Modeler

Posts discussing how school leaders can model the effective use of technology.

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.

city-planning

Learning from ATL City Planners

atl-popup-lab

So much to consider when redesigning a city

collage-ponce-cm

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.

 

 

 

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

 

Amazing Summer of Learning

This summer I have had three amazing learning experiences that were each very different, yet they connect to our mission at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. Here is my first pass at a brief overview of the takeaways.

Traverse Conference at the Watershed School in Boulder, CO

MVPS Team at Traverse16

The MVPS Team (minus Bo Adams) at Traverse 16

Storify from Traverse

Using the local environment for learning – Right from the start we were working with John Weiss from Human Design to consult on their Social Action Machine Project. Starting out on a non-educational project was the perfect way to get the creative juices flowing. This was also a reminder that we need to search for projects for our students that are outside the realm of our walls.

Baking human into everything you do. John Weiss

Project-based learningNicole Martin and I joined the Integrating Disciplines Through Real-World Learning session. We were immediately put on a bus and traveled to visit the site of a 6th grade project that involved ecology, economics, government, sociology and many other disciplines. After the group listed their community problems Nicole and I latched on to transportation and traffic in our area. More to come later on our ideas for a schoolwide project on this problem.

Disciplines legitimize each other.

Entrepreneurship – We learned about Startup Weekend, a program for teenagers that is held in cities around the country. Our task was to study the organic food market and pitch a start up. The highlight was our visit to a Whole Foods. We observed and interviewed shoppers in the store. We got a taste of immersing ourselves in the research and empathy process.

Consultivations – Our students are so much more capable than what we typically give them credit for and Meghan Cureton presented how our Innovation Diploma students consulted with an organization on the design of a pocket park. Here’s an article from a local newspaper explaining what the students accomplished.

fuse 16 at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School

Refuge Coffee fuse16

fuse16 work with Refuge Coffee

The goals for participants were:

  • Make an impact in an issue alongside several Atlanta nonprofits
  • Learn design thinking as a practitioner, rather than in a “classroom” setting
  • Model the possibilities and opportunities for doing school differently

Storify

The best part of the entire experience was learning the DEEPDT process while working with Refuge Coffee. Refuge is an amazing social business that strives to create community for Clarkston residents. In doing so the company also allows for newly immigrated refugees to earn a living wage and develop skills, including English language. Clarkston has the reputation for being the most diverse square mile in the world. The learning was fantastic and the relationships that we built with the Refuge team were moving.

Pioneer Lab with Education Reimagined in Washington D.C.

PioneerLab Text

Pioneer Lab in Washington D.C.

Imagine a network of educators and organizations that is focused on transforming education by creating a new paradigm. This is what Education Reimagined is trying to do by organizing educators from around the country to participate in their Pioneer Labs. I was invited to attend the second session of training to prepare for a September gathering. The learning was two fold:

Education Reimagined has created a vision, a new paradigm, for the for the future of education that is Learner Centered and the five elements are listed below.

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The second piece of learning was around the change process. It’s fascinating to understand how extremely difficult it is for people to move from one paradigm to another. The most telling example was how medical professionals believed, for 2000 years, that bloodletting was the only way to cure diseases. It took new scientific knowledge and extensive research for medical professionals to shift this paradigm.

Your paradigm is so intrinsic to your mental
process that you are hardly aware of its
existence, until you try to communicate with
someone with a different paradigm.
—DONELLA MEADOWS, THE GLOBAL CITIZEN
What does this new paradigm mean?
The learner-centered paradigm changes our very view of learners themselves.
Learners are seen and known as wondrous, curious individuals with vast capabilities and limitless potential. This paradigm recognizes that learning is a lifelong
pursuit and that our natural excitement and eagerness to discover and learn
should be fostered throughout our lives, particularly in our earliest years. Thus,
in this paradigm, learners are active participants in their learning as they gradu-
ally become owners of it, and learning itself is seen as an engaging and exciting
process. Each child’s interests, passions, dreams, skills, and needs shape his or
her learning experience and drive the commitments and actions of the adults and
communities supporting him or her. (“A Transformational Vision for Education in
the US.” Education Reimagined, 2015. Page 5.)
Learner-centered education isn’t the newest way to “do” education. Nor is it a new
“to do” list or set of activities to add onto your work. Because it is a paradigm shift, it
actually offers a new worldview and demands a mindset shift. It becomes a new way
to…well, be. And, that changes everything.
I look forward to participating in this important work.
WOW! These were all inspiring experiences and they have helped me grow as an educator.

Using Empathy to Craft the Message

Today while reading Thomas Friedman’s post entitled, Clinton’s Fibs, and Her Opponents’ Double Whoppers, I was struck by an assignment for students to tackle. While I respect Mr. Friedman, the idea came from one of the 488 comments that the article generated. The majority of the commenters were either in favor or against Friedman’s position.

It was Clement Kwong’s comment that really challenged me.

“That point is – it’s not about Trump or his obvious fallacies. The outrage and indignation at his comments should not be directed through media channels that are currently being used to do so, nor in the form (your article exemplary thereof) that these reactions are being communicated. To have any significant impact on Trump’s supporters, any message revealing his lies, idiocy, mean-ness, ignorance should be sent through channels which reach such supporters and in a form which can appeal to their social attitudes, language ability and literacy, preferably without demeaning their social status.

That language that you write in, this newspaper you express yourself in, even the complexity of the ideas, however warranted, in the message that is this article completely miss the mark. In this paper, you largely preach to the converted, as a Catholic priest might have done so in Latin in the medieval era.

Wake up. Find a way to say you want to say to the people who should hear this message. This is not it.”

There seems to be quite a bit of shouting going on in politics right now and most of the arguments are missing the mark with opponents. Since working at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School I’ve learned a ton about design thinking and the importance of using empathy in the process. The design thinking process can be very effective when teaching students to craft arguments that are targeted to a certain audience. Instead of totally disregarding the opponent, what if we taught them to study them to learn more about what is important to them? Through the DEEP DT process, students can produce more effective means of communication to sway their audience.

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I can imagine how powerful the interviews that students will conduct will be. They will truly gain a better understanding of the other person’s views and then tailor their argument based on this knowledge.

Learning how one multiplier is providing refuge in Clarkston, GA

As a school of “inquiry, innovation and impact” Mount Vernon Presbyterian School prides itself on connecting students with as many community multipliers as possible. (One of my past posts lists just a few of the individuals who have met with our students this year alone). The community was introduced the Multiplier concept earlier this year by our Head of School Dr. Brett Jacobsen and this past week, Trey Boden, arranged for Kitti Murray to speak at our weekly chapel.

Kitti’s not-for profit venture, Refuge Coffee is working to meet the needs of the Clarkston, GA community. CNN has called Clarkston the “most diverse square mile in the United States.” This diversity stems from the nearly 2,000 refugees who join every year. The Mount Vernon Presbyterian Upper School students heard her story, along with stories of refugees who have settled in Clarkston. Kitti took it upon herself to start a mobile coffee shop that provides Clarkston residents with a place to gather, socialize and have a cup of coffee during the week. The coffee truck allows the team to generate income by contracting out their services to corporations and individuals. These outside “gigs” allow them to discount their prices for members of the Clarkston community. The business also serves as a training ground for residents who want to work and develop skills in the food and restaurant industry. Check out  The CREATE REFUGE CAMPAIGN from Kitti Murray on Vimeo.

The CREATE REFUGE CAMPAIGN from Kitti Murray on Vimeo.

By connecting our students with so many different multipliers, we hope to stimulate their curiosity and explore possibilities for making an impact in their worlds. Our hope is that there are 50 – 100 future multipliers, like Kitti Murray, in our student body who are just waiting to take action.

The Maker Movement has Something for Everyone

I learned a valuable lesson Thursday during the MVIFI Dine and Design event. I hate to publicly admit it but I was not looking forward to the event. As a participant in maker sessions in the past I just haven’t enjoyed them that much. It’s not that I haven’t tried to get hooked on the movement. Several years ago I read Silvia Martinez and Gary Stager’s book Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom and I attended their session at the American School of Bombay’s Unplugged ConferenceIn 2013, as the High

Scibblebot

First Attempt at a ScribbleBot

School Principal at Graded I helped get our Makerspace up and running. I’ve built scribble bots and used conductive paint to create light-up cards and seen kids tinker with circuits, magnets, 3D printing and programming. I’m also fascinated how drones can be used in learning.

At Mount Vernon our Hive is about to open and TJ Edwards has been working with Parker Thomas to develop a Maker curriculum that all of our students will take advantage of in the near future. TJ has also written about making a maker community.

Sadly I have enjoyed watching others tinker and make more that actually doing it myself. I have also been questioning how the Maker Movement fits in with subjects other than math and science. Well, on Thursday night I was actually hooked, engaged and fired up about creating a personal brand. Wait, how does a personal brand fit with the maker movement? The design exercise incorporated a tool that allows you to make vinyl stickers. Now I had seen kids creating stickers around campus but I had no idea how COOL it actually would be.

Here’s how the two hour session, including dinner, was organized.

  1. We answered the following questions on sticky notes and these answers would later be used to help us develop our personal brand.
    • How would a friend describe you?
    • How would you most want to be remembered?
    • Who is a person you most admire?
  2. We then watched a short clip of the TED Talk from John Maeda: How art, technology and design inform creative leaders
  3. To create these stickers we needed to develop a basic understanding of how to use Inkscape.
  4. Trey Boden then provided us a mini lessons on three types of logos, with examples.
  5. We then learned about the Noun Project as a tool for searching for images that represent nouns.
  6. It then came time to design and create our personal logo. With assistance we were all able to come up with our first prototype.

My personal brand came from a nickname that some of my friends have given me over the years and I’m proudly displaying it on my laptop.

Mr. Fiasco

My learning:

  1. There are such a wide variety of maker activities that can allow students to find a niche.
  2. Thinking about design was the most important task in this activity. Learning the technology was simple for our initial task.
  3. I can see more possibilities for makers in humanities and art classes.

 

 

Design Thinking: Part 3

I’ve talked about our leadership team’s experience with design thinking when we redesigned our high school trips earlier this year. As I mentioned, we literally learned by doing.

Today a small group of us were able to experience a 1 hour workshop from the d.school on design thinking. If you’re interested in a primer on design thinking, this is the one for you. It’s so easy to organize because you just need the video, a partner and some materials to use for prototyping.

The design thinking process from the d.School at Stanford. Image licensed for reuse – http://www.legaltechdesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/steps-730×345.png

Today’s group experienced the following:

  • The pace is fast which is just part of the process. This workshop is an abbreviated process but in general, the pace is fast when you’re designing.
  • You have to really learn about your partner during the process. You’re forced to study his/her process for giving gifts and learning as much about them and the process in a very short amount of time. At one point the facilitators tell you that the session should get emotional and people may cry.
  • Prototyping can be quick and dirty and you need to share unfinished work to test out your solution. It’s somewhat strange to build a 3D item that shows a process.
  • The process does lead you to test something and then make revisions. In this workshop you just don’t have much time to revise.
  • You can really become engaged quickly when your working on a design challenge.

I see many ways that our organization can use these principles when we are looking for solutions. There is less talk and more doing and testing out concepts and you’re really focused on the users. I’m looking forward to finishing up the our trip project and starting something new.

  • Bias for being more human centered
  • Prototype Everything
  • Collaborative
  • Bias toward action