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The Machine, The System, and an Environment Yet Realized

Found today, unpublished in blog form– c. 2011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.

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Sailing Ships and Building Pyramids

Seymour Papert has been on my mind (again) for some time now and a talk he gave in Australia, kindly curated by Gary Stager continues to stun me.

Not unusual for Papert, his forcefulness around topics of education, computers and mathematics flow through the talk and one is left looking at machines anew (again). But that is not what resonated for me this time.  Rather it was two statements at vastly different parts of the talk that I would like to briefly explore.

1. At minute 8.41, Papert speaks of educational change as “a very complicated social movement….[that]should be thought of as a complex system”….and goes on to propose the need for and a definition of a revolutionary in education:

(9.40) I don’t think of a revolutionary as someone who wants to force change, but one who looks far enough ahead to see that there is going to be change, fundamental change …

Fundamental change he argues, is out beyond the horizon of transformation. A Decade after Papert posits this are you looking ahead “far enough” do you see fundamental change? Is it upon us? Are you reading, networking and thinking daily about education as a complicated social movement– a complex system?

2. As Papert argues the salience of machines for teaching in this talk and for active learning, at one point he seems to open a dialectic and then veers away. He states, while addressing the active learning which mathematics was taught through in centuries past–

we cannot let kids sail seas and build pyramids anymore….

My mind raced, and heart pounded–yes we can, and I argue we should! Perhaps its the “2004” that Papert was within, perhaps he meant to inspire, perhaps it was a slipped metaphor, but no matter.  Today, we are in a time of insatiable opportunity.  A time where machines can be built by kids, and kids can write their own operating systems (as Papert states in the talk is a true test of computer use). Further, there are Labs like the Future Cities Lab , Superflux and Near Futures Laboratory along with so many other university, city, region and countrywide initiatives in research and design that are presenting incredible growth in society, media, computing and culture.

But importantly, kids can and should sail the seas and build the next pyramids to learn. This may be by computer inside a school–but more, I believe it will be a blend of spaces outside and in. Designing, prototyping and building–indeed our kids are doing this daily already through games, at home and in certain schools but we should be ready for more, much more. Keep working on what the new learning ecologies will look like for students young and old, keep designing, looking ahead, opening our minds to active, deep and experiential learning in 2015.

And there is no need to force change. In an incredibly honest and needed blogpostPeter Gow argues so adroitly about why we need not belittle what has been or is in education as new ecologies of learning emerge.  As another colleague Grant Lichtman argues in his book #Edjourney , educational mutation will be a vision and manifestation of the great middle grounds of education and experience in the 21st century.  Keep sailing–keep building.

 

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Live Your Learning: A Short Reference List

For #isedchat on the topic of experience in education.

K-12 ++++

Hahn Bookmarks: https://pinboard.in/u:steelemaley/t:hahn/

McKenzie, M. (2013) ‘Rescuing Education: The Rise of Experiential Learning’

Ruitenberg (2005) ‘Deconstructing the Experience of the Local….’ Essential Sections: Introduction (pp 212-213) and A Radical Pedegogy of Place (pp 218-219)                        

The Bridge Year Field Studies Program

Roberts (2012) Beyond Learning by Doing…. 

What is experiential education? What are its theoretical roots? Where does this approach come from? Offering a fresh and distinctive take, this book is about going beyond “learning by doing” through an exploration of its underlying theoretical currents. As an increasingly popular pedagogical approach, experiential education encompasses a variety of curriculum projects from outdoor and environmental education to service learning and place-based education. While each of these sub-fields has its own history and particular approach, they draw from the same progressive intellectual taproot. Each, in its own way, evokes the power of “learning by doing” and “direct experience” in the educational process. By unpacking the assumed homogeneity in these terms to reveal the underlying diversity of perspectives inherent in their usage, this book allows readers to see how the approaches connect to larger conversations and histories in education and social theory, placing experiential education in social and historical context.

Stilgoe (2009) Outside Lies Magic 

A book about the acute observation of ordinary things, about becoming aware in everyday places, about seeing in utterly new ways, about enriching your life unexpectedly.For more than 20 years, John R. Stilgoe has developed and practiced the art of exploring the everyday world around us, where so much lies hidden just beneath the surface, offering uncommon knowledge if we but know what to look for. In this remarkable book, Stilgoe inspires us to become explorers on our own-on foot or on bicycle-and by so doing to reap the benefits of escaping, even temporarily, the traps of our programmed lives.”Exploration encourages creativity, serendipity, invention,” he writes. And while sharing his insights on how to explore, Stilgoe provides a fascinating pocket history of the American landscape, as striking in its originality as it is revealing. Stilgoe dissects our visual surroundings; his observations will transform the way you see everything. Through his eyes, an abandoned railroad line is redolent of history and future promise; front lawns recall our agrarian past; vacant lots hold cathedrals of potential.From the electrical grid overhead to fences, malls, and main streets, Stilgoe offers a fresh understanding of the links and fractures in our society. After reading Outside Lies Magic, your world will never look the same again.

Mobile Learning: Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning.

Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning reports on the accessibility and power of mobile devices as a learning tool, both inside and outside the classroom. This collection of news stories and interviews with digital media experts and scholars shows how widespread adoption of mobile devices provides an opportunity to rethink student-teacher and student-to-student interaction.  It also includes practical information on how teachers are transforming their courses using mobile technology, and looks at efforts to alter school policies to allow students to use mobile devices, from phones to GPS trackers, to bring more hands-on experience to the learning process.

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Smith (2008) How to Be an Explorer: Portable Life Museum 

Artists and scientists analyze the world around them in surprisingly similar ways, by observing, collecting, documenting, analyzing, and comparing. In this captivating guided journal, readers are encouraged to explore their world as both artists and scientists. The mission Smith proposes is to document and observe the world around you as if you’ve never seen it before.

  • Take notes. Collect things you find on your travels.
  • Document findings.
  • Notice patterns.
  • Copy.
  • Trace.
  • Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Record what you are drawn to.

With a series of interactive prompts and a beautifully hand-illustrated two-color package, you will enjoy exploring and discovering the world through this gorgeous book.

London Mobile Learning Group (Links to an external site.)

JISC: Mobile Learning (Links to an external site.)

Educause Library: Mobile Learning (Links to an external site.)

GENSLER PANEL: steelemaley4.001

Prototyping the Future

GENSLER Slides: PDF

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Participatory Pathways for Teacher Research

Save for unique pockets of time in unique decades, education has drifted from the roots of participatory research known in the late nineteenth century. From the scholar tutor of early New England to the emboldened teachers of Kurt Hahn’s Salem1 it has been only the laboratory schools and experiments during the the middle level movement of the 80’s (some may argue Ted Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools and a few bold independent schools should be on this list) that have looked at schools as true communities whose flexibility and purpose was as real as the world with which we live. Learning in the context of these schools had to be created and often co-created with learners–it was in the school DNA to experiment and thus research what they were doing  along with why and how it could consistently get better.

Most schools today have suffered a standardization epidemic almost as potent as the worst epidemics of health and ecology imaginable. To be fair, this standardization ensured the largest single boost to global education in modern times.2 Just as the cure to epidemics created immunities, so to did we create institutional immunity to the kinds of learning innovation we would like to see today. This immunity fights against change as strongly as antibiotics fight bacteria. Now, as we look for holistic approaches to the health of our populations, we must also look for our institutions–our schools. We now know what causes many diseases and what over medication does to our children. But what of our penchant for holding onto blanket prescriptions for our schools health?

This is the era of looking systemically at the individual, the environment and indeed the ecology of learning again. Instead of being radicals, those who are taking this path are the pioneers of a new world. Sounds bold, but really it is on all educators minds, every headmaster and for the world of independent schools I identify with most–our parents minds. Yes, if you graduate form an elite boarding school, you are likely to get into the college of your choice, but what of your prospects there? Your prospects in life…. regardless of income? These are the questions I am asking as a parent, and the parents I serve are asking of me.

It’s time to innovate, and stake claims anew to a world of learning that has so boldly expanded it frightens even the most agile school leader. To innovate is to create pathways that others can benefit from, not just offer catalyst moments for others to be amazed by. Tackling  problems like:

  • weaving experiential and scholastic learning together,
  • learning outside of the classroom for extended amounts of time (be it online or field studies based),
  • personalizing the learning process (a personal learning plan for all),
  • balancing tradition with innovation to ensure the legacies and innovations are translated together,

takes extensive effort, tireless imagination and action.

To create pathways for innovation we must replace myths with methods. I strongly believe one seminal way to do this is through teachers being participatory researchers in the innovation process. Opening up our innovation process to ongoing and meaningful contributions from everyone in our institution not just surveying opportunities offered in professional development or school initiatives, but offering ongoing involvement in a measured cycle of experimentation for the practitioner. This is sustained, measured participatory research driven by the end users to contribute to innovations on the ground.

It is time to take the Skunkworks across the school. Does your school reflect the change in knowledge and networks ever present in today’s world–at a systemic level? Are you visioning for this world, translating that vision into practice with your managers as well as your mavericks? Are you collecting longitudinal evidence both qualitative and quantitative that it’s working? I believe many in the audience reading this post do have a good start on this (A direct nod to Brett Jacobsen, Bo Adams and Team at Mount Vernon Presbyterian). I want us to create networked and sustainable pathways for innovation in education together.

On Friday at the annual TABS 14 Conference, I discussed a few solutions that flatten participation in the design, prototyping and iteration process for innovation in educational change.

PPD TABS14 PDF

It was an honor to present for the second year with two incredible educators. Kim Sivick is a cofounder of the EdCamp movement and an EdTech maven and Scott MacClintic who is the founding director of the Kravis Center for Excellence in Teaching  at Loomis Chaffee, a deep thinker, designer and teacher representing a new American Boarding Schools movement. In our presentation Kim will painted an amazing picture of what the landscape of what participant and tailor made professional development looks like across the world right now, Scott chronicled a successful movement to bring Unconferences and social media based professional development into some of the most elite Boarding schools schools in America and I summarized new forms in participatory teacher research for both professional development and resilient pathways of innovation in schools.

This is not easy work yet so many amazing things are happening in education.  I hope we embolden a new generation of teacher researchers across our schools and learning ecologies that interweave both the innovators disposition and effective action we so badly need to see in education. Just as an armada of ecologists and citizen scientists are contributing to a systemic change in the way we see our health and well being, lets proliferate the same movement in education.

Your interest, thought, vision and ultimately your work is needed to transform our schools into learning ecologies that hold the best of tradition and see the frontier of innovation. I would love to hear how your school innovations are being studied, how you are managing the design and experimentation phases and who you are learning the most from in your networks.

1 I am starting a research process into how Kurt Hahn’s interwar schools like Salem supported teachers. I have found enough disparate reference to include my reference in text. As I paint a bigger picture for myself of the incredibly rich pre -UWC legacy of Hahn’s thinking and school practice I continue ot be amazed. This will undoubtably be a focus of future posts in the new year.

2 One of the best contextualizations of this point is found in Zuboff, S. and Maxmin, J. (2002) The Support Economy: Why Corporations are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism, pp. 77-78.

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Towards Knowing, Making and Playing

Seely Brown, J. (2012)

Worth another look. I suggest Min 8:50-on as points to consider closely:

 

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Experiential Education: The Future Revisited

A recent post by Jackie Gerstein Inspired me to reprint my opening remarks for The Kieve-Wavus Educators Conference in 2013.  A dear project of mine and colleagues, The Bridge Year was born upon a burning desire to blend scholastics and experience in education– a middle ground between tradition and innovation for the future of education.  As we each manifest this work in new ways, the core remains…. a story to continue and be built.

Open Remarks KWEC 13

Lake Damariscotta, Maine
Student  driven education is a burgeoning field today in light of the social,  economic and environmental landscapes of a century facing rapid change.  Knowing that education is a social construct that must be built and tended, schools and organizations are looking to designs, research and  practice that allow for systemic change in education toward more  personalized, potent and useful learning environments. Indeed, McKenzie (2013)  writes of a new more experiential education in independent schools  allowing students the chance to collaborate and take risks. He writes:
  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.
These are bold  assertions and he is not alone in his view of education. Learning  scientists, teachers and administrators, parents and  students see the  possibilities of a learning landscape deeply changed and salient to the  future.
The Kieve-Wavus Educators’ Conference (KWEC)  is an active 4 day excursion into the theory, design and practice of  student driven learning.  The conference focuses three main strands of  student driven education: Curriculum Integration, Student Driven Project  Based Learning and Field Studies. Within each of these strands lay the rhizomatic  fields of 21st century education.  We will set a tone for the  possibilities in education through a close look at curriculum  integration as a way to orient learner toward to student and community  and away from the department or institution. In the common practice of  driving our own project we will practice the skills necessary to  scaffold deep learning in young people without the need to deliver and  control the environment.  Through moving into field studies, we will  explore our world as learners living education.  For each of these  experiences, a theory starts the conversation.  We offer the following  sections as a conference “theory” knowing that we are covering only a  small piece of the research behind each topic.  We hope it serves the  conference in starting a conversation and fuels the further research,  design and praxis of KWEC 13 and well beyond.

Conference Strands: A Theory, Design and Praxis

Curriculum integration

young  people have a right to be intelligent, to be well informed, to search  for meaning in the world, to be engaged in significant issues, to do  authentic work, to learn the whole story, to think critically, to form  [and clarify] values, to make judgements, and to be respected….
                                                 -Beane
At the root of student driven education is an exploration of meaning in an individuals personal and  social world. Knowledge can then be integrated in explanatory,  technical, personal and social ways through projects, field studies and  beyond.  Curriculum integration, researched and practiced first by  educational thinkers in the early 20th century (Dewey, Smith,  Kilpatrick), has remained a solid philosophy and praxis well into the  21st century.  Dewey (1905) writes of relating school to life as a natural path to integration,
alI  studies grow out of relations in the one great common world. When the  child lives in varied but concrete and active relationship to this  common world, [their] studies are naturally unified. It will no longer  be a problem to correlate studies. The teacher will not have to resort  to all sorts of devices to weave a little arithmetic into the history  lesson, and the like. Relate the school to life, and all studies are of  necessity correlated.
Conversely, in his book Curriculum Integration: Designing the Core of Democratic Learning,  Beane (1997) writes clearly that,
….in  curriculum integration, knowledge from the disciplines is repositioned  into the context of the theme, questions, and activities at hand. Even when teaching and learning move into what looks like discipline-based  instruction, they are always done explicitly in the context of the theme  and for a reason driven by it. It is here that knowledge comes to life,  here where it has meaning, and here where it is more likely to be learned.”
Dewey and Beane offer solutions in theory and  example to tremendous questions about education. Erudite questions,  posed by educators like Zhao (2012) , Wagner (2010)  (2012) Lichtman (2010) , Martinez and Stager (2013)  and others along with teams of dedicated educators and their  communities have a commonality. How do we address the needs of a rapidly  changing world through education that prepares young people for it.  In seeking ways to give students more control of learning they also recognize that tradition and culture are vital and different in communities everywhere. Curriculum integration allows for tradition and  community to be first and delivery methods of knowledge  secondary.
KWEC 13 is designed with curriculum  integration in mind. The personal and social concerns of educators are  foremost in our plans and actions, while the separate disciplines and  schedules for learning of the 20th century school are not given weight.   Curriculum integration at KWEC 13 will offer a glimpse into another way to experience education. Starting on the first full day of the  conference we will:
  • Review the core of curriculum integration
  • Collaboratively  plan the conference by engaging two essential conference related  questions with an overarching theme of Student Driven Education:
            -“What questions and concerns do you have about yourself as an educator?”
            -“What questions do you have about education and the world?”
            

Student Directed Project Based Learning

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn no other way
                                               -Twain
                                                                                                               
Student driven project based learning is a proven practice for student driven education that presents  students with new situations in learning to carry out and explore the  personal and social concerns they have. The work done in project  learning of this kind, creates conditions for significant transfer of  knowledge, skills, and understanding. Student driven projects support  learning in real-world problem solving, and engaged understanding in  varied ways. Projects develop through a dialogue between the students,  faculty, administration and community members and reveal the underlying  questions, the genuine interest, and possible pathways to carry out  extensive knowledge building that is rigorous, relevant and connected.  
There are many models of PBL in education and it is good to situate our  conference amidst them.  Yong Zhao (2012) curates an enormous research  profile on PBL in his World Class Learners: Educating Creative and  Entrepreneurial Students. He narrows the research into three general  descriptions of PBL as a starting points:
  • academic PBL that is primarily classroom based, content driven, single subject and teacher led
  • mixed  models where teacher and student collaboration through groups is key  and a product is sought within the constraint of academic disciplines  inside and outside of a school
  • entrepreneurship  models that are completely student led, focused on a product with the  teacher serving as venture capitalist, consultant, and motivator and  focus group. Academic disciplines emerge out of need and feedback.
At KWEC the student driven PBL we will design together is based on The Bridge Year and Edvisions  designs for PBL (closest to Zhao’s entrepreneurship model.)  As we  create our own projects as a vital structure and component of the  conference, we will experience the practice, process and requirements  for effective student driven learning. Starting on the first full day of  the conference we will:
  • review student directed PBL and Project Foundry, the software that most easily scaffolds the process well.
  • write a summary of our project in less than a page, often a good paragraph
  • create guiding questions that focus the inquiry and research
  • assess prior knowledge and a clear delineation of knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to carry out the project
  • create a plan to address gaps in prior knowledge and gain needed capacity for completing project
  • define assessment Tools
  • list Resources needed (human, print, technology, personal experience)
  • create timelines, sequence tasks, protocol for assessment.
  • plan for a product to benefit the field of student driven learning

Field Studies

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
                                                        -Rumi
                                                                                                                        
Field Studies enable students to “ground truth” their thinking through research that is multi-sited or in  the field as opposed to a fixed location and explore the landscape  freely to learn. Field studies offer the student researcher a chance to  gather data off campus and in real world contexts. Field Studies also  support student research and progress toward project objectives by providing opportunities for students to access a broad array experiences  and experts while studying a variety of communities and ecosystems;  lending depth and variability to project research (collect, analyze and  reflect on data and reporting). Student field studies like those offered  at The Bridge Year will use geospacial mapping, ethnography, ecosystem sampling and other techniques to better understand individual or group  projects and the broader ecology society and economy of regions (local,  regional and global).
Field Studies couple research and peer  collaboration with social and physical challenges ranging from extensive  canoe and kayak based travel, hiking and more. As Roberts (2012)  posits, these experiences provide a field of learning and “fields do not presume homogeneity or consensus, only a common space within which  questions are raised, answers are sought, and the overall inquiry is  engaged.” Our process for field studies at KWEC 13 will be active,  engage our personal and social questions about education and give ample  time for practice in the technology and methods considered.   As part of  the conference we will:
  • introduce and  review field studies concepts, and activities along with powerful yet  simple apps that allow for robust field study data collection, mapping  and sharing.  We will also look at ways to field studies can be deployed  without machines.
  • discuss learning and landscape from the perspective of student driven learning.
  • explore  the botany, geology, wildlife, history and culture, management of lands  and    ecological connections in Midcoast Maine by motor vessel, kayak  and on foot.
  • work individually or together to keep a field portfolio of our gathered data and reflections on the conference.

Welcome to KWEC 13

At  Kieve-Wavus Education, we launch the Bridge Year with the solid belief  that young people given a chance to live their learning will lead  informed and  active lives as  individuals in community around the  world. With this same sentiment, we convene and welcome you to the first  annual Kieve-Wavus Educators’ Conference at the Kennedy Learning Center  this week.  If you can not be with us, please follow the conference  from afar and allow the combined research curated in the KWEC Wiki to  inspire your learning environment and to inspire you to join us next  year.
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General Reading in the Field of Experiential Education

Thank you to all who are forwarding experience and education– See you at ISEEN 15 or in network.
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Educational Landscapes To Be.

Cronon, Mathews, and Svenning (2014) Memory, History, Place is a fascinating panel discussion for those interested in education and society as well as history, historiography, landscape, storytelling and imagination.

Memory, History, Place: Panel Discussion with William Cronon, Andrew Mathews, and Jens-Christian Svenning, 5/9/14 from AURA on Vimeo.

The conception of narrative in landscapes and specifically how those narratives shape the landscape of education and society is on my mind constantly. Cronon’s juxtaposition of speculative imagination and the dangers of being “trapped in a narrative” Roughly Min 39-43 are important. It is time for both the long history of education to be disseminated more widely in the US and the emergent field of design fiction in education to proliferate.  We must at once “see” our field over a wider arc and imagine our field anew to break through our narrative trap in education.

With ideation, research, writing, design, prototyping and deliberation in our communities we would be wise to listen to Cronon’s remarks in the panel. He is speaking of the Middle Grounds, and the importance of “gestures” towards broader communities. How we suspend disbelief through our new designs for education and associate with the broad history and future of educational landscapes will be the arbiter of the change we need.

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Seeing Experience

As I was writing today and  listening to Rdio a song came across the airwaves that at once made my heart fly and soul sing for seeing experience.  As a teacher, I can still see myself sitting for the closing ceremony of a large Ivy League Model United Nations conference. My first year team–all Freshman in High School along with a brave lone Junior would not take home a coveted “gavel” or even an award that year. As an adviser, I had dealt with the messiness of teens–actually thousands in one place. Elevators jammed while one of our delegates was disabled and on the 11 floor, our most intellectual yet free spirited student getting lost and so much more evaporated as the closing slideshow started.  While Coldplays “Yellow” filled the hall, I became emotional as I watched image after image of kids collaborating, deliberating, dealing with life’s drama and having fun while learning.

I was seeing experience and scholastics at confluence.

This and so many more experiences are interwoven in me, I cannot let them go:

  • Looking back onto devils pass in the Chugach Range to see a group of high-schoolers walking mountains with the broadest smiles of their lives.
  • Years of messy project based learning, driven by kids and their passion– yes– interdisciplinary projects in the social sciences, humanities, maths and beyond.
  • Years of Exhibitions of Mastery: Kids defending their passions and work to professionals, the community and world.
  • The nervous anticipation of the Georgetown Acceptance Letter that came for a student, who submitted an ePortfolio of mastery for his personalized a co-designed high school.

Don’t let go of what you see that makes your heart fly and soul sing in education.  Let it sink in, drive your work, drive your life.

Turn your catalysts into pathways.

 

 

 

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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.