I think the tagging system was very complicated and hard to understand, but we did a good job of cleaning it up and getting everyone to use the same tagging language to tag their posts.” ~ MB

“I believe that our Synergy team’s project possibilities are mostly accurately and fairly represented, but I don’t think that’s true for everyone. Every team member has put there idea up on the idea wall, but everyone does not understand what each idea means.” ~ OV

“Everyone definitely had an equal say in what we have so far, so I think it is apparent that the data we have is fair. I think the idea wall represents our project possibilities accurately, but the Posterous tags do not. I think the idea wall works because it represents what stuck with people. It specifically represents PROJECT ideas, while the tags also represent random observations that projects cannot be done on.” ~ FS

“I don’t think that our Synergy team’s project possibilities are accurately and fairly represented through our Posterous Idea Wall. I don’t think they are accurately represented because we have over 300 posts and there are bound to be posts that are as equally important to us that we forgot about. Others aren’t represented well, because they are thrown into a miscellaneous category. When something is put in a category like this, people tend to skip over it and ignore it. For example when people are choosing project possibilities that interest them, they will probably skip over the “Other” categories and head straight to the ones that have titles. Although there are some down sides to our wall, like the ones I stated above, our Synergy class has made significant progress through this exercise.” ~ DJ

“Well, I did but now I have realized that they really aren’t. Before, I thought that they were because of the sticky notes and Posterous posts, but now I think that they are not. Today at the end of class, we tried to decide on a number of project ideas for the poll. I thought that we should vote because the final numbers were 8 and 12. Someone suggested that we use 10 because that is between 8 and 12 but some people weren’t satisfied.” ~ CC

Based on the feedback from our young learners, we have learned that we need to work with our team to create a better understanding of the “folksonomy” aspect of tagging our observation journal posts in Posterous.  From Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss:

“Folksonomy” refers to the social taxonomy or classification system that evolves as users collectively make sense of what they find on the Web.  Users associate “tags” or keywords to the content they bookmark, and they can see how others have treated the same material.

The easiest way to understand the power of bookmarks and tagging is by using it.  [p. 22]

We are working to develop a common language with our tags.  We are learning by doing as recommended by Boss and Krauss.

After more work and reorganizing the Post-it Notes from the idea wall, the team decided to use Poll Everywhere to formatively assess the team’s thinking and preferences.  We (Bo Adams and Jill Gough) created the topics for the poll based on the top 10 tags from our Posterous blog.  Our learners decided that these categories, shown below, were similar to the categories from the idea wall.

As you can see, we definitely need to work on developing a common language and understanding of tagging.  School, for example, is a pretty broad topic for project selection.  There were 82 posts tagged with school in our Posterous observation journal site.

Here are the results after the first poll.

Our learners discovered that their categories were too general.  If you wanted to work on the KP Challenge, did you select school or cafeteria? If you were interested in organic food or obesity, did you select environment, cafeteria, or health?  Fortunately, the Post-it Notes contained more details.  Our learners then asked to eliminate the general categories where they showed no interest and add more specific categories to eliminate some confusion.  For a quick glimpse into their discussion and work, we offer the following iMovie*.

Here are the results after the second poll.

Serving as their coaches, we now had to intervene.  PowerPuff does not meet the standard of project or problem for our course. We want our learners to work on projects or problems that effect more than half of one grade in our division.  Our learners were assured that we would help them work on this project outside of class if they are serious about pursuing this as a community issue.   One of our learners made a motion from the floor to poll again with the category PowerPuff removed.

Again, there was discussion coupled with questions.  Could the KP Challenge and Line Cutting choices be grouped together?

In groups, our learners’ next task was to use the technique of brainwriting to share, connect, and contribute to the team’s ideas of the selected topic.

Learners are now working on project concepting using a worksheet we adapted from BIE.

For the projects where there are less than 4 teammates, how will they cover the internal, team “leads” for each essential learning needed? Will these teams choose to push forward on the project they have selected, or will they choose to join forces with another team?

[Cross-posted at Experiments in Learning by Doing]
[*NOTE: iMovie video effects have been added to the movies because of a new school policy about student images on faculty blogs.]