Instructional Leader

Posts related to effective use of technology in teaching and learning.

Empowering Seekers and Explorers

Disclaimer: This post has been in my draft box since August. It’s still worthy of sharing even though the timing is off.

This week we welcomed new faculty members to the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School Family. In the past we have spent a small amount of time on mission and culture before diving into the nuts and bolts of work life. This year we tried something different and we focused on our Norms and Principles and Practice:

  • Relationships are foundational to learning
  • Curiosity and passion drive learning

  • Empathy influences learning
  • Learners apply knowledge to make an impact
  • #FailUp

  • #HaveFun

  • #StartWithQuestions

ponce-city-marketWhile the maker and design thinking activities were excellent, the highlight for me was our field trip to Ponce City Market. In my recent post, #ILOVEMYSCHOOL I mentioned that one of our strategic questions is, How might we empower all learners to be seekers and explorers?”. 

 

 

fsbl-boBefore embarking on our adventure, Bo Adams shared his lifelong quest searching for project based learning (PBL) and his experience with Father-Son Based Learning (#FSBL). He also touted the benefits of building muscles around “Innovator’s DNA traits – observe, question, experiment, network, and associate. – through the methodology of observation journaling and curiosity-curated curriculum.”

 

Once we arrived at the market we split up into two groups but people were free to go wherever the wanted. The time together helped us build relationships and we had FUN. Not exactly what most people are used to during an orientations session.

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Learning from ATL City Planners

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So much to consider when redesigning a city

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You just don’t know what you’ll find…

Let’s see what comes of trips like this. Who knows how it may transfer to our students.

 

 

 

Just ask the students…

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For the past several months we have been working on hacking our curriculum for 2017. Our Upper School faculty has been collaborating on new courses for next year. The discussions have been driven by three questions from our Manifesto.

  • How might we make school more reflective of real life?
  • How might we empower all learners to be seekers and explorers?
  • How might we inspire one another — and the larger world — through the work we undertake together?

We initially posted displays in the Hive for teachers and students to comment on during a 2 week period. There were several informal meetups organized during our lunch/enrichment period. We provided examples of courses and schedules from other schools, documents from our current academic program, prototypes from our faculty members and external constraints that we have to consider. The process led to lively discussions between faculty members but we knew that there was something missing. So, we decided to include students in the process.

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After the two week Pop-up Lab faculty members formally proposed new courses for the 2017-18 school year. During the course review process we brought in students to find out what they …

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This gave our Upper School Leadership team additional information to consider during the approval process. As you can imagine, we learned a ton from our students that informed our decision making process. The end result is that we’ll be rolling out new interdisciplinary courses that are inquiry based and incorporate real world connections. All were vetted by the students prior to approval. Let’s see how the students respond in January.

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I would love to hear how other schools include students in academic program discussions. Please share what you are doing.

Why we Start with Questions at #MVPS

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Our first norm at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School is “Start with Questions”. Why?

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things that you have long taken for granted.”

Bertrand Russell

“No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

Thomas Berger

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

Voltaire

“What makes us human, I think, is an ability to ask questions, a consequence of our sophisticated spoken language.”

Jane Goodall

“The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.”

Claude Levi-Strauss

“He who asks the questions cannot avoid the answers.”

African Proverb

 

What Meaningful Reflection On Student Work Can Do for Learning | MindShift | KQED News

This is an excellent article that shows the importance of reflection in learning. There are so many ideas for educators to use in their practices. While not all of these were named, these are my thoughts after reading the article.
  • providing meaningful feedback to their students;
  • discussing the big picture with students;
  • providing time for students to reflect regularly and building these habits;
  • creating a culture of sharing reflections with community members; and
  • how student led conferences can be valuable. 
  • tags: metacognition learning reflection Student Led Conferences

    • For student reflection to be meaningful, it must be metacognitive, applicable, and shared with others.

    • If students are metacognitive about inquiry, then they’re thinking about exactly how they are going to phrase that question;

    • if they’re metacognitive about collaboration, then they’re considering how their introvert or extrovert personality will affect the group.

    • Metacognition is essentially reflection on the micro level, an awareness of our own thought processes as we complete them.

    • Metacognitive reflection, however, takes this process to the next level because it is concerned not with assessment, but with self-improvement:

    • metacognitive reflection can be used to develop resilience in the face of a challenge.

    • Many young children (and some adults) will throw down their work when they become frustrated with it, unable to transcend the struggle. By contrast, a student who has learned the value of metacognitive reflection will recognize frustration as a signal to pause and think through the situation instead of plowing ahead with the same approach or giving up entirely.

    • How is this reflection going to help me in the future? I

    • Keeping a log of tasks and habits, for example, gives students a rich source of data to mine when reflecting on their progress, and there are many apps that will collect and aggregate this information in accessible and attractive ways.

    • Even using a simple timer can help students chunk out their work so they take a reflective break, and some programs have breaks built into the timer cycle, so that a pause from the work is guaranteed.

    • This kind of isolated, after-the-fact reflection dominates our understanding of the process. When asked to imagine a person reflecting, you probably conjure up an image of an individual alone, in a comfortable place, staring off into the distance, plaintively contemplating some earlier life event. This scene is likely set at the end of a calendar year, or at the end of a lifetime—or, if you imagined a professional setting, at a retirement party.

    • Unfortunately, this sentimental notion of reflection for reflection’s sake keeps the practice from being used for active improvement in the here and now.

    • By being transparent about future tasks and assignments, teachers remind students that they’re going to have to use at least some of these skills again, so there’s no sense in making the same mistakes.

    • Reflection suddenly has a real and immediate purpose: You know where this course is going, so how are you going to improve the quality of your own journey?

    • Proximity here is key; reviewing a previous reflection can be most instructive when students are working on the next task, so their reflection should be stored wherever that work is happening.

    • Digital tools also provide different mediums for students to capture their thoughts—they can type or tag, or talk into the microphone or camera.

    • Electronic tools of analysis can also play a big role here. Just as athletes track their physical performance using a specific set of metrics, students may benefit from reviewing their academic achievements in different areas, like the categories of a rubric or a list of discrete skills.

    • In the interest of keeping up appearances, we don’t really like to share our weaknesses and past failures (although we do love gawking at the problems and misfortunes of others).

    • But if we are really seeking to take action based on our reflections, then we will likely need some help, and that means we have to own up about what needs work. To make students comfortable with this practice, the classroom has to become a place where each student is recognized as being on an individual path of improvement—and, an important point, no student has reached the end of the path, because there is no end.

    • By sharing their reflections on their academic work, students can both advise and seek help from their peers.

    • Just as electronic tools make reflections easy to access for an individual, so, too, do they make it easy to share. Sharing becomes instantaneous when material is available online; the collection of commentary from an entire class can also be indexed, searched, and organized by theme—a feature that may be of great use for the teacher, who will want to look at both individual goals and the class’s experience as a whole.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A Funny Example of Old School Grading Practices

The Huffington Post article, Student Sinks Impossible Shot To Secure Entire Class 100s On Organic Chemistry Quiz recently caught my attention. It’s a fun story about a student in a organic chemistry class at The Ohio State University that threw a wadded up piece of paper into the garbage can from the balcony. The story is so popular that there are over 1,000 comments. So, being someone who has an interest in grades and grade reporting I decided to comment.

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I really wondered how many people would respond to my comment and I’m shocked that there were 30 comments. Here are just a few to give you an idea of what people were thinking.

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It’s just interesting to me that so many people are programmed to think that giving out grades for “extra credit” or tricks unrelated to academic performance is the norm. I’m all for having fun in class and I think that it’s great that the professor encouraged this type of behavior. I’m also smart enough to know that the quiz grade doesn’t do much for their overall grades in the end. I’m just a proponent of Grades that Mean Something.
The purpose of grading is to describe how well students have achieved the learning objectives or goals established for a class or course of study. Grades should reflect students’ performance on specific learning criteria.

#ILoveMySchool

Last year we adopted a Manifesto which describes our purpose and will soon guide our strategic plan. As an educator who strives to transform education, I find it to be inspirational. The Mount Vernon Presbyterian School Manifesto states:

Education is changing.

We live amidst a fundamental reordering of how we think about school: from the centuries-old belief that content knowledge is its central currency, to the nascent understanding that what you know matters less than who you are, and what you are uniquely capable of impacting.

Across the country, communities and schools are beginning to test this shift in myriad ways. But overall, educators, parents and community leaders are still in search of a well-lighted path that can illuminate what the future of education will actually need to look like — and require.

A way forward has already been envisioned: the Mount Vernon Continuum. More than perhaps any other school, Mount Vernon understands what the chemistry of a great school requires:

  • A clear and compelling organizational mission.
  • Cultural norms that invite people to step outside of their comfort zone.
  • People-centered design principles that guide teaching and learning.
  • And six timeless, significant habits of mind.

Continuum

To continue to set the conditions for learners to excel in college, career, and citizenship, there is still much work to be done. As a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact, we see three key essential questions guiding our future work:

How might we make school more reflective of real life?

We choose to engage and explore all scales of community. We welcome the chance to live at the edges where disciplines mingle in search of maximum impact. We want our school to be a destination for anyone who wishes to design a better world. We want our school to create intermingling rivers of connection between people, ideas, and sectors. We want our school to embody a new notion of what “school” is and does.

How might we empower all learners to be seekers and explorers?

We choose to wander and to wonder. We seek to create a learning environment that invites all people to follow the sparks of motivation, interest and curiosity as far as they can take them. We seek to provide paths of faith and curiosity. We seek to nurture experiences of deep purpose and joyful play. We seek to model living, learning mindsets that constantly adapt and expand.

How might we inspire one another — and the larger world — through the work we undertake together?

We choose to make our thinking visible and actionable. We envision learning in which children are seen and heard. We envision transparency in the learning journey — process, product, and progress. We welcome the chance to wrestle with voices and perspectives that challenge our assumptions. We envision learning in which our trust for each other strengthens our sense of individual freedom, autonomy, and interdependence.

We choose to graduate learners and leaders who are “impact-ready.”

We choose to experiment with extraordinary ideas that might one day become the norm. We will not just build a roadmap for future generations of MVPS students and families; Mount Vernon will continue to carve a path for the future of learning itself.

#ATL’s Urban City Studio: An concept for engaging with your community

The City of Atlanta has big plans for the future especially since they are projecting 2.5 million new residents over the next 25 years. The city has created a comprehensive development plan and one of the ways that they are increasing awareness and gathering information from Atlanta residents is through their new Atlanta City Studio. The lab has a variety of displays, many of which are interactive. This pop-up lab will be at Ponce City Market for 6 months and then move to another area of the city. During my visit I was greeted by a staff member who took me on a tour and explained all that the projects on display and the process they are using to engage with the Atlanta community.

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The goals for the urban design studio space are to:

  •  through a shared vision for vibrant urbanism, raise awareness about urban design and plan for a better Atlanta…one that will continue to advance Atlanta’s people and places;
  •  create urban design policies and enhance design sustainability and livability for the city;
  •  direct urban design services on projects throughout the city;
  • spark urban interaction amongst people who visit our city and those who live here;
  • engage residents and stakeholders in identifying goals for the City of Atlanta and create a new narrative;
  • enhance the socioeconomic, ecological and sustainable urban design form for the city.

My visit there this weekend got me thinking about how we could use a space like this at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. My first thought was that we can use it to gather information from our community that will guide us in our strategic planning process and to share information on our academic program. The space can also be used with prospective families who are thinking of attending your school. Visitors can maneuver on their own or be shepherded through by faculty members, students, parent volunteers or administrators. Take a look at what #ATL City Studio has and how your school can benefit from a pop-up lab.

Bike Network

Bike Network Plans

 

 

Character Areas Maps

Explaining Ideas and Asking Questions

Character Areas Questions

 

Imagine a student showing these panels to parents and having a conversation on the topic. Any community member who serves in a host role will have to truly understand these ideas and what they mean for the school.

Good Urbanism 1

Good Urbanism 2

 

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Visitors can provide feedback by answering strategic questions

Let's Play

This interactive model allows visitors to redesign city blocks.

Kids Area

Younger children can also participate

Meeting Space

A meeting space for small groups

Work Plan

And a work plan with markers on glass. (These are really trendy now)