We should include futures thinking in schools to help students better anticipate and influence change and to prepare for their future.
Speculative Futures in Education
The topic of futures thinking and specifically the field of Design Fiction (DF) are close to my heart and I realized after commenting on the post mentioned that I had not posted a workshop Speakerdeck from last summer on the topic. The workshop focused on how we might catalyze and provide pathways for change in education through launching speculative futures incubators in schools.
There is much going on in my Speakerdeck with video. I will post the full videos from the workshop in full.
Microsoft: Productivity Future Vision
I like this video quite a bit. As an educator it struck me. I easily see a near future student’s worklife emerging on the screen as I watched. I continued to ask “what are we doing to cultivate the dispositions she is exhibiting — to deal with “her” workworld…..” The difference is that this video, a design fiction, suspends disbelief in the future narratives we so often hear about the future work worlds for our students in a well crafted story and video. I wrote this post for our schools blog on the topic:
How should a school in downtown Chicago prepare kids for the future? When Microsoft Research thinks to the near future they see a world where students, researchers, farmers and business people are not only working together but connected across the world through an internet of things (a network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connected through the internet.)
Although this video is essentially a “design fiction” the story it tells envisions a world to come, based on technologies that are already here. According to Mike Riley, moreInternet of Things Author and Director of Network Administration at GEMS World Academy- Chicago,
“The technologies in this video already exist, just not yet in this form factor. The students here will not only be the young researcher shown in the video someday soon, they will design the systems she is using….”
At GEMS World Academy -Chicago, we know that in a rapidly transforming world, success in further education, employment or society requires individuals to have the ability to see learning everywhere. Today’s students must possess the skills of intuition and have the dispositions necessary to research, design and innovate in mobile and project-based learning experiences. Cultivating these dispositions takes bold, new visionof education and a core belief in what’s possible. Our Students are living our vision of education daily. Whether engaged in an inquiry project that blends music, science and writing, re-mapping the city to make it a better place on a Field Study, or engaged with peers around the world in Connected Learning, we are preparing students now, for the future they will create in the coming years.
Fantasy prototypes and real disruption
Though Sterling situates a role for design fiction in the disruptive innovation/innovators landscape (for a VERY talented crowd at NEXT13 ) he does much more in this talk. His call for a networked civil world is stunning, his scolding questions to the crowd about the facile nature of innovation and humanity even more so.
If you are interested in continuing a conversation on DF and education, please do reach out. I would love to hear your thoughts.
The world fell silent for me as I heard the news from family that Jim Maxmin died. For those who know me well, you know that Jim Maxmin and Shoshana Zuboff are cherished mentors and friends.
Over the last six years I have learned so much from the brilliance of Jim. I can still remember our first meeting — to discuss an audacious design that would become Global Civ. Unlike so many others, Jim embraced the idea of a distributed networked learning ecology without reservation — he said, with his fiercely intelligent smile –“This is ten years ahead of its time for popular understanding, but perfect for our work.” That work, a hybrid learning collective, which was co-led by Jim’s son, Jake and under the research guidance of Jim’s wife Shoshana would become a three year project that influences everything I do professionally.
Jim, I am in shock at your death. I am holding you, Jake, Chloe, Shoshana, Pache and all you have shaped in the light. I want to reach out and have another conversation around the kitchen island….I want to see you outside– you were always working, always reading, always helping, always smiling….. always holding me to the highest standard, always being a role model of what a husband and father and intellectual can be, always, always, always.
The world fell silent this week. We have lost a visionary, a caring and loving father and husband, mentor and friend.
In love and with reverence.
Reading notes 14 November:
Boulding (1990) Building a Global Civic Culture: Education for an Interdependent World again…..
Imagining how events could be otherwise than they are is a hallmark freedom and power of human beings. Making social imagination work for us involves us in new concepts and principles, in new ways of using our minds to grasp complexities we do not yet comprehend. Thinking this way helps us construct new social realities both locally and globally. Social imagination is not merely for the sake of of academic knowing; it must include our feelings, and it must include our acting.
IF it be true that Education can heal the State, then indeed we educators have a grave and anxious responsibility.
The rise of the “Micro-school” is in the air — see this New Schools Venture Fund Article and this NAIS Independent Ideas Article to start. Micro-schools are also on my mind. Before these small schools were given this nom de guerre and — with it — distinction from other “independent” yet not Independent schools such as the venerable Edvisions Collective of semi-autonomous charters, I was happily involved in multiple projects that might be categorized as micro-schools today.
In 2010, I partnered with former Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff, her husband, businessman/entrepreneur Jim Maxmin and their son Jake as a student designer to create “GlobalCiv: A New Learning Ecology“. GlobalCiv was a learning partnership between individual learners, mentors, and organizations from around the world. Global Civ was a learning ecology designed to connect driven students across the world:
Sanguine voices are heard on a coastal beach in Maine as a group of high-school age young people gather around multiple mobile devices that are networked via live webcast to their peers in China, New Zealand, London, Uganda and Bolivia in a project called “The Interdependence of Global Water”. This international project based learning pod are gathering, some waking at 1:00am to view sea run Salmon return to spawn on the Penobscot River in Maine, United States. These young people are doing more than watching; they helped make the Penobscot River viable for this process again through their combined research, writing, and service efforts. In partnership with indigenous communities, business interests, academics, local, regional and national governments, and conservation biology organizations they have joined a coalition to remove dams and restore native salmon spawning corridors. There study was intense, memorable and had lasting impact on all involved. As these young people wove service and action into their “core” themes of study: society, environment and economics, there lives were changed, and they helped catalyze a movement for new learning around the world. What we find out is that these young people are collaborating together on similar projects in all of the six world regions mentioned and in concert with each other in a new learning ecology. There are no “walls” in this learning ecology, rather these students learn year round, individually and in groups at regional based learning centers where they come to collaborate, problem solve and socialize with other project based learners. The bulk of the work these brave young people accomplish is done in the field, at home, or traveling in “mobile learning labs” utilizing the most innovative eLearning tools imaginable. The blended eLearning networks used to collaborate on the integrated global projects mentioned, here also leveraged to connect domain territory specialists and mentors to young people as they constructed an understanding of quantitative reasoning, social sciences, literature, experimental sciences, and visual arts in integrated project based learning. The ePortfolios of each learner on that beach in Maine and around the world would be constructed to exhibit learner mastery of knowledge territories and to meet international and national standards in education. This is international learning done across cultural, environmental and economic borders; creating a global frontier for critical education.
Then in 2012, building on the success of GlobalCiv I launched Networked Learning Ecology North America with my wife and a group of dedicated regional entrepreneurs. NLENA sought to weave together a mesh network of young people, parents, educators, and partners in the Midcoast region of Maine and across the world. We were working to realize a new ecology of learning, distributed, connected and scalable:
Piper is a 15 year old who lives in Midcoast Maine, US. A year ago, Piper heard about a new way to learn, and decided to take part in a new learning experience called the Maine Networked Learning Project. Known as “the Mesh” to participants, this learning ecology offered Piper the chance to apply her passion for learning in highly experiential and collaborative ways with groups of young people of varied ages, adult and youth mentors with knowledge territory specialties and organizations focused on ensuring sustainable and resilient societies, economies, and the environment. This is a snapshot of her day.
A day in the learning ecology of Piper Hahn
Piper gets ready for her weePiper Hahn’s Networked Learning Ecology by sitting outside sipping tea and looking at her smart phone. She is checking project updates sent from the team she has been working with for the last two months on her Google Reader and Twitter feed. The project Piper is checking in on deals with food justice in the rural communities of her bioregion.
Seeing many updates, and much activity she decides to look at the overall “mesh” schedule for the day. She notices that the MNLP van will be moving across the local region starting in an hour. To get a ride on this local transportation system she has to ride her bike to a station stop or have her parents drop her off at the regional mesh meet-up location. But before deciding this she reviews her weekly schedule on her mobile.
Piper notices that she and three others will be presenting at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars organization to a large group on the history of local food cultivation in the region. She and her Food Justice project group have spent a good deal of time completing ethnographic studies of the areas “locals”. These participant interviews are seminal to their presentation as they show that local sustainability and resilience projects are not “outside” or “rich Peoples” pursuits, but can save local economies and the historical heritage this stakeholder group cherishes. The group has also been working in restoration crews on local farms as a service learning tie in to their studies. The project has been extensive. Piper and her group have covered mathematics, experimental sciences, writing, social sciences and much more in an integrated project framework. They have relied on their mesh mentors, local experts (educators, authors, historians, scientists….), and the internet for research, recording (writing, video) and exhibiting their knowledge and understanding to multiple community stakeholder groups.
As the project presentation pre-work is done, Piper contacts her group via twitter hashtag to remind all that they will need an hour to meet-up before the presentation and to ride their bikes to the VAW hall from the meet-up. Immediately she gets a response from three of the four other group members that they will meet prior to the VAW event. They remind each other that a collaborative learning session will be going on for applied algebra and trigonometry concepts at Noon. This session will be special, as an innovative regional planner from rural Scotland will be mentoring at the Self Organized Learning Environment today along with their local quantitative reasoning/systems thinking mentors. She video chats with one participant letting her know that she will be at the SOLE, and is hoping to get a ride to her house (or dorm) after today’s VAW presentation. That done, Piper checks with her parents (or dorm parents) and decides to ride her bike to a mesh station stop. She then rides the mesh van into town and catches up on posts in her Reader and replies to myriad comments and responses in her network on the way.
At the Meet-up location (a wide open space that reminds Piper of a open market of some kind), she settles in with the other young people in study, discussion and deliberation. Today she takes out her tablet and reads a work in global literature that was suggested by a mentor she has in South Asia. She will take notes on the work over the next hour and send those notes via blog post to the mentor. The mentor, other participants and Piper are involved in a global project combining cultural understandings of place into a wiki resource for future learners to use. She sees connections everywhere in her learning and after being inspired by an experience in India she’s just read about (or had?), Piper adds content for today’s VFW presentation to the shared presentation document for group review.
Piper takes a run with others from the meet-up, and then decides to review the quantitative reasoning skills that figure into the edible re-vegetation project from Scotland being discussed at the SOLE today. Piper will get another chance to apply her growing knowledge and understanding with today’s SOLE because the re-vegetation work they are doing locally is based on the Scottish project being discussed.
After the SOLE, and successful VAW presentation the group meets at a Mesh group members house. The group has grown from five to seven now as the crew who filmed the presentation and ethnographic methods over the last months are with them to discuss editing and working on the script for the groups public exhibition of findings. Piper and her group know that the scientists, mentors, politicians, local and global participants, and their peers will attend the exhibition. This step in their project leads to funding and further action on their multi-year food security project. After Dinner with the host family, rides home for most, and ePortfolio updates. The rest of the week will be full of networked, experiential, and mobile learning directly applied to creating solutions in an interdependent world.
Then in 2013, I co-designed “The Bridge Year at Kieve-Wavus” again with my wife and long time independent school leader Charlie Richardson. A truly amazing venture, The Bridge Year engaged the Independent School world with a new conversation about what’s possible in education:
The Bridge Year is a year-long, co-educational, learning experience in which students explore their academic core through campus and outdoor projects and field studies which are authentic, integrated, and personalized. Students learn everywhere, have extensive one on one attention and experience life as a daily learning opportunity. The Bridge Year student comes from around the world, the US and Maine representing a wide variety of backgrounds. They are young people seeking transformative experiences that support the growth necessary to unlock their amazing talents, passions, and curiosity for learning and life. At The Bridge Year, students live their learning.
These projects were successes in the own right, test flights for what’s possible. To quote Zuboff and Maxmin on GlobalCiv in 2010 — the project was “at least a decade to soon “. Yet in 2013 after her experience with Global Civ she wrote of The Bridge Year “The Bridge Year fills a major gap in today’s educational landscape. It can provide a gateway to high school that is critical to the long term success and well being of many young people. Student-driven , project- based learning can be a life-changing experience. When this is combined with personal instruction, exposure to digital learning tools, and an active learning community, students can develop the capability for joyous and self-directed learning both in high school and for the rest of their lives.”
There are parts of these projects in all of the work I do and in my current thoughts design and partnerships. That the rise of the micro-school is upon us — interests me all the more. The projects listed above were my attempt to answer myriad questions about a system of schooling that seemed/s to exist for its own sake– as institutions, not ecologies of education as they need to be.
I remain fiercely loyal to the independence” offered by independent schools, and some charters. That more schools are considering or being advised to create autonomous programs (see Horn et al. in independent thinking) intrigues me. That VC are looking for new school designs and prototypes for the future is equally buoying. What if independent schools en mass, were looking in the same way too? Would this be a significant Bypass, and eventually, to use Zuboff’s language, Mutation in education? It certainly will depend on the market forces driving the change — be it test scores or transformed and highly personalized educational ecologies…..
Independent schools will need to embrace these projects with their missions close at heart, their vision alight and not just in fear of loosing market share. I can imagine and would embrace the laboratories of educational ecologies that may emerge. The national and worldwide wonder at a new very visible movement of change in education, and possibly, just possibly systemic change would be welcome.
Feature Image: https://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/tag/notting-hill-adventure-playground/
Building a Different Future
Successful pathways of innovation are created when an organization cultivates a landscape of professional learning (see Etiene-Wenger and Lave) inclusive of as many of the people who directly affect the success of that organization. As Peter Theil, founder of Paypal, puts it in his book Zero to One — “once you have convinced a large group of people of a plan to build a different future, the most important strength of an organization is new thinking.”
GEMS World Academy-Chicago, the first North American school from the internationally recognized GEMS Education Group, is moving into its second year with a bold goal — to build a different future for education. One of the core reasons for GEMS’ success in sustaining and scaling educational innovation is its unique professional learning program. The schools is a learning organization and professional learning is embedded into all aspects — from the mission and vision to daily practice in learning environments. This “anytime, anywhere” professional learning takes many forms across the school, and it involves everyone. The results are stunning collaboration, creativity and an atmosphere filled with effective professionals serving the children and families who will change the future.
How does it work?
Summer is the time of professional learning for schools, and at GEMS World Academy, we leverage this time in unique and highly effective ways. New faculty are immersed into a world of systems thinking for innovative curriculum design, prototyping, and practice. Though the innovative curriculum is defined for new faculty, the emphasis is on experiencing first hand what GEMS faculty are expected to do. New faculty learn through doing as they collaboratively plan inquiry-based curricula in the classroom, throughout the building and, perhaps most importantly, on Field Studies.
New faculty soon join veteran faculty, having experienced the world of GEMS education and having added their unique ideas and expertise to the school’s practice. What follows are weeks of participatory professional development led by people across the organization, specialists and thought leaders in the field. Sessions are hands on and strategic:
- Mission and vision Workshops and other norming workshops. These were highly academic and deliberative sessions focusing the organization’s commitment to including everyone in the articulation of the mission and vision of the school.
- Nationally recognized experts in mathematics, reading and writing joined expert faculty leaders to deliver professional learning.
- Faculty collaboratively build their inquiry-based curriculum
- The vast technology ecosystem at GEMS World Academy are illuminated and used to deliver much of the professional learning, thus providing new and innovative ways to collaborate and participate in professional learning while gaining important new skills, creating new contexts for learning, and asking probing questions about the future of education.
- Faculty plan their Field Studies cycles in the city (the “field”) to understand the incredible opportunity and complexity of using the city as a learning laboratory for students.
Leveraging Technology for Ongoing Professional Learning
Sustaining innovation through professional learning is taken seriously at GEMS. Whether in strategic planning or designing an interdisciplinary unit of inquiry, the need for ongoing collaboration, transparency and organization is essential for effective teams. In the spring of 2015, we successfully piloted Basecamp, an online project management software for professional learning and collaboration in interdisciplinary faculty projects. Building on the pilot’s success, we have adopted and launched Basecamp across the school for professional learning, and collaborative planning in 2015-2016. Using Basecamp provides a powerful and intuitive way for our faculty to cultivate strong interdisciplinary teams, identify needs and think in new ways. From an organizational perspective, Basecamp has allowed us to see how we are learning and leading as an organization, the incredible work we are doing on a daily basis, and the arc of new possibilities to manage.
The GEMS World Academy Faculty Seminar Series is a participatory professional learning endeavor cultivated by the Institute for Research and Innovation. The seminar series perpetuates ongoing growth in our faculty, administration, and school community while also providing an outlet for disseminating the thought leadership of GEMS World Academy to others.
Summer professional learning serves as the “entry event workshops” to the faculty seminar, giving an experiential root to ongoing professional learning. Entering the school year, the faculty seminar is a multi-month program of scholarly and experiential faculty development linking the GEMS World Academy curriculum and practice with theory and design in the field of education and beyond. The faculty seminar promotes the core mission and vision of the school by helping faculty members update their knowledge of developments in specific disciplines and then place that knowledge in the context of the innovative practices so essential to GEMS and beyond. Faculty seminars are intended to excite intense intellectual consideration of research, design and practice in the GEMS World Academy program, the field of education and beyond. Seminar topics are intended to encourage interdisciplinary discussion and inspire new avenues for practice, research, teaching, and collaboration. Collaborations among faculty, staff and outside professionals are vitally important. Each year, certain seminars will be dedicated to furthering thought leadership in the field of education. These public events bring sought-after experts and GEMS faculty together for public panels. GEMS families, community members and others gather for these exclusive events that highlight our globally recognized faculty as thought leaders. The first 2015-2016 faculty seminar is titled Field Studies: Building on A Foundation of Experience.
Building the future of education will take the collective work of everyone involved in a school’s organization. It is not enough to offer pieces of professional learning and support. Instead, we need to cultivate the dispositions of everyone to imagine, understand, use and create the sustained innovations necessary to do something truly different, prescient, and needed in our world. To this end, GEMS World Academy is exploring, experimenting, and cultivating innovation through ongoing professional learning. This post is the first in an ongoing series on professional learning and innovation in the 2015-2016 academic year at GEMS World Academy.
This post is an adapted version of a post I wrote for GEMS World Academy — Chicago. The post will be published at Explore: The GEMS World Academy Blog in the coming week.
One of my summer research strands is to extend the work and design I am doing around participatory and practice based learning. I have found a few works exceptionally helpful and thought I would list them here in hopes others will too.
What I like about this work is that it builds on the previous works of Wenger and Lave on situational learning, perspective and identity specifically — Wenger (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity: Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives on CoP’s and the foundational work of Lave and Wenger on situational learning (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation: Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives . I will also add to this list the book all in education should read on critical ethnography by Lave (2011) Apprenticeship in Critical Ethnographic Practice .
I find each of these works intriguing and valuable towards the design of new professional development, organizational, and ultimately educational ecologies. Learning in Landscapes of Practice…. resonates because the concept of knowledgeability is so salient to schools and educational ecologies. In education, our silos for competency are legion and attempts to integrate professional development and participatory learning for the whole organization are very difficult. One of the main reasons for this, is our lack of robust frameworks to understand and critique the whole educational system that exists, quite often at this point, to perpetuate itself, as opposed to the needs of learners and communities.
This is tough work to tackle and the space of theory in schools often neglected. A common refrain in K-12 schools, “We do not have enough time for theory, we just need to….”, or, “we will leave that to the experts”. These views are at opposition with the reality that education is a social construct, that must be theorized, constructed/reconstructed through praxis, and care-taken by individuals in the community. No educator, parent or policymaker should leave the spaces of education, specifically praxis, unexamined. So where theory can open your eyes to a million valleys of thought and wonder, ultimately praxis allows for experience, knowledge building and networking towards both the boundaries and possibilities of education. These are critical conversations to have in education and society and I feel we need to take a much closer look at what we are doing.
If you have considered these works in the K-12, Higher Ed or informal learning space please do reach out, via comment here or by way of Twitter, email….
A few notes (of many) on Valve’s Employee Handbook.
We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish
Never be afraid to run an experiment or to collect more data.
This company is yours to steer—toward opportunities and away from risks. You have the power to green-light projects. You have the power to….
Why does your desk have wheels?
You were hired to constantly be looking around for the most valuable work you could be doing.
Nobody expects you to devote time to every opportunity that comes your way. Instead, we want you to learn how to choose the most important work to do.
Yes. There’s no secret decision-making cabal. No matter what project, you’re already invited. All you have to do is either (1) Start working on it, or (2) Start talking to all the people who you think might be working on it already and find out how to best be valuable. You will be welcomed— there is no approval process or red tape involved. Quite the opposite—it’s your job to insert yourself wherever you think you should be.
Sometimes things around the office can seem a little too good to be true. If you find yourself walking down the hall one morning with a bowl of fresh fruit and Stump- town-roasted espresso, dropping off your laundry to be washed, and heading into one of the massage rooms, don’t freak out. All these things are here for you to actually use. And don’t worry that somebody’s going to judge you for taking advantage of it—relax! And if you stop on the way back from your massage to play darts or work out in the Valve gym or whatever, it’s not a sign that this place is going to come crumbling down like some 1999-era dot-com start- up. If we ever institute caviar-catered lunches, though, then maybe something’s wrong. Definitely panic if there’s caviar.
Over time, we have learned that our collective ability to meet challenges, take advantage of opportunity, and respond to threats is far greater when the responsibility for doing so is distributed as widely as possible. Namely, to every individual at the company.
We all need feedback about our performance—in order to improve, and in order to know we’re not failing. Once a year we all give each other feedback about our work. Outside of these formalized peer reviews, the expectation is that we’ll just pull feedback from those around us when- ever we need to.
You’ve solved the nuts-and-bolts issues. Now you’re moving beyond wanting to just be productive day to day—you’re ready to help shape your future, and Valve’s.
Everyone is a designer. Every- one can question each other’s work.
Would I want this person to be my boss?; Would I learn a significant amount from him or her?; What if this person went to work for our competition?
Valve will be a different company a few years from now because you are going to change it for the better. We can’t wait to see where you take us.
Still captivated by this slide from John Seely Brown. Carla’s adroit projections for the theory of knowledge are so prescient and useful.
Imagining how events could be otherwise than they are is a hallmark freedom and power of human beings
D. Bob Gowin (1988)1
Many educational projects today are trying so very hard and nobly to mutate: to rescue, bypass, reconfigure and support–provide more than a catalyst, cool project or amazing school specific feat. The projects are seeking more, prototyping like mad and gaining grounds in certain spaces–I am wildly impressed by many. My hopes for you, for us, is that we face our dragons. Take a look at Bruce Sterlings NEXT talk from minute 8:58- With a brilliant critical voice, a pin drop hearing claim, and a passionate tenacity he implores a group of the best and the brightest (like you), to look up, look at the system, deeply question–yes keep questioning. Be forewarned, Bruce does not coddle, he offers critical deliberation for a complex world. But my point is not to posit yet another schools and sky’s falling argument. I want you to look up and ask yourself why the copier is still so important, why meetings are still so long, why that schedule is still not working, why the kids–even given control– are still only as good as the control given…. why they are still only engaging in “school”…. do the school and its processes exist for the students future? These, and so much more you see and feel as educators — are your dragons.
Before you undertake another school revision, plan, proposal, design or development please do the following.
In a safe and caring space spend a few hours minimum asking kids what their self and social concerns are. Have them write these concerns on a wall or in an online discussion. Their souls are churning; their adolescence, ever-present, but trust that the world they know, they may not show in school. When the writable surfaces on walls, discussion forums online and all in between (and beyond) are filled with life, pull colleagues with domain knowledge in all of the core subjects together to read and discuss. Agree on how creating projects from the life on those walls/spaces might meet all of your teacher/school objectives.
As elders, guides and yes, teachers you can support young people as they are involved and engaged in an enormous range of knowledge, from information to values clarification, and including content and skills from all disciplines of knowledge–integrated in the context of themes and activities within them. The topics you see written on the walls are organizing centers, significant problems or issues that connect the curriculum to the larger world. These centers serve as a context for unifying knowledge. Knowledge in turn is developed as it is instrumentally applied to exploring the organizing centers; Personal Knowledge: Addressing self concerns and ways of knowing about self; Social Knowledge: addressing social and world issues, from peer to global relationships, and ways of critically examining these; Explanatory Knowledge: content that names, describes, explains, and interprets, including that involved in the disciplines of knowledge as well as commonsense or popular knowledge and Technical/Twenty First Century Knowledge: ways of investigating, communicating, analyzing, and expressing. Finding,Validating, Leveraging, and Synthesizing Information; Communicating, collaboration and problem solving in a technologically rich environment.2
I would love to hear about your experiments and findings.
1.Boulding, E. (1990) Building a Global Civic Culture: Education for an Interdependent World
2. For more in this current of thought see Beane (1997) ‘Curriculum Integration: Designing the Core of Democratic Education’ essential reading.
Found today, unpublished in blog form– c. 2011
Sitting in a meeting today I heard teacher after administrator and teacher do battle with the soul of the machine, the system and an environment yet realized. On the discussion plate was a slice of fifteen minutes reading in a day of six hours. That fifteen minute time period is held like a light in the darkness of olden day for this community at times. “If only kids would take a break from the machines that control them something might be better”; a humanitarian view indeed but one that misses the point.
Educators so often seek clarity and demand an attention from this generation that according to Wesch (2010) has had a media introduced and will not go back. The machine becomes a burden when the system they are in, one built for the 20th century fails to reach the young. It is the system, not the child or machine is at fault, for if you give the young freedom and self determination, collaborative and democratic spaces inside a school or out–more often then not they will engage wildly with any task at hand (yes it might be messy, but so are they….so is human learning). Adolescents seek freedoms as a function of their biology and not one bit of schooling can do the end job of getting rid of this. Yes we’ve all seen generation after generation stuffed through the square hole, their triangular and circular edges (the parts we want in the 21st century) shaved off, but the spirit is still there. This spirit exists within the stories we hear of wasted years in school, heartache, and struggle to regain a spirit–(except for the square shaped kids who fair OK, or remember sports events and prom instead of school).
The problem is not the machine. Machine use in most schools represents the only freedom and self-determination a young person often has. “Read a book because it is good for you” goes only so far without a solid reason for doing so in a generation that can as easily learn from MIT online as they can in your classroom (and at MIT they give solid reason why it is important–everytime)….and alluding to the need to go outside more–in the minutes before or after a six hour sitting day–does little for this generation who actually spend a fair deal of time outside (at least in Maine).
I love reading and come from a family that read. But it was the freedom given me in school to explore, and the consistent support given me by elders that fueled the passion on a daily basis. I was given the choice of what to read, and took it. The choice and a reason as I engaged in a learning environment that tested ideas and values not content.