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 
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Speculative Futures in Education

It was nice to be connected to The Teachers Guild this afternoon by Dan Ryder. The post I was alerted to dealt with Futures Thinking and had a subtitle of:

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 so will post the full videos from the workshop in full.

Microsoft: Productivity Future Vision

I like this video quite a bit and as an educator it struck me vividly as I can easily see a near future student’s worklife emerging on the screen. As I watched, I continued to ask “what are we doing in schools to cultivate the dispositions she is exhibiting — to deal with her workworld…..” This video is a wonderful example of design fiction — a creation that suspends disbelief in the future narratives we so often hear about for future work worlds for our students in a well crafted story and video. I wrote this about the video for our schools blog:

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

The second video clip is a tenacious and as we know true – to – life oration from Bruce Sterling at NEXT13.

A note from a short post on the talk I wrote outlines a bit of my interest.

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.

Interested?

If you are interested in continuing a conversation on DF and education, please do reach out. I would love to hear your thoughts.

More on Design Fiction and Prototyping the Future in another post.

 

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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/