My main blog’s 2013 in review – and a brief spur of reflection on “report cards”

While I am fascinated, in some ways, with analytics like the one below emailed to me from WordPress, I can’t help but think that “the numbers” only tell part of the story for me – a minor fraction. They certainly don’t tell the most compelling parts of the story, in my opinion. Not by any stretch.

So much more than the number of views or most-read posts, I care about HOW the writing-as-thinking represented here has changed me, and, hopefully, how it has potentially helped change others.

In this regard, such analytics and report cards make me think about what our school report cards lack and suffer from, as story tellers. If I look at my collection of report cards, I see mostly quantitative analytics – proxies for some measurement of my learning and development. Inadequate dashboards claiming to summarize me as a learner of math, English, science, economics, etc.

Perhaps these quantitative measures must play a part in telling my learning story. I’m not convinced. But certainly, we in education can devise better proxies for telling the stories of human development, deep learning, and awe-inspiring growth.

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Be cultivators of curiosity and inquiry – Ramsey Musallam #TED

Rethinking our identity…

But if we as educators leave behind this simple role as disseminators of content and embrace a new paradigm as cultivators of curiosity and inquiry, we just might bring a little bit more meaning to their school day, and spark their imagination.

Ramsey Musallam: 3 rules to spark learning, TED.com

 

  1. Curiosity comes first.
  2. Embrace the mess.
  3. Practice reflection.

Process Post, Draft 2: Writing is Thinking – Prepping a Bit for Panel Discussion at #MICON12

Writing is thinking. I would deeply appreciate your thoughts on these 7 questions – please feel encouraged to add your voice in the comments field. As you can see from my pondering, my thinking is not wholly formed yet either. Don’t let formative thinking prevent you from contributing to our growing understandings…

As part of The Martin Institute’s 2012 Summer Conference, on Thursday morning, June 14, I am so very privileged to serve on a panel with featured speakers John Hunter (@worldpeacemovie) and Dr. Sande Dawes (not sure of a Twitter handle), and we have been asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What are your thoughts and reflections from Day 1?
  2. What is understanding and how does it develop?
  3. How can you best inspire and nurture creative thinking and problem solving in your students and yourself?
  4. If teachers, students and parents are generally satisfied with their schools, why should their schools consider moving in new directions?
  5. What are some practices that you’ve seen for implementing 21st century skills in the classroom?
  6. How can you foster a school culture that promotes this kind of learning?
  7. If we are serious about excellence in our classrooms/schools then what questions should we be asking?

Playing with my thinking by writing to see what I think… (“scratches on the surfaces”)

  1. What are your thoughts and reflections from Day 1? Much of Day 1 centered around John Hunter and the World Peace Game. At the day’s beginning, as a collected whole of community, we viewed a new cut of World Peace and Other 4th Grade Accomplishments (extended trailer linked here). At day’s end, we were blessed to listen to a keynote from John Hunter. As I increasingly consider myself a student of John Hunter’s approach to teaching and learning, I am struck by his intentional creation of space and opportunity for students to engage with the world in a way that is paradoxically the real world and a simulation of the real world. Through the World Peace Game, Hunter provides a multilayer, complex simulation in which students take on role play as United Nations ambassadors, kings of monarchical domains, presidents of democracies, arms dealers, World Bank officials, etc. Participants (4th graders) get into character and face life-like simulations involving global climate change, war, economic opportunity and crisis, fuel dilemmas, etc. And they real-life interact with each other in collaboration and conflict. John blurs the line between school and life, and he allows for (demands that) students stretch their brains and hearts as real, empathetic, problem-creating and problem-solving humans on the world stage. He lets questions linger and fill the atmosphere. He mixes in critical content…in context. He trusts and empowers children to rule and lead and serve the world. And they do. They measure up to the expectations because of the relationship and confidence that Hunter models and spreads to his learners and leaders. At the conclusion of the day, Hunter revealed that the World Peace Game is a “trick” or a Trojan Horse as Jamie Baker referred to it in a question to Hunter. The game is designed to fail. The only way for real success is for students to hyper-focus on collaboration and beating the game rather than on each other. He provides an emptiness for the students to fill with trial and error, argument and compromise, inhumanity and humanity. The game is just the string on which to hang the lights and enlightenment. Hunter also revealed that a trick to “teaching for tomorrow” is to work together with other teachers. And that’s how we spent the time sandwiched between the opening movie and the closing keynote. We exchanged ideas, motivations, practices, and possibilities. We built our understanding of our calling and our days’ work as a collective community of educators – those who commit ‘educare’ – to draw out that which is already there.
  2.  What is understanding and how does it develop? I believe “understanding” is a journey of hypotheses testing and re-trialing. I think understanding is constructed through learning by doing. I see understanding as akin to a sailboat tacking back and forth to reach a destination that cannot be reached in a straight line due to alternating currents and winds. When I listen to students who return to school as alumni recount what they remember and cherish, I come to love that understanding is gained through experience, failure, resilience, and fortitude. Understanding exists with a core of empathy, a sheath of curiosity, and a outershell of permeable attempts at discerning. It is a layering on. Yet, understanding is also a carving out of our being – like a sculptor revealing what lies in a monolith of granite. Service leads to deep understanding. Love is understanding at its purest sense.
  3. How can you best inspire and nurture creative thinking and problem solving in your students and yourself? Tear down the walls that segregate school and real life. At life’s beginning we are made lifelong learners through curiosity, attempts to engage and taste and feel our environment. Then we start to box and segregate the interconnected pieces of learning and understanding. I think we can nurture creative thinking by trusting our students to wade in and deal with conflict and confusion. We can model and guide toward empathy and coaching about the needs and issues of our world. We can play to the passions of our students by KNOWING them and encouraging their pursuits while layering in the critical components from the various ways of thinking and learning. We can create space and time for them to create and problem solve. We can manifest our own versions of things like John Hunter’s World Peace Game, Gever Tulley’s Tinkering School, Kiran Bir Sethi’s Riverside School, etc.
  4. If teachers, students and parents are generally satisfied with their schools, why should their schools consider moving in new directions? As the world changes, so must our schools. We need to design schools to be leadership centers for research and development, as well as implementation, for addressing the real issues that we face in our world – poverty, hunger, racial discord, fuel crises, water and energy mismanagement, etc. We need to make sure that school is preparing students for the citizenship that our world yearns for and craves. Are we?

Foiled by time again! I’ll keep thinking. I would LOVE and CHERISH your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

 

Process Post: Writing is Thinking – Prepping a Bit for Panel Discussion at #MICON12

Writing is thinking. Therefore, I am writing so that I might learn more about what I am thinking. On today and tomorrow, I am attending, “paneling,” participating in, and facilitating at The Martin Institute’s 2012 Summer Conference. On Thursday morning, I am so very privileged to serve on a panel with featured speakers John Hunter (@worldpeacemovie) and Dr. Sande Dawes (not sure of a Twitter handle), and we have been asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What are your thoughts and reflections from Day 1?
  2. What is understanding and how does it develop?
  3. How can you best inspire and nurture creative thinking and problem solving in your students and yourself?
  4. If teachers, students and parents are generally satisfied with their schools, why should their schools consider moving in new directions?
  5. What are some practices that you’ve seen for implementing 21st century skills in the classroom?
  6. How can you foster a school culture that promotes this kind of learning?
  7. If we are serious about excellence in our classrooms/schools then what questions should we be asking?

To be honest, I am feeling a bit guilty for writing just now. I am stealing 30 minutes to journal instead of attending Session #4, and I know I am missing some superb leading and thinking from conference presenters and attendees. Yet, learning and understanding involves a fair amount of quiet, processing time for me. So, I had to steal away for some deliberately quiet processing. Of course, now I am wondering if we would allow our students to do such in schools. Don’t they feel overwhelmed sometimes by the sheer volume of teaching, learning, and information? Can such quiet, reflective time be scheduled and scripted, or is it more valuable to choose to take this time, as I am doing now? For if we are trying to build understanding, there are certainly steps, stages, and phases to such a construction process, and time to reconsider the blueprints seems fundamental and paramount. But I digress, a bit. Tis okay…I am “just journaling.”

As I began my Wednesday at #MICON12, I watched John Hunter’s World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements (http://www.worldpeacegame.org/). This movie by Chris Farina, and John Hunter’s related TED talk, are amazing. The Martin Institute is doing phenomenal work promoting and igniting this teaching, learning, and storytelling.

This morning marked my tenth viewing of this incredible film. Each time I watch, I learn something new, and I am always spurred to think deeply about the nature of learning and preparing citizens for life in this century. And this viewing included a new cut of the film – more to take in and learn. As I watched the film and followed the tweets (I made a Storify of some of the most profound), I continued to be deeply moved by the blurring of school and life that John Hunter facilitates. If you read this blog, then you probably know that I am a huge fan of Kiran Bir Sethi’s work at Riverside School and her TED talk “Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge.” Like Kiran, Hunter believes that school is not just preparation for real life…school IS real life. Students can make an impact NOW on the positive changes that we need in our world. For me, so many of my responses to the questions posed above are fused and webbed and linked together by this fact and approach to “the classroom.”

Does “school” tend to look like real life? Well, it should – if we really hope to prepare students to serve and lead in a changing world.

Oh well, my 30 minutes are up. I didn’t even scratch the surface…very much. But I have some beginnings of a scratch. More later.

Thinking is iterative and prototypical, so I know that my thinking will change as I continue to interact – face-to-face and virtually – with the amazing people at The Martin Institute 2012 Summer Conference.

 

CHANGEd: What if we all tried something new for 30 days (or longer) and learned out loud? 60-60-60 #60

Working at summer camp was really what caused me to pursue a career in education. At Camp Sea Gull, Captain Lloyd used to explain the length of camp sessions this way:

When other camps are moving to two-week sessions, we are sticking with four-week sessions. You know why? It takes 21 days to form a habit. While our campers are with us, we want to guide them to form habits of taking better care of themselves, each other, and the world around them. It’ll take some time to break a few bad habits, and we have an extra few days to make sure the new cement dries.

For the past 62 days (I started at “0” and I wrote a “48.5”), through this “CHANGEd: What if…? 60-60-60” blog series, I have been building new habits. I am just one day short of repeating the 21-days-forms-a-habit rule for three consecutive cycles. Here are just a few of the things I have learned and enjoyed:

  1. I crave the time to write each day. I wake up wanting to write. At about day 16, I wondered if I would make it for 60 days. At day 25, I knew I would make it.
  2. I failed more times than I succeeded. I set out to write 60 posts…in 60 days…of 60 words each. I rarely achieved the 60-word goal, and that was part of the challenge for me. I failed repeatedly. And I learned everyday from the failure. I embrace that failure. I will be a better writer for that failure. I still feel very successful nevertheless.
  3. By “learning out loud,” I connected with people whom I probably would have never met otherwise. During the 60-day challenge, I have doubled and tripled my average weekly readership, compared with the number of weekly readers before the series. Through those new readers, my PLN has grown, and I am the better for it.
  4. Megan Howard helped me tremendously. She became my partner in this exper(ience)ment, as she called it. By getting in this boat with me, she made me feel more accountable… to at least one other person, and I did not want to let her down.
  5. All day long, I now think of what if questions. I think I have developed and enhanced my Innovators DNA because of taking this on and building better habits of observing, questioning, experimenting, networking, practicing, and associating.

Won’t you try something new for 21 or 30 or 60 days? We ask our students to do so all the time. Shouldn’t we be students ourselves? Shouldn’t we be learning out loud? Shouldn’t we be building the habits that will make us better teachers and educators for the future? Better learners?

What if more of us worked to develop not just 20/20 vision, but “60-60-60 vision?” We educators should never think that we’ve got schooling as good as it can ever be. We should be seeing our current reality clearly, and we should be envisioning how we can get better. Isn’t such delta-oriented vision what it will take for education and schooling to be CHANGEd?