TheLearningLab.live

For years, students have had access to the Internet, social networks, and one-to-one device initiatives in school districts across the country and world. With this access comes a responsibility to engage students in their interests, career aspirations, local and global collaboration, and connect them with current practitioners and thought leaders. This is actually a component of the Future Ready Schools initiative in which schools and districts across the US are pledging to prepare their students to be future ready.

The LearningLab.live’s goal is to create a community of local (and even global) businesses and leaders, non-profits, and educators that will engage students in relevant, authentic, and timely project-based learning opportunities that need completion now. [Hence, the dot live].

The mission: To connect students, teachers, and schools with relevant and authentic project-based learning opportunities, amplified by coaching and collaboration. Now.

To learn more about TheLearningLab.live click here.

To sign up for a “beta” project for the 2018-19 school-year, go here.

By doing this project, I am embracing the fear, ambiguity, and challenges of starting something like this. I am enjoying the excitement and energy of starting something that has the potential to make a positive impact. 

I dare you . . .

I dare you . . .

To learn something new and share it with the world!

What’s the worst that can happen?

Don’t answer that question. The answer is nothing.

When was the last time you learned something new? Whether it was by choice, for school/work, for a project . . . or even, for a practical reason, like something broke and it was just more cost-effective to learn how to repair or replace, and simply do it yourself. When was the last time you really dug in to new learnings?

Nowis the perfect time to learn something new. With so much information at our fingertips, it simply makes sense. Between podcasts, YouTube, online courses found on platforms EdEx, Udemy or Creative Live, or even workshops like the altMBA, there are so many options for on-demand learning.

You can even challenge yourself and learn new skills offline. Try something that connects you with nature, friends, or even strangers. Perhaps a weekly goal of one new hike with an attempt to identify birds or plant species.

Maybe I just can’t sit still for very long, but I really do enjoy self-directed, creative, challenging, and novel learning and projects.

Here are some (new to me) learnings that I explored over the past few weeks:

How to make homemade Kombucha Tea, which sent me on a fermentation kick making homemade sauerkrauts too. It’s tasty, healthy, and way cheaper than buying regularly. 

Operating a new FujiFilm XT-20 mirrorless camera. A new camera with new features is always fun to learn. 

Blogging, putting sustained effort into putting written work out to the world. It’s not perfect, and it may not be for everyone. But, hopefully it’s worthwhile for those that read.

Fishing with my son. (Surprisingly, I was never that into fishing as a kid), but now it’s been fun to learn the intrices and skills. From tying specific knots and using different bait and presentations to catch a specific species of fish, it’s been a fun experience to get outside and occasionally catch dinner.

If you’re interested, stay tuned for two new things that I am in the process of learning and will be sharing with the world in the next week.

Tech-Free Zone

Tech-Free Zone

No phones allowed here. 

For the most part, technology is good and making our lives more efficient, easier, more connected, and creating more opportunity.

I think kids today have the opportunity to learn faster than any generation before them simply due to access to information and adaptive/personalized learning technologies.

However, we have to teach “technology etiquette and balance” along with the empathy and communication skills needed for in-person interactions. There are different and new skills to learn now, like how to balance online and “real life,” in-person relationships or how to turn off the phone and be present with those you are with.

We need to teach a balanced use of technology and a responsible use of technology. We should consider “technology-free zones and times” in our schools and homes. Kids today might have more opportunity, but there’s more responsibility that comes with access to a platform to interact with the world at the click of a button. Click here for more ideas.

Do you create technology-free zones or times in your life?

Assignment: 20% Time Reflection

How did we promote reflection when students completed their projects?

We gave students the following prompt and asked them the following questions:

Strive to write a 3-5 paragraph essay explaining the process, your accomplishments, some setbacks, and the final result. Most importantly, tell us what you’ve learned: about the world, about a specific topic, and about yourself!

How did I do?

What did I learn?

What impact can this experience have on others?

How can we make 20% Time better and increase opportunities for students across the district?

20% Time “Sunk Costs”

Students have finished up their 20% Time projects and their presentations this past week.

Their work has been interesting, inspiring, challenging, creative, and most importantly self-directed!

Recently, I’ve been learning about a concept called sunk costs.  I’ll be sharing more about this in future posts, but for now, just consider it a cost, whether it be time or money, that we’ll never get back.  

Did every student produce a finished/completed project, solution, prototype, work of art that can be brought to market, change the world, or make a giant impact on their community?  No.

But, the metacognition, project management, communication, critical thinking, analytical, and reflective skills gained are so important.  20% Time Projects aren’t so much about finishing. Rather, these projects are about starting – starting something without a map and making something of their own fruition.

The students dug-deep on their final blog posts too, the metacognition was evident. Students wrote about how they see themselves as learners, and their personal strengths and weaknesses (at this time demonstrating growth mindset).  Plus, they wrote about how they will apply this knowledge in other academic areas.

A few Fridays of work focused on projects that students enjoyed and that some will eventually complete more thoroughly on their own time over the next few months have a value that only time and persistence with self-directed learning will deliver on.

Sunk costs?  Nominal, if you ask me.

 

Making and creating

Photography and writing are two hobbies where I see myself as “making” something.  It’s not quite building the “built-in” shelving that I’m planning to tackle one day.  Still, it’s creating something new to me and to share with others.  Like cooking, it’s all from scratch.

I think that there’s a place for all art, mediums, and re-mixes of tools that we have available today. This might even seem odd for me to say since I have a background in environmental science and as an Earth science teacher.  But, in my work as an environmental specialist, I made GIS maps for various spatial analysis projects.  It was science, math, geography, art, and design combined.  Later, as a teacher, creating, delivering lessons, and facilitating activities were also creative endeavors.

Back to education.  What about making with art supplies (digital or traditional), or tools, or crafts?  Are we giving our kids enough experiences with every medium available to them and become creators?  Let’s prioritize creativity in the classroom.

With my own children, we’re regularly making and creating new projects, games, and art.  We enjoy all sorts of making from cardboard box castles or rocket ships to painting to gardening to using scraps of wood to make tracks for Hotwheels.  To engage with those moments of play and making are some of the best moments of parenting.

Recently, I’ve seen some really creative, student-centered and designed projects made by our students.  From 3D printed bobbleheads to cardboard mini-golf holes to MakeyMakey projects to Pop-Art sculptures to group paintings . . . I’ve seen so much creativity around my school district, and I know we’re just getting started.

Share some creative projects you’re working on or that you’re seeing in your schools.

Going first

During the close of a recent class, I overheard a conversation about the students presenting during their next class period.  Essentially, no one wanted to go first.

I interjected politely and encouraged that they should all be volunteering to present first, to set the bar high, to be confident, that there’s nothing to fear, and to want to go first.  Now, I understand that presenting in middle school and high school is nerve-racking for some kids.  It can even be that way for adults, (myself included sometimes)!

But, I guess what I’ve come to learn is that by embracing this ‘fear’ or apprehension in the first place, let alone going first, is simply a false fear.  Our limbic brain, the amygdala, no longer has to worry about predators, like tigers or wolves, in our modern, civilized world.  The limbic part of our brain controls fight or flight responses.  So, the common fear of public speaking is now something this part of our brain can stress over.

Things to share with kids:

  • Be proactive.  Take initiative, own responsibilities, and prepare.
  • Visualize and begin with the end in mind.
  • Know your content and material inside and out.  Start with the biggest tasks to prepare.
  • Rehearse with peers and family.
  • Use storytelling and narrative to engage your audience, which will help you be better able to recall it yourself.
  • Nothing bad will happen even if a mistake is made.

These tips came to mind after hearing this exchange among those kids. I hope that we can all create a culture of empathy and rapport so that all students can flourish into confident communicators.