Who’s the author and DJ of a student learners’ school experience?

A few weeks ago, one of my relatively new colleagues – an incredible learning partner of mine – shared this quote:

If your time at school is a story, then who’s writing it.

from Hathaway Brown: Institute for 21C Education

I can’t get this question out of my mind. I’m wondering if we teachers insert ourselves into our student learners’ stories, or if it’s more like we ask (require?) them to insert themselves into ours.

As many of you readers know, I watch a TED talk every day. This morning, I watched “Mark Ronson: The exhilarating creativity of remixing.”

During the viewing, with the Hathaway Brown quote freshly on my brain folds from a morning mediation walking Lucy, I wondered if student learners are the mixologists of their school learning episodes. How are they remixing the samples of “melodies” that they hear in various classes and schedule periods? How are we making time and space for them to be the authors and DJs of their stories as learners in school? Where is the primary agency in the relationship between student learner and teacher learner?

Curiosity, Control, and Caring. #fsbl and Bran Ferren’s TED talk on Pantheon miracles.

The best passionate pursuits of learning always seem to begin with exploring, observing, questioning, and being curious. This is why we started #fsbl – “father-son-based learning” – in my family.

As I listened to “Bran Ferren: To create for the ages, let’s combine art and engineering,” I smiled almost continuously throughout the talk because I pictured Ferren on an #fsbl adventure that started with raids of electronics piles, trips to science museums, and a mesmerizing visit to the Pantheon. And his adventure is still going.

Ferren’s curiosity was allowed to flourish as he was granted a high degree of control over his explorations and observations. And from such foundations of his surrounding adults’ pedagogies (and parenting), he developed deep caring for what he was discovering and learning. From these depths of curiosity, control, and caring, Ferren maintained the persistence and intrinsic motivation that nurtures his continuous inquiry, innovation, and impact.

If there is a “formula” for passionate pursuit of learning and difference making in this world, then I believe this is darn close to it!

Curiosity Tap Root @boadams1


RELATED POST: “Could there actually be one ‘C’ to rule them all?!”

PROCESS POST: What Guy Hoffman Could Teach Us About Our School Day!

There are so many reasons for educators to watch the TED talk below – “Guy Hoffman: Robots with Soul.” As for me, I am paradoxically inspired, mesmerized, puzzled and saddened by Hoffman’s talk.

When I watch and listen to Hoffman, I think of what he must have been like as a K-12 student. What amazing curiosity, drive, passion, and persistence this learner must have had – must continue to have. Through his work, I am inspired by what contributions robotics and roboticists will make in our lives.

And yet I am saddened by the conversations I can imagine that some (many?) schools would have regarding the content and context of such an idea-generating talk.

“What department would we place this course in? He wants to build robots as part of his learning, so it must be ‘Engineering Class,’ right?”

“We don’t have a course called ‘Engineering.’ Maybe we just put it in physics?”

“But how would we cover all the stuff we are already doing in physics? There’s no time or room to add robotics like this in my course.”

“Could it go in a math class? Hoffman mentions math in the talk, doesn’t he?”

“No, it should go in Drama class. Weren’t you listening? He said he took a drama course and method acting is what really helped him break through in the contrast between the computing mind and the adventurous mind.”

“But Drama is just a semester elective. Our kids could never get this work done in just a semester, given the basics of acting that we need to cover.”

“It should go in computer animation, when we get that class up and running.”

“What about psychology? He talks about emotions, and our ‘Human Psych’ course is the only course that has ’emotions’ in the learning outcomes.”

“Why not biology? After all, he is using human biology as a mechanism for understanding how to make the robots more ‘human.'”

“Are you kidding me? When would we have time to build robots in 10th grade biology? It’s AP, for goodness sake?”

“Look, if he wants this to be part of his schooling, he’s gonna need to find a faculty sponsor, and the faculty member will need to create a course proposal. It’s already December, so our deadline is passed. Any course proposal would need to be submitted by NEXT December, and then we might add the course the FOLLOWING year, if the academic committee approves the course. And forget about team teaching with a math, drama, physics, and biology teacher-team. That’s way too many resources to commit to an elective, non-essential course.”


OR — we could build in time during the school day for passion-driven, cross-curricular learning. So what if the 17-year-old version of Guy Hoffman’s idea doesn’t fit neatly into one of the silo-ed, department-organized, subject-area courses? Those course structures only represent part of our school day and school week. We don’t just organize by departmental subject area. We co-organize by student-interest and make space for just this kind of exploring, searching, questioning, experimenting, and integrating.

After all, we know that to nurture innovators, they must have time, room, and opportunity to practice observing, questioning, experimenting, networking, and associating.

Oh that we might make it so. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?


I’m curious: what role did school play for @JackAndraka

Jack Andraka discovered an early-detection method for pancreatic cancer. From all I can tell, he worked with great determination and persistence over a number of months. From the passion and project, he grew context and content mastery.

He was 15 years old. A ninth grader.

I just watched his TED talk (a #MustWatch), and I am inspired by his scientific and human contribution to the medical and health communities. To our world.

Of course, I am also deeply curious how much he was able to “work on this” in school. In the TED talk, there is mention of his biology class, and it’s a very interesting reference. Images in the talk show Internet searches at home and lab work at Johns Hopkins. Two of my hundreds of questions – did he earn credit at school for this work? What role did any teachers and admin play?

So, I’ve tweeted him, and I hope I’ll get a response.

I fully believe that we can redesign school – systemically – to enable more of the “Jack Andrakas” to surface and succeed. That would mean more success for all of us.

= = = = =

Related: Brittany Wenger

#FSBL, #YesAnd, #DTk12, #MVPSchool

#FSBL –> #YesAnd –> #DTk12 –> #MVPSchool

HOW MIGHT WE weave together: 1) a blog post about student-driven learning, 2) explorations by a father and two sons, and 3) two incredible educators working to blur the lines between “school” and “real life?”

  1. For me, a wonderful convergence happened today. First, while reading this morning, I benefitted mightily from “Start with Why: The power of student-driven learning” by Shelley Wright.
  2. Start with Why: The power of student-driven learning plpnetwork.com/2013/06/21/sta… via @plpnetwork & @wrightsroom #MustRead
  3. Then, my two sons and I embarked on a Father-Son-Based-Learning journey to Sope Creek Park. Near the end of that trip, I highlighted one of the posts from our adventure for @SciTechyEdu. In exemplary improv and design-thinking form, she “yes-and’ed” me. Beautifully, another extraordinary team member of mine from Mount Vernon chimed in with more “yes-and’s.” Now, we have the nucleus of a pretty amazing opportunity for unifying and integrating curriculum and instruction around a core idea of natural area surrounding our school and the water-based challenges we face as a community.
  4. Here’s the #FSBL – in 9 quick auto-posts that are generated when my sons and I create an #FSBL observation-journal entry.
  5. Exploring Sope Creek Park #FSBL wp.me/p3fWuN-bT57V
  6. Learning to navigate & map read #FSBL wp.me/p3fWuN-bT57Z
  7. Sibley Pond, Sope Creek Park, #FSBL wp.me/p3fWuN-bT58b
  8. Info board. Natl Park Service. #FSBL, @scitechyedu wp.me/p3fWuN-bT58r
  9. And here’s where Mary joins in our learning journey and expands the potential of a future project/challenge exploration…
  10. Yes plant & animal id, geocaching, trail maint. &… RT @boadams1: Info board Natl Park Service #FSBL, @scitechyedu wp.me/p3fWuN-bT58r
  11. And here’s where Chris jumps in and expands the opportunity and potential even further…
  12. @boadams1 @scitechyEDU YES and include water table info; explore h2o rights, too
  13. @chrisandres003 Yes! And could write to Upper Hooch River Keepers, apply for grant, etc. @scitechyEDU
  14. @boadams1 @scitechyEDU YES and design water usage/conservation plan for MVPS, S. Spings, etc.
  15. Mary connects our ideating to a resource from Stanford d.school…
  16. @chrisandres003 @boadams1 look at this H20 design thinking challenge stanford.edu/group/d-loft/c…
  17. And she moves to implementation by moving us to “WHEN & WHERE.” This moves ideas to action.
  18. @boadams1 @chrisandres003 I will b in i.Design lab all next week workin’ & strategizing on the ZBoards… Swing by…
  19. And Chris commits to joining such implementation and #ActionEd…
  20. @scitechyEDU @boadams1 love where this is going! I’ll try and swing by Monday. Name a time
  21. For me, this is an incredible example of how a simple commitment to community exploration and discovery (#FSBL) can connect with other ideas and possibilities for reimagining and recreating school. Together, I believe Mary, Chris, and I (and others) will make something happen from this ideation. It is this openness and exuberance and design-mindedness that makes me so excited to work with #MVPSchool faculty and leadership. For me, Mary and Chris translated ideation into innovation. Thanks, you two!