Outcome of a project-based pursuit – a demo of deep learning.

I’m fascinated by “Ge Wang: The DIY orchestra of the future.” It’s not so much the music he makes that fascinates me though. Watching this musician and computer scientist – but even more, watching this human being – I am struck by his curiosity, his experimentation, his integrated exploration and his interdisciplinarity.

He’s got a project, and he’s exploring. And that’s a cool way of journeying to learn.

What if form followed function in school? Inspired by David Epstein #TED talk

On May 11, 2014, I will (quietly) celebrate a third anniversary. That day will mark the moment that I have spent exactly three years watching a TED talk every day.

Being an educator, as I watch TED talks, I think about how they might “fit” into school. I sometimes imagine the speaker as a student in a typical high school, and I wonder what courses and subjects his or her talk would align with.

And often that exercise bothers me. It bothers me because I imagine a speaker like David Epstein prepping and preparing his “Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?” talk embedded below. I wonder…. Would David be doing this “project” in math class? In science class? In history class? In English class as a persuasive speech assignment? Maybe in some technology course? Would he be so lucky as to have teachers who would allow a single project to “count” for all of his courses? After all, the project integrates a number of disciplines that we subdivide and separate in school.

And that entire imagining bothers me because of the ridiculousness of having to think this way. Why do we continue to remain so wed to the unnatural subdivision of the “school subjects?”

What if at least part of David’s school day allowed for him to pursue the project of his dreams and interests and the subject-area lenses were more like threads in a tapestry that David is weaving?

And what if that deep project identification and discernment had developed partly because of more innovative “homework” that encouraged and made room for David to explore his developing passions and curiosities?

And what if the subject areas in his school behaved a bit more like “subjects on demand” and recitations in which David could schedule time with a relative expert to spend some concentrated time digging into the statistics or biology specificity that he needed for his emerging understanding?

And what if his assessments were more akin to badges and endorsements showcasing the disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary knowledge, skills, and understandings that David was building?

And what if David were at the center of his own progress reporting and learning conferences?

Then school would look different. Because form follows function.

Enjoy the talk. It’s amazing.

Shark Tank at MVPSchool – 5th Graders Break Into Business

Last week, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School hosted a Shark Tank for entrepreneurs who were striving to establish startups in a particular target market in Atlanta.

The lean-startup entrepreneurs are 5th Graders!

Thanks to the work that Stephanie Immel (@teachingsteph) coordinated and collaborated with Monica Lage from Break Into Business! And kudos to our young entrepreneurs! What amazing experience in real-world context and application of knowledge and skills.

Read two great stories from the News Page at MVPS and on John Saddington’s blog. And see the Shark Tank judging criteria below…

“So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for.”

If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for.

Richard Feynman, as shared on Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings

Ingredient School? Or Culinary School? What’s Your Balance?

How would you think and feel about registering for “Ingredient School” instead of “Cooking School” or “Culinary School?”

On the first day, and everyday, you learn about the various ingredients and inputs for countless dishes. However, you rarely, if ever, actually get instruction, opportunity, and practice in combining the ingredients, experimenting with different recipes (even inventing recipes!), and tasting the concoctions created by actually mixing the ingredients and making a meal.

The course would actually be about grocery store shopping and refrigerator stocking, but the pots and pans would remain cabinetted, and the stove and oven would live without flame. You’d have to combine on your own time, without the support or benefit of your expert guide. You’d have to cook, finally, years later, on your own time.

What would you think? How would you feel?

What if the ingredients were math, English, science, social studies, etc.?

If you calculated the actual UX (user experience) and tabulated proportional time that learners spent dealing only in ingredients versus actually getting to cook something, what would your school profile look like?

[Blogger’s note: I’m so fortunate – blessed – to work and learn in a community that believes strongly in providing “cooking classes” and experimenting with preparing whole meals!]