Project-based

It’s been said over and over again that today’s economy does not need the factory model education system.  We know that we are so far past that.  So why do we still beat this drum?  Haven’t we changed?

The argument is for cross-curricular and inter-disciplinary projects for students. With such easy access to information, there are so many opportunities for the integration of content and skills from multiple disciplines into every class.  The assessment of skills can be infused into challenging scenarios that connect to life and events outside of the classroom walls.  The scenarios can be tough to create, but teachers tend to be creative, engaging storytellers.  Better yet, use an actual real-world problem.  Even better, have students FIND the problem that they want to solve!  You may argue, “But there are basics to learn.”  Well, there’s small group instruction and digital tools that help facilitate practice and assess the basics, while the rest of the class can be for collaboration and problem-solving.  The problems and projects are how we really engage our students, helping them discover interests.  We live and work in a project-based and problem-based world and economy, so why not engage our students in that type of work?

It’s NOT the teachers, the principals, administration, or really anyone on the “front lines” that are actively promoting a factory model of teaching.  I’m very lucky. I rarely see kids in rows being talked at for an hour. My assertion is that we need more real-world, problem- and project-based activities in the classroom.

Interest finding

What if we had the opportunity and choice to learn something new every day and then spend about an hour with a topic each day?  Oh wait, we do . . . and our opportunities are almost infinite.  It’s just a matter of making the choice or, if we’re a parent, encouraging and creating that opportunity.

It’s getting up a bit earlier, going to sleep a bit later, turning off the TV, and stopping the endless scrolling on social media.  I’ve been doing the podcast and Audible book routine for about three years now, and it’s amazing.  I’ve gained an extra hour and half of learning and inspiration from each day.

What if we gave our students this choice?  Go learn something.  Anything.  Want to build an epic skate ramp?  Yes.  Tai Chi? Yes.  Baking?  Yes.  How to start an organic garden?  Go for it.

Go ahead, scratch the surface.  Find something that interests you?  No, pick a new topic.  Did you find something new?  Great, dive in.  What did you find?  Now what?  Tell us about it – synthesize it.  Again, now what? Create something. Inspire us, prepare a TEDed Talk.  Build something.  Make some art. Fail. Try again.  This might be called Genius Hour, or 20% Time.  This is learning and this is fun!

Different Paths

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” Dalai Lama

This is a quote that I hope all children (and adults, alike) think about before they pass judgment on someone else’s path, or put so much pressure on a young mind to be on a “path to success,” (or someone else’s version of that path).

Free will and choice are what makes being human and living in the free world so amazing. The ability to wake up and say, “I am going to learn black and white film photography.” Or, “I’m going to take an edX course in neuroscience.”

In school, kids really, really need to learn the soft skill of empathy.  And, we must support everyone in being on a different road.  The “athlete” road, the “music” path, the “not-so-advanced math” route.  To the people among every group, there are insiders and outsiders.  Who cares?  Every path has opportunities.  There’s quite a bit of talk of uninvented jobs of the future.  So, the imperative is for us to help kids find their passion and have the skills and confidence to be successful on whatever path they may be on in that moment.

As educators, it’s our job to help personalize the learning for every child, regardless of what path they’re on.

Perhaps there should be less stress or emphasis on what path someone is on, and more emphasis supporting different paths, having the skills to learn something new, seeing opportunities, listening, empathizing, and taking action.

Time

When asked what surprised him about humanity the most, the Dalai Lama replied:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Whether the Dalai Lama said this or not, this struck a chord with me.  I feel like I used to be really good at living in the present.  Now, not so much.  It’s either nostalgia, having more responsibilities as a father and the stress of work-life balance, or the combination of everything.  I’m working on this.

We are so busy and it is oftentimes so difficult to maintain our perspective of the present … and we miss it.  Time is our most valuable commodity.  The past and future are only concepts that exist in the present.  Be here now.

Highlights

Highlights from the school year.

I can’t believe another school year is just about in the books!

It was an awesome school year and a few highlights come to mind in my reflections that I wanted to share.

These are just a few of the amazing things I’ve seen this school year:

  • Peer reviews
  • Self-assessment
  • Cross-curricular and interdisciplinary projects and lessons
  • Students teaching other students
  • Students explaining content and “Why”
  • Students setting goals
  • Personalized lessons and differentiation for students
  • Students creating with online and offline tools
  • Personalized instruction with and without technology
  • Students designing and creating
  • Teachers coaching and facilitating
  • Students talking about perseverance and growth
  • Students “pitching” designs and concepts “ala Shark Tank”
  • Students being leaders and collaborators
  • Students helping one another
  • Students having fun, laughing, and experience joy in learning