Thinking about What if schools IGNITEd more Leonardo da Vincis? 60-60-60 #53 and reflecting…

Two can play this game, Mr. Bo Adams…I see your IGNITE presentation posted on #53 and raise you this PechaKucha presentation by father-son combo, Adam and Ian Cole.

I didn’t even know it existed until today, but since IGNITE and  PechaKucha are close relatives, I figured I’d explore the PK website a bit and see if anything connected for today’s CHANGEd post. Fortunately I stumbled upon “Making Our Community” and gladly jumped down the rabbit-hole into a world of what I now understand to be called the maker movement. The video (a must-watch) is an excellent example about how passions, interests, and learning experiences can be amplified and shared (which connects to yesterday’s CHANGEd #52 post). Talk about making more Leonardo da Vincis…today’s rabbit-hole adventure showed me that the “what if” is certainly possible. Could this DIY learning be happening in spite of the day-to-day school experiences? Is this Mr. Cole trying to create a culture of learning in spite of the

If a father-son team can take outside-of-school learning adventures and make it something which has enough momentum for a website, a Twitter profile, and a number of mentions in mainstream media, what are we educators waiting for? If the Mr. Cole did this with just his two boys, imagine what we could do with a schoolful of our eager, engaged learners and future tinkerers and makers…

The “Maker Movement” page on the Cole’s site asserts that events like MakerFaire and Hackerspaces (certainly connected to the Makerbot community) are on the rise for a number of reasons. Why shouldn’t they be on the rise?

Makers have been on the “margins” for a long time – but what caused this move from the “margins to the mainstream?” Many factors have contributed, from technological progress, cost reductions in electronics manufacturing on a small scale, even an economic recession which refocused many people on repairing and re-purposing items. The largest impact however comes from the resurgence of the community itself. This is a community that celebrates learning, and freely shares ideas. This community formed in many pockets however (computer groups, electronics groups, robotics groups, craft groups, sewing groups, etc.) – and needed something to bring them all together. 
~ The Maker Movement on RaisingGeeks.Com

Why aren’t our schools those places? We already have the tribes (computer groups, electronics groups, robotics groups, craft groups, sewing groups, etc.) and as schools, we certainly should be celebrating learning.

So, what’s getting in the way of us educators cultivating a maker community? We have the role models in the form of a dad and his two sons, as the “learn and make things together.”


Thinking about What if we connected students with city design projects? 60-60-60 #52 and reflecting…

Today’s CHANGEd riff brings in Diana Laufenberg’s words from her November 2010 TEDxMidAtlantic talk:

The main point is that, if we continue to look at education as if it’s about coming to school to get the information and not about experiential learning, empowering student voice and embracing failure, we’re missing the mark. And everything that everybody is talking about today isn’t possible if we keep having an educational system that does not value these qualities, because we won’t get there with a standardized test, and we won’t get there with a culture of one right answer. We know how to do this better, and it’s time to do better.

The reality is that there are so many students, teachers, and schools that are already “doing better” and blurring the boundaries between school and real-life in ways that are life-giving — in ways that are empowering both children and adults. Identifying bright-spots and strengths-chasing are certainly two ways, but what about our collective voice? How do we make it even louder? What struck me today as I read Diana’s most recent post about her talk is that we must amplify those stories. She writes,

The message of an individual has never had such an opportunity to amplify as it does in our socially networked world, where the voice of an ordinary person can find agency and audience. Everything can be different if we have the will to connect and build a version of the world that reflects the full measure of our potential.

As I think about things like Synergy 8, Re-Imagine Ed, QUEST/Capstone, the edu180atl project, and classes like Diana Laufenberg’s, I wonder how we can best share and amplify the stories of experiential learning, empowering student voice, and embracing failure in ways that make a difference. Sure twitter and blogging and sharing through all of the other social media channels are all great things, but how can we consolidate all of these examples in order to both share and amplify powerful student experiences and effective school programs and curricula?


Thinking about What if we crafted a ten commandments of modern schooling? 60-60-60 #51 and reflecting…

Shouldn’t we have some level of agreement about the ten most fundamental expectations for schooling in our modern era?

I now have three versions of my educational philosophy. All three fit onto one page and there are certainly some common threads, especially between the last two — the first was written as a piece of my Teach for America application in 2002, the next was written in 2008 during  my Klingenstein year, and the most recent was written in early January of this year.

As I think about all three, I envision myself metaphorically siting in the ophthalmologist’s chair over the years, with the doctor switching the lenses in front of my eyes and asking, “Is that better…or worse…or just the same?”

The blurry lens through which I handwrote (and later typed) my first educational philosophy was a result of teaching experience that was more like volunteer tutoring experience. Projections, estimations, and instinctual feelings were what directed my writing. After a few years teaching in both an inner-city school and back at the elementary school I attended as a child in north Buckhead, I was able to see through a bit of a sharper lens. Things weren’t as out-of-focus concerning my beliefs about teaching, but that which was not intimately connected to my personal experiences was hard to make out. There were things too far in the distance for me to even imagine. And now the most recent educational philosophy, one which is merely based on two additional years of administrative experience, is sharper in places and still out-of-focus in others. And there are things still in the distance, unknown. I’m pretty sure that when it comes to my educational philosophy, there will always be the opportunity for more refined examination under new kinds of lenses — based on time, my experiences, and my role(s) in schools.

So that brings me to this “what if” about educational commandments. I’m sure it’s the Moses-and-Mount-Sinai thing, but commandments feel a bit stiff…stagnant…set in stone. Doesn’t there need to be room for growth and change when it comes to our individual or collective beliefs about education? Can these dynamic beliefs be characterized in commandments?

If I take the three responses to Bo’s post, they allow me to see that there can be great value in formulating educational commandments:

Thou shalt see oneself principally as the architect and choreographer of student learning experiences. ~Peter Cobb

Modern schooling MUST make a real difference to the life chances of the individual learner. ~hnaylor62

All learners must be encouraged to use what they have learned to make a significant difference to the world in which they live. ~hnaylor62

But, I hope we will reserve the right to throw a few out every so often and re-etch new ones based on the needs of our school, our schools, and modern schooling in general. Maybe the sweet spot is found somewhere between our philosophies and our commandments…


Thinking about What if I were designing one more faculty meeting? 60-60-60 #50 and reflecting…

Bo writes about designing faculty meetings in his 50th CHANGEd post. In a FastCo Magazine article from last April David Kelley reflects on designing curious employees. I see these two posts as intimately connected…because both are about empathy and of course, the design process. There’s also a connection with the idea of developing creative confidence…and that’s something that I hope to continue to develop in myself and in others through my work with lower school students and faculty next year.

For the past ten years, I have been mostly a participant in divisional meetings. And now, as Bo closes the door on faculty meta-planning, I am just beginning to open that door as I start to envision and chart the path for the 2012-13 school year and my first as lower school principal.

At this point, there are only a few things I know for sure about my approach to faculty meta-planning:

  1. I’ll use empathy, the design process, and creative confidence in my thinking and planning. I’m not sure what exactly that will look like, but I do know that those concepts will guide my approach. After all, this is an image which many educators know all too well.
  2. I’ll fail, many times, in my attempts. But if I am to create a culture of risk-taking and prototyping, failure is necessary and an important part of the process. How I model overcoming failure (and truthfully, how I process failing with my perfectionist self) will be important as I seek to develop a rich and dynamic culture of learning and growth.
  3. I’ll lean on others and use their wisdom and experience as a trusted resource. Already, I see how I could tweak Bo’s #1-#5 ideas to fit my own purposes. The fact that I have his experience to draw from in addition to friends and colleagues here in Atlanta and all over the world (thanks to social media!) is an incredible gift.
  4. I’ll grow as a student, teacher, administrator, and design thinker. And it will be messy. And difficult. And rewarding. And every emotion under the sun. But it will be worth it.


Thinking about What if we designed title sequences for our courses and our schools? 60-60-60 #49 and reflecting…

So…something that I’ve learned today: movie and television producers don’t actually create the film and TV title designs that introduce their work. It seems like a pretty obvious thing, I guess, as those works have a different feel and purpose than the actual movie or show. While I suspect that the product is usually a lot better than the producer could have envisioned or created by nature of their specific talents and strengths, the “letting go” that has to happen is surprising. And it must be difficult on a few different levels.

Bo’s CHANGEd question about title sequences for our classes and schools is an interesting one. But, what if we educators let go a bit and created the space for our students to do the designing? So instead of “What if we…” the question becomes “What if they…” How might their opening sequences – unique to the learner – provide a different glimpse into the class or the school? Usually, our students are much better storytellers than we are…

Using something that happened in a Kindergarten class yesterday, I can think of many different approaches to the title design that tells the story of a very important event in the classroom. Three options that could be taken in terms of teacher-student-parent communication, in decreasing order of teacher control:

Option 1: “Great news! Our first chick hatched and the children are so excited. They have so many questions that they want to explore. Don’t forget to ask them about what they saw today! We think that more and more chicks will be hatching in the next week!”

Option 2: Can you guess what happened today – and what will be happening in the next few days and weeks?

“It’s coming!” “It’s the fastest chick that’s ever hatched.” “It’s hatched!” “One hatched.” “Awwww…” “His Head!” “He hatched.” “Ewww!” “Hey, look, you can see that nasty thing!” “That nasty thing!” “Ew!” “Look, he’s pecking into the others…his brothers!” “Into his next-door-neighbors!”  “His head popped out!” “Cooool…he’s sorta nasty but he is pretty cool!”

Option 3: Our newest community member!

As we think about putting the learning in the hands of the learner (and reflecting on the learning is a huge part of doing just that), why don’t we honor and utilize our students’ voices and visual stories more often? Why don’t we ask them to create the “title designs” for courses and curriculum more often?  It’s time we tried — clearly students as young as those in Kindergarten are ready to try it. The question is…are the adults?









That’s the what if we question presented in today’s CHANGEd 60-60-60 post which is, interestingly enough, #48.5 of #60 in the series of previously whole-numbered posts. I will mostly keep with the pattern in this post…reflecting on Bo’s words to create my own riff…but his pattern-breaking-and-creating has spurred my own imagination about how to disrupt this 60-60-60 experi(ence)ment. A disruption which will certainly happen in my own way and on my own time. And especially not on a night when Tony Wagner and his words can be an accompanying voice in this series:

The culture of schooling is at odds with the culture of learning.

There’s nothing new there.

But, what preceded this quote (and Wagner’s subsequent musing on the five ways in which schooling is in conflict with innovation which is outlined here and worth exploring) was this:

Of the hundreds of innovators I interviewed for Creating Innovators, most shared that there were a few teachers – sometimes just one – who served as an inspiration. The teachers of these now-innovators were the ones who were certainly at odds with their peers. And I suspect that at the time most of them were okay with this.

Who are those educators who are at odds with their peers (and/or supervisors) (and/or schools)? Are the ones who are at odds the educators who believe in the culture of schooling or the culture of learning? Which groups are celebrated and encouraged in their pattern-breaking-and-creating?

All important questions for educators and administrators to consider…and in fact, it reflects the first question that was asked of Wager during tonight’s Q&A. The question, posed by a student in twelfth grade was, “So how exactly do you break the system?”

Isn’t it time that we started responding to the questions of our students? Or at least started asking (and acting upon) those same questions?


The Global Citizenship and Social Entrepreneurship Lecture Series:
Tony Wagner Keynotes at Holy Innocents Episcopal School


My Notes: 5 Ways in Which Schooling is Different from Innovation

  1. individual achievement vs. collaboration
  2. specialization vs. project-based and multidisciplinary learning experiences
  3. risk-avoidance vs. trail and error (and failure)
  4. consuming vs. creating
  5. extrinsic rewards vs. intrinsic rewards for learning


Thinking about What if we scrimmaged and rehearsed more — like teams? 60-60-60 #48 and reflecting…

Dean Shareski has been writing about how make better teachers and both posts provide an excellent riff for this 48th in the series of 60 CHANGEd reflections. Shareski’s part one is about reflection and part two is about formative assessment through video recording. I’m impressed with the connections his posts have to Bo’s questions (below) about practicing pedagogy:

Don’t we know that scrimmaging and rehearsing enhance performance? Don’t we owe it to our learners to practice, scrimmage, and rehearse before we play the actual game?

As I commented on Shareski’s second post, the work that’s being done with the Global Physics Department is an excellent example of what practicing pedagogy can look like:

A friend and colleague of mine, John Burk, created the Global Physics Department a year or so ago and I have been amazed with the level of professional development it’s provided to physics professors and teachers all over the US (and occasionally world). As you write about the power of reflection and using video for formative assessment and growth, I am reminded of John’s work with virtual professional development in the form of video assessment. While it’s nice for math teachers to connect with English teachers and collaboratively assess a teaching video, for teachers who may not have a direct counterpart, groups like the GPD or #sschat or the English Companion Ning provide incredibly powerful PD opportunities… sometimes even more powerful than what faculty could get f2f at their school or district.

I wonder how many educators understand how strong a community the GPD actually is? I wonder how many educators realize that connecting via Twitter with #sschat or #1stchat or #_____________ can lead to real and meaningful personal and professional relationships? And I wonder how many educators know that there are almost 34,000 members who belong to the English Companion Ning, a place “where English teachers go to help each other.”

The fact that we can practice pedagogy anywhere, anytime, and with anyone is something all of us should pay attention to. So what are (most of us) waiting for?

Virtual communities. Virtual coaching. Online reflection and assessment.

Foreign to some but fundamental to others.