Questions and Commitments

Ms. DiDonato’s class is officially one month along with 20% Time.  There have been a few pivots with project ideas, but no drastic changes from the student’s project proposals.

There have been many questions, ranging from “Now what?” to “Should I learn Python or Scratch?” to “Can I prototype this again with cardboard since styrofoam didn’t work?”

The consistency has been a commitment to research, production, writing, and sharing.

Every other week, students report out progress via their blog.  The “non-blogging” weeks students must read and comment on three classmates blog posts.  The commenting has been productive.  Students are sharing not only words of encouragement, but thoughtful suggestions, strategies, or ideas.  At the very least, these are exercises in digital citizenship, collaboration, communication, writing, and creativity.

This might not work . . .

This might not work …

And that’s okay.  For our students, this is an exercise in learning how to learn, reflect, and produce.  For us, we’re learning how to inspire and work with the uncertainty, in addition to learning new things alongside the students.

Last week we met with students and discussed their 20% Time proposals.  Some of the proposals that students shared last week were:

“Creating a Masterpiece: Making a Movie Through the Eyes of a Beginner” in which the student is learning how to write a script and digitally film a sci-fi movie.

“Project Plan and Accomplish” in which the student is learning how to plan an event for a charity.

“A Writer’s Journey 2018” where the student is making an attempt at writing a novel.

“Positive Poems for You” – his short poem sums up his goal:

“As I make use of my 20% time,

To create a verse and perhaps a rhyme,

I hope to influence you in a small way,

To make a difference in this world today.”

“Alyssa’s Easy Steps to Learn the Piano.”  You guessed it, she’ll be creating videos that teach others how to play the piano.

There are so many more projects like students learning to code and create video games using Scratch, others who are inventing and prototyping solutions to problems they see, another who is researching personality and success, others that are documenting travel in unique ways, and the list goes on.

We are really excited about these student-generated projects!  

To get students started with finding their interests and passions, we borrowed A.J. Juliani’s and John Spencer’s “Interest Finding Charts”.  We also showed them an interest chart that I completed.  But, I also showed them how to combine interests and passions. For example, I combined my interests in the environment, the ocean, surfing, and photography and created a photography blog.  My hope was to help them see an example of how I combined many of my interests to learn more about digital photography, editing, blogging, and being in nature or environments that I enjoy.

Here are some resources that we have used so far:

20% Time Project Tracking Template detailed Google Sheet

Interest Finding Chart (elementary)

Interesting Finding Chart

Interest Finding Chart with reduced topics

Blogger for student weekly blog posts and discussions (We’re a Google District, so it just makes sense).

Here’s info on publishing student blogs. Right now our student blogs are only visible to students in our school district.

This might not work, but so far,  I think it will.

Excitement for the unknown

20% Time: week one reflections.

I’m working with a teacher to implement “20% Time” in her English Language Arts class.  This is really exciting for me, as this has created the opportunity for me to collaborate with Ms. DiDonato (ELA teacher) and got me back in the classroom working with students.  This is her second school year launching 20% Time with a group of students.  She’s iterating on this project, looking to make it bigger and better.  I’m participating weekly to experience the process, the conversations, and to notice “pain points,” challenges, successes, and gain perspective.  We’re working together to help this group of students explore their interests, develop a project, and write/reflect weekly. While we also create a plan to scale 20% Time.

It’s fun work.

What we did:

We discussed the 20% Time concept.  We showed some videos to engage them, explained the connection to ELA standards for writing, and discussed overarching expectations. We explained that there was no “map” (or procedures) for the project; rather, guidelines for weekly writing, reflection, and commenting on classmates writing.  We started “interest finding.”

Finally, the most exciting aspects for the students were these two concepts:

1. Learn anything you want.

2. It’s okay to fail.

The excitement, joy, and anxiousness were written all over their faces.  We’re embarking on this journey, and we know it’s leading to growth.

To be continued.

“Nothing in common”

This might work.

Tell your students to find two things with seemingly nothing in common.

Then, have those students name, draw, photograph, bring in, etc. those things.

Partner students up.

Now, have the partners switch their things with “nothing in common.”

Now, prompt students to think, brainstorm, and write to find the commonalities between his/her partners two things with nothing in common.

Finally, after a few minutes, have students close the activity with a discussion among the class to share out their ideas.

This can be linked to a writing assignment or just for fun.  It might help teach empathy and perspective, promote dialogue and discussion.

It might be fun.

It might fail.

What do you think?  Leave a note in the comments section.

The A in STE(A)M.

The A in STE(A)M.

Why art matters. Art touches our heart and soul. It can pull at someone’s heartstrings. It is emotional labor.  The artist creates (in any medium available).  The art can be found in putting a vision of design into the project.  The art and design draw us into the story, project, music, product, brand, company, blog, website, etc.

The art, combined with the engineering, math, science, technology and the human-centered empathy creates solutions, products, and services that keep us engaged. Regardless of career, we can all be artists. Engineers designing bridges. Software engineers designing VR and AR learning games. Product designers creating new technological hardware. Authors writing a novel. Speakers engaging an audience in a talk. Artists drawing with pencil and paper and digitally. Musicians creating poetry, music, and telling stories.

We need to teach that art is an aspect of everything we teach, learn, create, and touch, moreover, how and why we should all become artists.

Teaching Reflection

Teaching Reflection.

The concept of “How” do I …?” is often a discussion for educators and students.  “How do I … ?” fill in the blank … “solve this word problem,” “write this conclusion,” or the thousands of examples in which teachers explain, model, and demonstrate for students how to do something.  As we close the school year, perhaps we show students how to “reflect on the year.”  I would agree that the “How?” of learning is possibly one of the most important skills.  Students need to learn how to learn and develop metacognition.  With our help, they can develop perseverance, develop grit, and work through the struggles and failures of learning.  However, I believe we must start with “Why?” and finish with reflections about their “Why?” This is probably the most important aspect to model and discuss with students.  This year, we were proud to see our students in all of our schools set and work towards personal goals.  The teachers and students are certainly reflecting on those goals as we approach the end of our school year (and some are possibly setting new ones for the summer and for next school year).  

Here are some ideas to finish the year strong:

  • Lead reflective discussions (perhaps use Pear Deck since teachers control whether responses are displayed for the class, plus they’re displayed anonymously)
  • Share your own personal life lessons on setting, achieving and/or not reaching goals
  • Discuss favorite or memorable lessons and ask students to explain why they were so memorable (this will help show that you are reflecting as a teacher on how you can make lessons better for students)
  • Have students create bulletin board or whiteboard wall art that explains, “Tips for “incoming” students.”
  • Consider tracking goals using Sheets and Docs – perhaps students can track some type of personal progress over the summer
  • Watch and discuss Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk – “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance”
  • Have individual student-led conferences to help students finish strong
  • Create a “Pride Wall” for goal achievements where students can share their accomplishments

 

In the end, start with “Why,” and continue to come back to that throughout the year.  

Plan – Do – Check – Act – it’s all a process, especially for learning.

Design Thinking

Design thinking has become a bit of a buzzword in education over the past few years.   In our classes I do not want it to become (and have no intent in it becoming) reduced to a buzzword.  

Design thinking is a process and a mindset.  It cannot be reduced to a simple checklist.  Lessons and projects for students should include empathy, experimentation, prototyping, reflection, and redesign.  

Abandon prescriptive scenarios.  Facilitate activities that let students “problem find,” practice empathy, interpret issues and find meaning leading to the generation of new ideas, experiments, and iterations.

Students can learn these valuable skills centered on empathy, collaboration, prototyping, and iteration if we set out to create opportunities to include these mindsets in our instruction.

The interesting thing about design thinking is that teachers are inherently designers of instruction, beginning with empathy for their students’ needs.  Ultimately, we need to support our teachers with time to create projects that allow the students to practice design thinking.  

 

Here are some great books to introduce kids to these mindsets:

What Do You Do With an Idea?

 

What Do You Do With a Problem?

 

The Most Magnificent Thing

 

Here’s a good resource to get started:

Design Thinking for Educators