project based 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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 9.36.50 PM

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.

People Get Emotional When you Talk about Changing Grading Practices

Over the years I have followed newspaper articles from communities where grading and reporting changes have taken place and quite often the conversations lead to heated arguments, animosity, teachers getting suspended and/or fired, principals getting losing their jobs and court cases.

Possibly the most controversial change that really gets tempers flaring is when schools decide to not assign zeros to missing student work. While the two sides don’t usually get physical, the battle can be nasty.

"Untitled" by RyanMcGuire is licensed under CC0 Public Domain

“Untitled” by RyanMcGuire is licensed under CC0 Public Domain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under these circumstances it’s very difficult to change overall practices. Instead of the focus being on changing assessment practices to improve learning, individuals take a myopic approach and the two sides get bogged down in the single issue. The fear of having to face upset parents, students and teachers typically leads to continuing the status quo. The status quo, even though flawed, is just easier to continue.

Fortunately, the Graded community was appreciative to discuss assessment practices that improves learning. Our teachers, parents and students saw the value of being able to give feedback to students on academic performance and separate feedback on learning habits. There wasn’t a battle around the typical divisive issues (i.e. zeros, extra credit, participation, group grades, homework grades). The only issue that created a stir throughout the year was reassessments (more on this in another post).

These are the responses from the high school faculty at our opening faculty meeting for the 2014 – 15 school year.

From the start of the year we were continuously learning in these four areas (and others).

What did I learn?

  • That it is never too soon to prepare for rolling out these changes. Ask teachers to respond to these prompts as early as possible.
  • Having a community that supports the concepts and initiative makes the rollout easier.
  • Even when you have the support of the community, there will be disagreements and critics.

Join us at Graded for Innovate 2015 in March

We are looking for forward-thinking, dynamic and passionate educators who want to lead the learning at Innovate 2015.  Submit a proposal to workshop, present and lead learning at Innovate 2015!

Innovate Proposal

 

 

Innovate Page

Jumping on the Innovation in Education Bandwagon

Our school’s leadership team is reading Tony Wagner’s book “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World” as we grapple with what innovation looks like in schools. (You can follow our discussion on Twitter – #gradedllt) I highly recommend Wagner’s book along with Suzie Boss’s book “Bringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World”. It’s extremely easy to find definitions on innovation that we can all agree on. The really difficult step is to change practices to become innovative. I recently attended a conference where the word, “Innovation” was overused and mis-used. I went to one presentation where the presenter was convinced that his school had been innovative by adopting a program that has been around for 40 years. The new program changed their culture but it certainly wasn’t something that was innovative to the world of education.

“Innovation may then be defined as the process of having original ideas and insights that have value, and then implementing them so that they are accepted and used by significant numbers of people. By this definition, a major innovation is one that is so successful that soon after its introduction few people can even remember what life was like before the innovation was introduced.” Rick Miller, President Olin College

“creative problem solving.” She said, “Problem solving without the creative element is not truly innovative.” And creativity that is not applied to real world problems cannot be considered innovation either. Innovation is our lifeblood at P&G—but not just innovation for its own sake. It’s about taking real needs and creating a bridge to a solution.” Ellen Bowman

Our question is, “What is innovation at Graded?”  My thinking has gone in two different directions lately.

  1. What are we doing at Graded that is innovative?
  2. How are we cultivating innovators?

Since our Core Values state, “Learners at Graded strive to be Innovative: They engage in creative and imaginative thinking that enables them to extend their learning in original and insightful ways.”  I’ve been focusing on #2.

Montessori schools have been cultivating innovators for over 100 years.

When you ask someone to list the schools that they consider innovative, how often do Montessori schools make the list?

What do you suppose the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos; Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales; Julia Child; and rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs all have in common? Gregersen’s research, cited earlier, uncovered an extraordinary commonality among some of the most innovative individuals: they all went to Montessori schools, where they learned through play. (Wagner, pp27-28)

If you consider Wagner’s characteristics of a learning culture that cultivates innovators, you can see why Montessori schools most definitely should be on your list.

  • collaboration
  • multidisciplinary learning
  • thoughtful risk-taking, trial and error
  • creating
  • intrinsic motivation: play, passion, and purpose (Wagner p. 200)

I’m currently a participant in the Deeper Learning MOOC (#DLMOOC) which is organized by High Tech High and supported by a number of organizations. One of which is Expeditionary Learning Schools. I don’t know much about EL Schools other than I have worked with several educators who once were involved in the organization. I’ve frequently heard from them that, “The EL schools organization, and their schools, aren’t what I would call innovative.” If you look at their website you find no mention of innovation in the “Our Approach”section,  yet, it’s easy to argue that EL schools provide students with the type of environment that Wagner has defined.

Maybe a truly innovative school focuses on answering both questions.

“What are we doing that is innovative and how are we cultivating innovators?

How do groups work in your learning environment?

Fairly early on in this MOOC we had to form teams. I’m very interested in how this process works because it seems quite different than how we typically assign groups in the classroom. Note that I used the term “assign”.

Below is detailed information on the assignment, team formation and suggestions for teams. Are you using any of these during your team or group work? Do you provide the groups/teams with detailed information? Can the kids self -select? Are the students coached on selecting teams based on interest and complementary skills and knowledge?

The Following information was taken from the Designing a New Learning Environment, Professor Paul Kim, Stanford University

  • There is no deadline to form a Team, but it is an important step to complete so that you can begin meeting, working, and innovating together!
  • Anyone may create a team. When you create a team you are the Team Leader.
  • The Team Leader can add new members by contacting classmates and asking them for their registered email addresses.
  • When creating a Team, use detailed descriptions and information so that others will be able to thoughtfully consider whether your Project idea and interests may be a good match.
  • If you have started a Team and are looking for members, you should use the Students menu (under Community) to find recruit your classmates.
  • If you are looking for a Team to join, you should use Teams menu (under Community) to search for different teams. Use the contact button on the team page to contact all Team Members the Team Leader to join the team. Every time somebody invites you to their Team, you will receive a new invitation under your Conversations, Team notifications tab. That message contains links to accept or reject an invitation.
    • Team formation has a very open dynamic, at any point you can decide to leave a Team and join a new one, without penality. The Team Leader can decide to remove inactive or uncooperative members from the Team. (In that case the member will receive a team notification about this decision, and if you think that the Team Leader has made a mistake, you can appeal Team Leader’s decision. If half of Team Members agree with you; you will be added back as a member of the Team. If a Team Leader chooses to leave his/her Team, he/she can assign Team Leadership to another user. Continuity among Team Members will be important to successful execution of the Team Project, however all users have the option to switch a Team that is not a good fit for them.
    • The recommended Team size is 4-7 people.
    • You may only be a member of one Team at a time.
    • One of most important variables in Team composition is shared passion about the project idea / topic area. We suggest that Teams be made up of people with a range of backgrounds and technical skills, but ultimately a shared interest in the idea is what will support project momentum and involvement. It is useful to think about geographical considerations in a variety of ways: if you are considering an educational innovation for primary education in Tanzania, for example, it would be very useful to have a team member from, or knowledgeable Tanzania, to help inform analysis of needs, barriers, implementation, and sustainability. However, geographical considerations, such as time difference, may also come to play when collaborating or scheduling Team Member tasks. We encourage you to think and be transparent about these in terms of what is important for your project and for your working style, while also demonstrating the flexibility and generosity of spirit that will help us grow from each other’s perspectives and experiences.

Getting Started with Your Team:

    • Start communicating about your Team Project idea. Complete and maintain your Team Profile with an up-to-date (brief) Project Description (these may start simply as general interests, and may change or evolve over time).
    • Every Team has a Team Journal. You should feel free to write on it about your Team activities, post pictures of your meetings or collaboration strategies, and write about your new ideas or progress for the Team Project. The Journal can also be used as a discussion tool. Your classmates will be able to follow your team blog and receive updates.

Team Project:

    • Teams will design a new educational technology or learning environment catering to 21st century environments and learners. Designs should include interaction activities and learning support features in ways that are effective and appropriate for today’s computing and communication devices, and that consider the classroom, school, and community ecosystem in which it will operate.
    • Presentation of your design should include details about the users, environment, and educational objectives of your design (the “who? what? when? where? why? and how?” questions).
    • Your presentation should also address how your designed innovation would implemented and sustained, including considerations about idiosyncrasies with various learning devices (e.g., web, iOS, mobile devices, and Mac/PC) and infrastructure requirements (e.g., cellular network, wi-fi, Bluetooth).
    • Your team should create and defend a business model (non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid) for the launch and scale up their solution.
    • You will not need to conduct an actual needs analysis or develop an actually functioning technology or solution. You may describe a hypothetical solution in detail through text, visual mock-ups, and prototypes.
    • Additional consideration will be given to teams that come up with system feature ideas presenting meaningful learning interaction and performance analytics.

Evaluation:

    • The Final Team Project will undergo the official Peer Review process.
    • The broad criteria for Final Team Project Evaluation (these will be addressed further later in the course):

1) Creativity and originality of the system design (Is the design substantially distinguishable from existing and conventional solutions?);
2) Educationally sound (Does the design promote higher order learning or generate learnable moments?);
3) Engagement and interactivity (Is the design engaging and interactive for the learner?);
4) Accessibility (Is the design accessible for people with disabilities or for people living in underserved communities?)
5) Scalability and sustainability (How sound is the implementation plan and business model?)

    • At the end of the course, you will also be evaluated by your other Team Members on your contribution to the Team efforts and Team Project. In addition to your Assignments, this peer evaluation will affect your Rank in the course.

Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Considerations:

    • Some of the major goals of this course are to instill the mindset for thinking about innovations aimed at improving education, and to create a space for developing those ideas into thoughtful designs. We would like you to continue to develop your work and Projects beyond this course into the real world. The Intellectual Property rights relating to your Individual Assignments, Team Assignments, Journal entries, and other materials created by you remain with you (and with the Co-Creators for Team Assignments and Jointly Authored Works)–they are not Stanford’s, not Venture Lab’s, and not Dr. Paul Kim’s.
  • At the same time, this space is public to others in the course–all Journal and Forum posts, as well as all Assignments will be visible to all others enrolled in the course. Viewing and learning from each other’s discussions and work products will expose us to new ways of approaching different problems and will help us develop a more critical eye for the benefits and limitations of technology solutions. Because all projects are shared with other DNLE-ers (strictly for educational purposes), an idea or product requiring strict confidentiality or formal business agreements would not be a good candidate for a Final Team Project. Please consider this when creating or joining a team.

Learning from my first MOOC Experience: I’m taking a course from Stanford!

A colleague of mine and I are taking “Designing a New Learning Environment” course taught by Paul Kim, Chief Technology Officer and Assistant Dean, School of Education, Stanford University. I have no idea how many thousands of students there are but I’m looking forward to the experience. The course is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) which theoretically sounds really cool.

I signed up before I read the MOOC Guide.

“The effect of a MOOC is not to be taken lightly! Many of the participants who went through a MOOC experience have had a powerful learning experience which in some cases resulted in strong personal or professional projects with impact. On the other hand the drop-out rate in a non-credited MOOC is high and some participants simply do not like the approach of a MOOC for it has specific dynamics. The diversity in appreciations and feelings is not new: the playground felt like a mental warzone to some and a great adventure to others.”

The topic is of interest to me and if it works I will be able to:

After the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  •  Identify advantages, disadvantages, limitations, and potentials of at least 10 interactive learning models and solutions.
  • Describe how online communication, collaboration, and visualization technology play a role in the behavioral, cognitive, constructivist, and social dimensions of learning.
  • Describe the major components and processes involved in development of interactive education systems.
  • Communicate rationales of learning technology design approaches through team-oriented collaborations.
  • Evaluate the value of ideas, principles, and techniques used in educational media or systems.

While we have lectures to watch, assignments to complete and discussion forums to contribute to, our major assessment is a team project that is due at the end of the semester.

Let’s see how this learning experience goes.