As a student for many years, I can remember the general trend of the first day of classes. As a whole, most of my teachers distributed a handout with numerous rules and expectations. We were told what kind of notebook to carry, how to organize it, how much quizzes and tests counted in our averages, what not to do in class, etc.
As a counselor at Camp Sea Gull, we learned that first impressions are powerful. Captain Lloyd used to say that it takes only minutes to form a first impression but days and weeks to change or alter that first impression.
In Synergy, Jill Gough and I wanted to facilitate a careful and thoughtful first impression of what the course would be focused on. Our first class period is only 15 minutes long because of the orientation design of our first days of school. In that quarter hour, we hoped to inspire our 24 teammates – all 8th graders – to know that Synergy was about empowering us to be the change we wish to see in the world. So…we began with Kiran Bir Sethi’s 9 minute TED talk:
In the minutes that remained, we asked the student learners to reflect on why we would begin the course with such a video “act 1.” Several piped up and said, “Because we can do things to make a difference.” “This class is about applying our subjects to making a difference in the world.” “We are just kids, but we can act to change things that we see need changing.”
A successful beginning!
On day 2, we began with the Marshmallow Challenge (see Tom Wujec TED talk). Shortly after the class, we cut this 5 minute video:
The student learners wrote some responses in a mediated journal, and the focus centered on the importance of prototyping and engaging in an iterative process of trial, error, success, improvement, revision, retrial.
Next, we explained that our team would engage in a common practice and habit of observation journaling. To kick off this tool-explanation session, we employed Jonathan Klein’s TED talk:
Students briefly reacted to the power of visual imagery and using images (text, sketch, or picture images) to drum up awareness, reaction, and discussion. This was our jumping off point for beginning the powerful habit of recording our observations in a kind of regular diary about what we see and what causes us to question.
Jill and I then demonstrated a method that we both use to keep our observation journals – a great e-mail based blogging system called Posterous. Jill “postered” an observation journal of me postering” an observation journal: http://jplgough.posterous.com/observations-synergy
Finally, before we had to depart, we provided the students with the private access code to our class Schoology site – our primary means of digital communication and archiving for the Synergy community.
From my seat, it was a great beginning with a team of 26 people full of the “I Can” bug…ready to engage the iterative process of prototyping…so that we can take charge and use our images and voices to make a difference in this world. I still don’t know what kind of binder we should use, but that seems relatively insignificant. And we have weeks to overcome that first impression about notebooks and binders!