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Now

As the float plane circled Davidof Lake and into a spiral upward out of the remote lakeside encampment (we had called home) there were multiple thoughts in my mind.  The first was what an endeavor I was involved in.  Our capable pilot let us know by radio prior to pick up that we needed to be prepped and ready to go once he landed as weather (fog and cloud cover) was opening but would soon return.  Once on-board (engine not idled), the pilot quickly took us and circled the lake to “corkscrew” (all apologies to Bush Pilots who may call this otherwise) out of our pristine remote locale.  I knew this pilot and trusted him, having flown Southeast Alaska (a few times….), but his intensity, focus and ability on this trip took me.  The plane shook (as de Havillond Beavers do upon take off) as the pilot intensely took us aloft and flew with purpose.  Seeing the clouds close above closing, he saw a pathway where the lake overflows into a brilliant canyon. Flying through the canyon (and yards from the Lake), he descended to the ocean only then to regain altitude and fly us into to Sitka. The intense and unbelievable possibility of doing what we had just done sunk in to my bones.  The accuracy and intensity of the pilot and his creativity, unwavering belief in what’s possible, and then the sanguine flight across an expansive ocean reminded me of how important it is to imagine, believe and do….now.

You know when you are amidst something special, when the feeling of that float plane adventure comes back.  When I talk and collaborate with my Wife and Charlie Richardson, Shoshana Zuboff, Jake Maxmin,  Rob Greco, Grant Lichtman, Bo Adams, Brett Jacobsen and Scott Looney, Shane Krukowski,  Jim Groom, Audrey Waters…. I get that feeling of flying out of Davidof Lake again. When I watch Michael Wesch discuss becoming Knowledge-Able vs Knowledgable, I get that feeling again.

What binds us all is a feeling and  belief that the educational community to come is not only possible but underway.  A belief in the process, driven by a strong understanding of why the field of education needs change, a penchant for designing interventions that will Mutate education, and the ability to iterate as needed to see a pathway to our goals.

Over the coming months, I will write a series of posts on my current project: GEMS World Academy Chicago.  As CIO and Director of Academic Technology I am supporting four educational innovations to scale in PK-12 1:

SELF DIRECTED LEARNING

For students to become global citizens they must think and act as self directed learners. From the earliest years we inspire our students to ask more questions than they answer, follow their interests and passions and act as part of a community to identify and work towards solving real world problems. As the years progress our programs support self directed and interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary project based learning which start with student interests and questions about the world. In groups and as individuals students find relevant problems, ask ever more complex questions, work with mixed research methods (both in the city and online), analyze, synthesize and reflect on their work through portfolio’s of understanding and action. Students share their work with the world through service and exhibition.

LANDSCAPE AS LEARNING: A NEW VIEW OF MOBILE LEARNING

For students to become global citizens they must explore, ask questions, observe, empathize and act in the world without borders. During the year a minimum of four hours each week is dedicated to learning outside of the school building in local landscapes. Through a pioneering landscape as learning initiative, students closely engage their local community through field study based mobile learning labs. Through multimedia data collection using iPads and other tools, students experience the sensory aspects of their community while learning about systems, empathizing with others and contributing through engaging projects and meaningful service. This learning in the real world, looks and feels like the real world thus creating the conditions for a fundamental expansion of where and how learning happens. We believe the disposition of seeing and studying the world as it is and working on how it might be otherwise, is at the root of global citizenship, community based learning, internship and entrepreneurial studies.

CONNECTED AND BLENDED LEARNING

For students to become global citizens they need to connect and collaborate across the world in rich and purposeful experiences. Our connected and blended learning program provides a landscape where the internet supports and enhances interactions in real time and anytime. We encourage and support our teachers to engage in a wide array of connected and blended learning with their classes. Our connected and blended learning innovation allows for:

● Co-learning and creation across continents, oceans and cultures giving our students a direct and experiential way of using the internet as a mediating force in learning.
● An extensive digital documentation system allows for self, peer, teacher, parent and community assessment for learning.
● An ePortfolio platform allows students to collect, select, reflect, and project on their learning.
● Networks to connect, aggregate, remix, repurpose and feed forward work and the work of the world.

A SCHOOL AS A HUB OF CONNECTIONS

For students to become global citizens they need a school that promotes self organization, inquiry innovation, and futures thinking. Our physical school has interactive whiteboards throughout the building, on every floor, in hallways and in classrooms along with networked computer stations, hydroponic plant labs, weather stations and much more. At any moment a few students or a whole class can connect with peers or mentors from around the world to discover and learn together in real time throughout the day. Using these tools students also can connect the data from their projects in growing sustainable food systems, tracking weather and climate patterns, or how play effects our learning to a global consortia of other individuals, schools and organizations. Through these interactions students are encouraged to understand how their school functions as part of a global “internet of things”.

In each of these innovations I am struck by the intensity and passion displayed in the praxis of the educators I am working with right now. Their embrace of something very different from any other school has me on edge with excitement and possibility.  As I look out from the “floatplane” this time, its not old growth forest and pristine oceanscapes I see, but rather the landscape of three quarters of humanity–the city.  What canyon we find to fly, and ocean we decide to traverse, is our to decide.  I hope you find the story inspiring.

A [person] who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn no other way-Twain

 

Without question, experiential learning enhances scholastic  learning….this type of learning builds confidence, encourages risk  taking, reduces the fear of failure, gives oxygen to collaboration,  nurtures imagination, promotes problem solving, allows reverie, and  grows a taproot from which scholastic learning flowers”.- MacKenzie

1 My acknowledgement to the foundational design and praxis from (Steele-Maley, Richardson, C. 2012) The Bridge Year at Kieve-Wavus, Project Foundry Schools, SuperFlux….et al.

  • Thomas,

    In your “Connected and Blended Learning” section, you mention digital documentation and ePortfolio platforms. What systems/tools are you using? Why those?

    Bo

    • Bo,

      I have used a wide arc of ePortfolio tools in my years and they vary for differing communities. For the current project K-6 into K-8 we decided on Canvas by Instructure for both cloud learning environment and ePortfolio. The ePortfolio builder is very simple in Canvas, but is easy to use for student driven portfolio work: To Collect, Select, Refect and Project their growing knowledge. We are also prototyping with DIY.org as an ePortfolio. This is in early stages.

      I feel 2 systems hold the most meaning for ePortfolios where secondary education pushing the boundary.

      ePortfolios at the secondary school level should be showcasing work in longer, student driven project based learning. Within those projects, may lay the discrete mastery of subjects along the way through MOOC or online courseware for mathematics and science concepts for instance, but the package should “involve” the process, prototyping and “record” of rich transdisciplinary/interdisciplinary pathways.
      To do this in a transparent, social and simple way, there is still no other system that can surpass
      Project Foundry http://www.projectfoundry.org/ .

      If the the school/educational community/diploma strand:) is ready to work in a connected and networked disposition then an aggregated mash-up of an Networked Portfolio (nPortfolio) may be in order.

      I would suggest a Blog based nPortfolio linked to a group of networked tools that exhibit a folksonomy of research (Twitter, Social and Collaborative Bookmarks, Flikr, SoundCloud (or other), Zotoro based Bibliography) and connection Google Plus Profile. If accreditation is needed we have discussed the liminal yet onerous ideal of badging. To this, I feel that DIY.orgs basic structure (encouraging dispositions of mastery broad enough to be personalized) just as you have mentioned LinkedIn, along with a well thought through exhibition system would be effective. This is what was written into the Bridge Year design.

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