Notes on Student Self Determination

A recent Edutopia post by Beth Holland on Student Agency rekindled thoughts and inspired me….A quote from the post featuring JSB, a man I have learned so much from :
Since the Middle Ages, individuals looking to become masters of particular subjects engaged in apprenticeships. In this role, they not only gained procedural knowledge, but also became enculturated into the community of practice. John Seely-Brown, Allan Collins, and Paul Duguid suggested applying this concept to the classroom through cognitive apprenticeships in the 1980s. They argued that school removed context from learning, as classroom culture does not mirror real-world culture
The locus of the article was on the history of the future of what Beth calls student agency in the post. Invoking a wide range of scholar practitioners from Dewey to Cuban and an assortment of talented teachers, the article seems to tug at a topic I care so deeply about.  I hope you might read the article and add to the many current iterations of student self determination in schools. Motions are afoot to make the (re)catalyst praxis showing up today into the pathways of innovation that are so vital for humanity, citizenship, and problem solving for a time of opportunity and crisis that await today’s young people.
Below are some selected resources to further inspire and a post I wrote in 2013 for an experiential conference that gathered many titans in democratic education, student directed project based learning and field studies– it was an incredible experience spanning a coastal lake, kayaking on the coast of Maine and 14+ hours of learning, design and experience. May this serve as a near history extension of Beth’s article for your near future designs that hold students as self determined, and yes critical agents in their own learning in the real world.

Opening Remarks KWEC13

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
  • entreprenurship  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.
 
Reprinted here from The Bridge Year Emergence Blogpost Kieve-Wavus Educators Conference 
2015-10-25_13-48-06

The Rise of Micro-Schools

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/

2015-10-03_09-30-26

Toward Landscapes of Professional Learning

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.

Looking ahead

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.

Thoughts

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.

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Learning in Landscapes: Research, Design, Praxis

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.

learninginlandscapesofpractice On my desk and causing an outpouring of thought and design is Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning.  

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….

 

Valve1

“Thanks for being here. Let’s make great things.”

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.

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Paths, Modes and Moments

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Still captivated by this slide from John Seely Brown. Carla’s adroit projections for the theory of knowledge are so prescient and useful.

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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.

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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