Orchestrating Conflict, Developing Experiments…and Carving Butter: Adaptive Leadership #PBL Ponderings

When information enters the mind, it self-organizes into patterns and ruts much like the hot water on butter. New information automatically flows into the preformed grooves. After a while, the channels become so deep it takes only a bit of information to activate an entire channel. This is the pattern recognition and pattern completion process of the brain. Even if much of the information is out of the channel, the pattern will be activated. The mind automatically corrects and completes the information to select and activate a pattern. (Michalko, 2011)

So, how do we get the water to flow in a different pattern on the surface of the butter? Perhaps we need to “orchestrate conflict and develop experiments.” (Creelman, 2009) [See “PROCESS POST: Adaptive Leaders, Orchestrating Conflict, and Developing Experiments…School DNA Evolution“]

In the metaphor of the hot water and butter, perhaps a leader can use some prototype of dams and locks to re-channel the water into new patterns. Perhaps, the surface of the butter could be shaved smooth for a new pattern to form with the next cup of hot water. Regardless, conflict orchestrated on the system is necessary to affect the pattern and flow of the water on the butter.

Scientists used to believe that the brain became “hardwired” early in life and couldn’t change later on. Now researchers such as Dr. Michael Merzenich, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco, say that the brain’s ability to change — its “plasticity” — is lifelong. If we can change, then why don’t we?  [emphasis added from my Diigo note taking]

Merzenich starts by talking about rats. You can train a rat to have a new skill. The rat solves a puzzle, and you give it a food reward. After 100 times, the rat can solve the puzzle flawlessly. After 200 times, it can remember how to solve it for nearly its lifetime. The rat has developed a habit. [Also see William James Talks on Teaching re: habit] It can perform the task automatically because its brain has changed. Similarly, a person has thousands of habits — such as how to use a pen — that drive lasting changes in the brain. For highly trained specialists, such as professional musicians, the changes actually show up on MRI scans. Flute players, for instance, have especially large representations in their brains in the areas that control the fingers, tongue, and lips, Merzenich says. “They’ve distorted their brains.” [emphasis added from my Diigo note taking]

Businesspeople, like flutists, are highly trained specialists, and they’ve distorted their brains, too. An older executive “has powers that a young person walking in the door doesn’t have,” says Merzenich. He has lots of specialized skills and abilities. A specialist is a hard thing to create, and is valuable for a corporation, obviously, but specialization also instills an inherent “rigidity.” The cumulative weight of experience makes it harder to change.

How, then, to overcome these factors? Merzenich says the key is keeping up the brain’s machinery for learning. (Deutchman, 2007)

Then, with the nature of change in the world today, adaptive leadership becomes a necessity, not a luxury. How might a school leader, working in earnest to guide the change happening in schools, orchestrate the conflict that could keep up a faculty’s collective brain machinery for learning?

If a school leader pays attention to the wider educational environment, then he or she would know that PBL (Project-Based Learning, Problem-Based Learning, Place-Based Learning, etc.) is a powerful trend and force in schooling for the future. But what if the school leader does not possess the personal knowledge capacity for PBL? How might he or she expect to lead such an exploration and R&D effort at his or her school? She could turn to her orchestra and scientists – the creators that we call teachers and students.

Idea #1

In Creative Thinkering, Michalko related a story about Rite-Solutions:

Rite-Solutions combined the architecture of the stock exchange with the architecture of an in-house company stock market and created a stock market for ideas. The company’s internal exchange is called Mutual Fun [love the name!]. In this private exchange, any employee can offer a proposal to create a new product or spin-off, to solve a problem, to acquire new technologies or companies and so on. These proposals become stocks and are given ticker symbols identifying the proposals.

As reported in the New York Times, “Fifty-five stocks are listed on the company’s internal stock exchange. Each stock comes with a detailed description – called an expect-us, as opposed to a prospectus – and begins trading at a price of $10. Every employee gets $10,000 in ‘opinion money’ to allocate among the offerings, and employees signal their enthusiasm by investing in a stock or volunteering to work on the project.”

The result has been a resounding success. (Michalko, 2011)

Schools could totally do this! I can completely imagine a faculty being empowered to select the most exciting projects through “price bidding” and implementing the experiments together. Could such an approach even resolve some of the issues with the current stick of butter…school system, I mean? Would the decisions about what PBL to implement feel less top-down and more grassroots? Would the mental framing of such a process cause a fun, game like psychology? Would it unify and thread the projects through the different disciplines and departments? Don’t you think it’s worth a try?

I can picture faculty meetings being fun debriefs of how the faculty-decided-upon projects are going. Teams could celebrate short-term successes, share bright spots, discuss conundrums and challenges, share failures and poor/early prototypes. Video could be used to capture the classroom experiences with students and the faculty debriefs. These videos could be integrated into presentation and conversations with parents and alums so that they could be a part of the transformations and experimentations [Hat tip to Bob Dillon in Missouri!]. Faculty leaders could exchange stories with other faculties engaging in similar experiments with various PBL developments. We could learn together and keep up our brain machinery and form new patterns with our water and butter.

Idea #2

Posit Science has a “fifth-day strategy,” meaning that everyone spends one day a week working in a different discipline. Software engineers try their hand at marketing. Designers get involved in business functions. “Everyone needs a new project instead of always being in a bin,” Merzenich says. “A fifth-day strategy doesn’t sacrifice your core ability but keeps you rejuvenated. In a company, you have to worry about rejuvenation at every level. So ideally you deliberately construct new challenges. For every individual, you need complex new learning. Innovation comes about when people are enabled to use their full brains and intelligence instead of being put in boxes and controlled.” (Deutchman, 2007) [emphasis added from my Diigo note taking]

To test new channels in the butter of departmentalized subject delivery, every fifth class rotation, subjects could be combined into double periods. If there were an art class 3rd period and a science class 4th period, they could meet as one, double-class. Teachers could serve as facilitators of the student-generated projects that exist at the intersections of art and science. In the doing, the art teacher could stretch himself in the domains of science, co-teaching, class management, etc. The science teacher could enhance her knowledge and understanding of art, performance-based assessment, design thinking, etc. If another set of schedules revealed that a math section and a history section met 3rd and 4th periods, those could be combined for the fifth-day strategy, and students might explore such topics as historical cryptography and code breaking [hat tip to Fred Young, Laurel Bleich, Angela Jones, and Jen Lalley in Atlanta].

Thomas Edison’s lab was a big barn with worktables set up side by side that held separate projects in progress. He would work on one project for awhile and then another. His workshop was designed to allow one project to infect a neighboring one, so that moves made here might also be tried there. This method of working allowed him to constantly rethink the way he saw his projects. (Michalko, 2011)

As we sidled our “worktables” together, continuous support and scaffolding could be offered and provided to faculty because this is a very disruptive conflict to the schedule and conventions of school, as it has traditionally and habitually been administrated. Communications schema could be re-designed to invite parents and other constituents into the experiments. Partnerships might emerge with alumni business and professionals working on similar projects in their own places of work.

Imagine what we could learn from these orchestrated conflicts and developing experiments. Imagine how admin and faculty could grow to be less “us-them” and more “we” by working in such collaborative, R&D-lab experimental ways.

Imagine the never-before-thought-possible channels in the surface of the butter we could discover.

Works Cited:

Creelman, David. “Ron Heifitz: Adaptive Leadership.” Creelman Research. N.p., 2009. Web. 17 July 2012. <http://creelmanresearchlibrary.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/creelman-2009-vol-2-5-heifetz-on-adaptive-leadership.pdf&gt;.

Deutchman, Alan. “Change or Die.” Change or Die. Fast Company, 19 Dec. 2007. Web. 18 July 2012. <http://www.fastcompany.com/node/52717/print&gt;.

Michalko, Michael. Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2011. Print.

Related Work:

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway, 2010. Print.

[Cross-posted at Connected Principals]

What if schools learned from tourist spots, museums, and other sightseeing locations? #WhatIfWeekly #GroundedCampus

Schools could learn from tourist spots, museums, and other sightseeing locations
(a 3:02 podcast by Bo Adams)

[The link above will take you to a podcast that I created on Garageband. A transcript of the podcast is pasted below (please excuse conventions errors, as I only made the script to record the podcast!). This marks my first foray into recording a podcast on Garageband, which I have been wanting to learn for quite some time. Today, I learned by doing, and I spent about 90 minutes crafting the podcast. Interestingly, I spent about three times that long trying to figure out how to embed the podcast with a media player directly into this blog. Still haven’t discovered how to do that. Any and all feedback and commentary is welcome – on the content of the podcast, as well as on the production of the podcast. I am learning, and you might be my best teacher for how to do all of this better…from the thinking about schools to the creating of a multimedia podcast that can be embedded in WordPress. Thanks for reading, listening, and viewing.]

Schools could learn and integrate a lot from tourist spots, museums, and sightseeing locations. For example, just take those multi-media, information boards that aquariums, historical sites, and zoos use. I can imagine student-generated information boards – full of pictures and narrative descriptions – in several locations on a campus…explaining the history of a building, the flora and fauna counts of a nearby woods or stream, the recent sports news highlighting the athletics teams of the school. These information boards could possess some static information, but they could also utilize QR codes so that different classes from year to year could update the more dynamic information. They could include short podcasts like the QR codes at Rock City – one at each of about 50 stops along the enchanted trail.

Students could label shrubs and trees on campus with botanical descriptor signs. These could include QR codes, too. Can’t you imagine a video pieced together by a collaborative of students in which various teams trace and track the seasonal lives of adopted flora. Through something like a time-elapse video, viewers could see the maturing of a tree compressed from years into just seconds. Student could narrate the short mini-features and update the QR codes at the signs from year to year.

On a weekend trip to Chattanooga, TN, I was also impressed by the sidewalks at the North Shore, just across the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge. Dance steps had been included in the concrete pours, and our vacation group enjoyed frequent stops during our stroll to learn the Cha Cha, the Waltz, and the Foxtrot. What if student groups designed the walkways at a school with such similar action-generating artifacts? I can imagine a student committee ideating, designing, and processing through how to make such a concept reality on the pathways that crisscross a school’s campus.

Other student committees could curate special exhibits based on their research and creations. At the Tennessee Aquarium, we marveled at a small exhibit comparing various turtle shells to a host of architectural designs and features. Students are perfectly capable of doing this typically-adult work. Through the projects, students could integrate learning and understanding that traditionally gets siloed and subdivided into departmentalized subjects. What’s more, the student committees would learn invaluable design, communication, and curatorial skills as they readied their public displays and exhibition details.

Tourist spots, museums, zoos, and other sightseeing spots seem expert at getting us to interact with what we are seeing and learning. School campuses could be such interactive destinations, and students could create, design, and implement the possibilities.

Also, @occam98 sent me this fabulous and closely related article:

The Grounded Curriculum
How can our courses and teaching capitalize on the benefits of a physical campus?

By James M. Lang

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (After 3) Coffee and Dessert: What Will Sweeten Your Teaching After #CFTSI12?

On Monday and Tuesday, June 25-26, Bo Adams and Jill Gough facilitated a ten-hour workshop on PBL at The Center for Teaching Summer Institute (#CFTSI12 on Twitter). With this post (see below the bulleted list), we are hoping to encourage and support the most important part of any conference or institute for professional learning – the “taking-things-back-to-school-to-enhance-learning” part.

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (After 3)
Coffee and Dessert: What Will Sweeten Your Teaching After #CFTSI12?
(180 Days of Possibility in 2012-13 – Keeping the Conversation Going)

CHALLENGE: Many believe that this is actually the best part of the meal. The #CFTSI12 for Synergy and PBL is complete, but the fun, decadent portion has just begun. As we all know, peak learning tends toward project-based experiences, and students long remember the sweetness of the projects that they taste and savor. Additionally, Steven Johnson advocates for coffeehouse environments that create the conditions for great conversations and colliding hunches. So…let’s feed our sweet tooth and share in those magical after-diner-coffee conversations. When (not if!) you implement PBL with your student learners, share the plates and cups with the entire table – POST your writing, resources, insights, and struggles regarding your PBL implementations. If you have a blog, please consider cross-posting to Synergy2Learn as a contributing author. If you don’t have a blog of your own, we still invite you to post to our collective-wisdom site for PBL – Synergy2Learn.

  1. When you are ready to share and contribute, email Jill and Bo, and we will set you up as “contributors” to the Synergy2Learn PBL blog.
  2. After you are set up as a contributing author, you can keep on posting about your pursuits and accomplishments with PBL.
  3. Even if you did not physically participate in the #CFTSI12 for Synergy and PBL, this offer still applies!

_________

Coming Soon…

Amazing stories of PBL experiments, implementations, and accomplishments from our #CFTSI12 participants and blog readers (hopefully!)…

[Cross-posted on Experiments in Learning by Doing and Synergy2Learn]

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (3 of 3) The Second Course: “School’s Cool” – PBL for the Student-Learner

[On Tuesday, June 26, as part of the Center for Teaching’s annual Summer Institutes, Bo Adams and Jill Gough are facilitating day 2 of a two-day workshop on PBL (project-based learning, problem-based learning, place-based learning, passion-based learning, etc.). The online course description is linked below, and the outline for day 2 follows. The pre-institute assignment (the “appetizers”) and a short description of the “flights” structure can be found here, and the outline for day 1 is here.]

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (3 of 3)
The Second Course: “School’s Cool” – PBL for the Student-Learner
(Day 2 – Tuesday, June 26, 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.)

EL #1: I can share my deep understanding of PBL through PBL methods and pedagogies, as well as with direct-instruction and conversation.

EL #2: I can commit to PBL with student learners by working through stages of rapid-prototype planning, implementing, and assessing.

8:30 – 9:15 a.m.
Fail more…Fail Faster (Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail Reprise) Flight

  1. With your partner, use your PBL storyboard and developing asset pool to continue building your PBL multi-media tool. Remember to review the good thinking and storyboarding of other groups – it’s not “stealing,” it’s sharing and collaborating!
  2. Review and revise assets you made for self-selected “HW” last night…recycle, re-design, re-purpose, re-build,…
  3. At 9:00, we’ll do a quick sub-team check-in – by jigsawing among sub-teams – before we move on with the next flight. (Suggested protocol: THE 5 WHYS)

9:15 – 10:00 a.m.
Bloom’s Got Nothin’ On Us Flight

  1. Quick exploration and discussion of pbl-PBL matrix, a.k.a. “Adams-Gough Taxonomy.”
  2. Quiet reflection – place some of your current project work on a copy of the Adams-Gough Taxonomy.
  3. Brief share-out and mediated journal of possibilities for working in capital-P PBL (upper-right quadrant).

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
I Am Not a Commitment-phobe Flight

  1. Using DESIGN THE BOX or COVER STORY, create a model and story to share with the group. The model and story should share a PBL idea that you will commit to implementing with your student learners in the first semester of 2012-13.
  2. At 10:35, we will hear 2-3 minute presentations from each designer/group.
  3. During each presentation, contribute post-it feedback: 1) I like…, 2) I wonder…, 3) I want to know more about…

11:00 – 11:59 a.m.
Pardon Our Noise…It’s the Sound of PBL Construction Flight

  1. Time to complete the next iteration of your rapid-prototype design for the multi-media PBL tool.
  2. Time to workshop some of the feedback that undoubtedly will arise from the “I Am Not a Commitment-phobe” Flight.
  3. Time to question, question, question – they are waypoints on the path of wisdom.

12:00 p.m.
Lunch…PBL really stirs an appetite (especially on Day Two)!

12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
On the TEDxCFT/IGNITE Stage Flight

  1. Each sub-team will have 15 minutes: 5 minutes for presentation of their multi-media PBL tool + 8 minutes of Q & A + 2 minutes of transition.
  2. Don’t Get Stuck – You Have What It Takes to Make the Next Steps!
  3. Invitation to “Coffee and Dessert” Flight

_________

Coming Soon…

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (After 3)
Coffee and Dessert: What Will Sweeten Your Teaching After #CFTSI12?
(180 Days of Possibility in 2012-13 – Keeping the Conversation Going)

[Cross-posted on Experiments in Learning by Doing and Synergy2Learn]

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (2 of 3) The First Course: “School Tools” – PBL for the Adult Palette

[On Monday, June 25, as part of the Center for Teaching’s annual Summer Institutes, Bo Adams and Jill Gough are facilitating day 1 of a two-day workshop on PBL (project-based learning, problem-based learning, place-based learning, passion-based learning, etc.). The online course description is linked below, and the outline for day 1 follows. The pre-institute assignment (the “appetizers”) and a short description of the “flights” structure can be found here.]

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (2 of 3)
The First Course: “School Tools” – PBL for the Adult Palette
(Day 1 – Monday, June 25, 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.)

EL #1: I can share my deep understanding of PBL through PBL methods and pedagogies, as well as with direct-instruction and conversation.

EL #2: I can commit to PBL with student learners by working through stages of rapid-prototype planning, implementing, and assessing.

CHALLENGE: Because you are attending this Center for Teaching Summer Institute on PBL, the CFT intends to use you as PBL leaders in 2012-13 (and beyond!). Westminster is furthering its Learning for Life vision, and Drew Charter is envisioning a PBL high school, so PBL leaders are high in demand! We want to help you prepare your PBL-leadership tool belt. By the end of this CFT-SI, you will build and present a multi-media resource about PBL that you can use to support a host of adult and student learners engaging in the complex wonder of PBL! Consider it a crucial deposit in the bank of visionary work! [We may even go Pecha-Kucha or Ignite style!]

Resources to consider including in PBL multi-media tool:

  • PBL Framework(s)
  • PBL “Expert Voices” from research and practice
  • PBL as “place-based,” “problem-based,” “passion-based,” as well as “project-based” [ideas around campus, Atlanta, etc.]
  • PBL Video Resources – pictures are worth 1000s of words!
  • Examples of PBL being tried and attempted/implemented
  • Interviews – voices from students and adults about how and what we want to learn
  • Ideas for PBL you intend to implement yourself

8:45 – 9:45 a.m.
Questions, Connections, & Empathy Flight

  1. POST-UP: What questions do you have about PBL and “the Challenge”, as well as questions about related opportunities such as integrated studies, teachers working in teams, etc.?
  2. AFFINITY MAP: What connections do we see in our questions and ideas?
  3. EMPATHY MAP: What’s it like to be a student? + provocations from “Writing-Is-Thinking” Flight of Pre-Assignments (How to Create an Empathy Map using Google Docs)

9:45 – 11:15 a.m.
School IS Real Life – From Simulations to Social Justice Flight

  1. World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements – morning movie & popcorn!
  2. “Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge” – and candy!
  3. Synergy 8 Ignite – and a Coke!

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Knowing Places and People Flights – Diners’ Choice

  • Learning Walk Flight – Armed with an iPad, laptop, or other smart device, explore, inquire, and record by…
  1. Capturing at least 3 pictures of people, places, or things that could spur PBL;
  2. Archiving at least 2 video interviews of people discussing a possible learning project, problem, or passion;
  3. Brainstorming at least 1 idea for a community project. [BONUS: Base it on a synergy of the above!]
  1. locally,
  2. nationally,
  3. globally.

12:00 p.m.
Lunch…PBL really stirs an appetite!

 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail Flight

  1. UNDERSTANDING CHAIN or GRAPHIC GAMEPLAN: With a partner, craft a storyboard of your PBL multi-media tool concept. With one or the other of these two Gamestorms, we will be able to co-post our “slides” or “path points” on a common game board so that we can share across groups.
  2. Begin building assets, as time permits!
  3. Rapid-prototype presentations of storyboards before we adjourn for the day.

_________

Coming Soon…

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (3 of 3)
The Second Course: “School’s Cool” – PBL for the Student-Learner
(Day 2 – Tuesday, June 26, 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.)

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (After 3)
Coffee and Dessert: What Will Sweeten Your Teaching After #CFTSI12?
(180 Days of Possibility in 2012-13 – Keeping the Conversation Going)

 

[Cross-posted at Experiments in Learning by Doing and at Synergy2Learn.]