In an increasingly complex, demanding and competitive 21st century, students need to learn more than the 3R’s they are tested on in school. It’s time to help them go “above & beyond”, by embracing the 4Cs –communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
To get the word out to about the “3Rs + 4Cs” approach, P21 and FableVision partnered to produce a short, animated film called Above & Beyond. Enjoy & share, so we can help ALL our students flourish in the 21st century.
This week, I’ve come across two great pieces about better communication.
In the first, Simon Sinek shares how Nike’s Phil Knight puts his company’s WHY into words.
And in the second, Melissa Marshall encourages scientists to talk nerdy to her:
Do we really know what we do in schools? Does each school know what it does? Not at a cursory level, but at a deep and meaningful level.
Do we communicate tirelessly and effectively with our internal folks and with all of our external constituencies? Does every stakeholder or group member genuinely understand and believe in what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we are doing it?
Are we nurturing relationships – people – to turn groups into unified tribes?
[“A piece of ‘why,'” A piece of ‘what,'” and A piece of ‘how'” are strands of a series on why school needs to change, what about school needs to change, and how schools might navigate the change.]
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?
While I have been blessed with a small hand full of mentors in my life – true, committed mentors…not the trite use of the word for occasional acts of mentorship – Dr. Frank Pajares stands out for me. Among countless reasons, Dr. P stands out because of a conversation that we had in his office one day. After two hours of conversing, I looked at my Timex Ironman watch, and I apologized for keeping him so long. He closed his book, which we were referencing, and he looked over the top edge of his glasses. Then, he said, “The greatest gift you can ever give me is to ignore your watch when we are working together. I am not thinking about the time; I would encourage you not to think about the time. Us working and learning together is what’s important.”
I tend to be a very task-oriented person. I care deeply for people, but I sometimes give off a different vibe because I do like to check things off a list. Dr. P further changed my paradigm about task completion that day, which was over ten years ago as I was completing graduate school. (I fall short of Dr. P’s ideal all the time, but I am working on it.)
Today, Dr. P flashed into my mind when I was talking to a colleague with whom I work at Westminster. We’ll call him B. At this time of year, I have a million things on the task list. To name just a few, I am working on new faculty orientation details, faculty recognition citations, Apple roll out issues, etc. Truly, though, I did not think about any of those things while I was meeting with B. He had some important things to discuss, and we sit down together about once every month or two months to discuss some questions we have about education, school structure, etc. After about 80 minutes of talking, he was getting up to go, and he apologized for taking so much time.
Dr. P flashed through my mind. Something he shared with me years ago has helped shape me a bit better, and now I could genuinely say that all those tasks were inconsequential to me compared to the conversation I was having with B. I was thinking, learning, questioning, considering. Who knows how that thinking might come back to benefit later when engaged with an issue or challenge. During the conversation with B, we talked through several scenarios; the time was infinitely worthwhile. I bet, in the long-run, the conversation proves to be a time saver, instead of a time waster – because I was able to rehearse some thinking with a great thinker before I needed the thinking “in battle.”
During the conversation, though, B made a remark that he is still having to justify to people that time on Twitter or blogging is not a time waster, but rather a time saver. The thought occurred to me that I bet those people would not claim that this face-to-face conversation was a time waster…in general, that time spent with another human in conversation is what we should be doing, for instance, instead of tweeting and blogging so much.
But, then, a George Couros adage came to mind – there are people at the other end of those screens and keyboards. We are connecting when we employ those tools. In fact, B and I were able to have the depth of conversation that we were having, at least in part, because we “talk” regularly by following each other’s tweets and blog posts. Moreover, We remarked that by tweeting and blogging, we are able to maintain many streams of conversation and learning that can keep us connected and thinking on a number of exciting and invigorating fronts in education and schooling.
I don’t regret any time I tweet, blog, or connect with my colleagues on social media tools. By doing so, we are thinking and learning and reflecting together. I also don’t regret any of that face to face time spent in personal dialogue. BOTH are important. BOTH are “time savers” in the long run. And, even if they aren’t, they are “life savers,” as they broaden and deepen my network of connected learners…my tribe.
Dr. P died a few years ago, but I like to think that this story would make him proud. I still learn from him everyday. He was THE master of contextual thought and deed, and I think the context in which we connect to think and learn together would excite him – as long as we valued the relationships built by those connections…and ignored our watches. Thanks, Dr. P. Love you.