Allowing students to lead.

When we let kids ask their own questions, solve their own problems, research and discover in ways that best suit them, we are creating the space for students to lead themselves. To explore, discover, and develop a love for learning.

Letting kids discover and allowing them to lead is difficult and ambiguous work.

The teachers and the students who are going to the edges of the unknown, creating space for students to become self-directed learners are leading us. They’re creating a culture of learning that is so important.

The Learning Lab Podcast

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 haven’t shared this project with many, but every time I do, I am excited and interested in the feedback.

So, here it is – https://www.thelearninglab.live/podcast/

WHO’S IT FOR?

A podcast for students interested in career exploration – middle schoolers, high schoolers, or college students (even career changers) – and those that are simply curious about different careers, paths, and the work that people do.

WHAT’S IT FOR?

The podcast is for learning the inside scoop on various careers, but particularly learning about the work directly from someone who does the work today.  Plus, we discuss the learning processes involved and each person’s unique learning and career path.

Let’s get learning.

Share and/or subscribe on Apple podcasts.

Share and/or subscribe on Anchor.FM

Share and/or subscribe on Stitcher podcasts.

What are your questions?

I’m going to attempt to connect some dots here.

I love it when I see a classroom environment that promotes wonder, questioning, and discovery among students.  Check out Launch by AJ Juliani and John Spencer for more on this topic.  But, here’s a quote that really stuck with me: “Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is ask a question.”

I’m going to attempt to make a connection to a few assertions by Brene Brown, (Dare to Lead and Braving the Wilderness, among others) – that “Courage starts with showing up, and letting ourselves be seen.”

In the classroom, that courage can simply start with a question.  But, how many times do students literally fear asking a question, and being vulnerable in front of their peers? How often do we feel this way?

Borrowing another quote from Brene Brown: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” 

So, if we truly encourage an environment of “wonder and discovery” in schools and classrooms, we need the courage to be vulnerable and ask questions that lead to the innovation or transformation we seek. 

And, as one of my colleagues so poignantly put it, we need to say, “What are your questions?”

Go.

Flow state.

fullsizeoutput_298f

The other day I was fortunate to surf some beautiful, fun waves right up the road from my home here in NJ.  Picture four foot, clean, steep, and fast breaking waves.  An offshore wind, holding the wave face open for a surfer to sneak a little tube (or cover up by the wave face).  I felt like I couldn’t stop surfing. My friends left after awhile. It just continued to stay fun.  Time slipped by.  I ended up surfing for four hours.  My brain wanted to keep going, but I had to go in for food, water, and to warm up. 

I had another experience recently where time literally slipped by.  Email and notifications were off.  I planned to work on a presentation for an hour.  Time slipped by.  I was in the flow.  Creating, writing, making.

Over an hour later, the phone rang. I had snapped out of it.  It was my scheduled call with a vendor for one of our programs. I quickly refocused my attention to the conversation and later continued on with my workday – never getting back to a flow state that day.

I thought of all of this the other day after a discussion with some educators.

How do we create the space for kids to get into a flow state?

To simply get into that state of productive work where time seems to slip away.  A space where they continue learning, reading, practicing, and making for an extended period of time, with little to no interruption. Owning their learning.

I don’t have an answer, this just a riff.

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. 

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.

Surfing and Leadership

I was once asked to relate surfing to leadership.  I don’t recall the details of my response, but something made me think of this recently after a cold, winter surf.

Here are a few of the characteristics that come to mind.

Humility.

Particularly in the ocean, a simple miscalculation can take a turn for the worse.  The ocean has a way of reminding you to stay humble.  Leaders reflect.  They are aware of their ability, and even then, not over-confident.  Leaders are humble and do their best to surround themselves with people that make the team better.

Camaraderie.

Surfers are part of a tribe. Surfing has a long history and culture. The entire process and lifestyle of surfing is often a commitment, but one that can be shared with friends and family. A career can be fun, certainly challenging, or even ultra-competitive in some industries, but the hope is that a career is meaningful, fun, and that within your career you’re part of a tribe.  Leaders build camaraderie.  Leaders make a commitment to a positive culture, foster relationship-building, and individual growth for the betterment of the organization and culture.

Mindfulness.

The ocean can oftentimes dictate conditions beyond one’s ability.  In surfing, it’s best to have an awareness for dangerous and challenging situations; it wise to not put oneself or others in danger.  Yes, one may still push and challenge themselves, but by listening to one’s gut and knowing one’s limits, you are not letting your ego make rash decisions.  During challenging situations, leaders stay true to their core and don’t let their ego get in the way. They approach conversations with authenticity and are mindful while engaged with others. Finally, leaders are always learning and willing to use new information to grow, change directions with a decision, and use new learning to make people and processes better.

Observant.

Besides enjoying the surf, and focusing on themselves and how many waves they’ve caught – surfers take it all in – the scenery, the horizon, the swell, the gulls surfing the spray of a wave.  They’re aware of the current swell and understand the weather patterns that will create a future swell.  Surfers react in the moment to the wave their riding and the conditions they’re in.  But even more importantly, observant surfers are aware of who’s around them. They know where the little kids on the inside are paddling or swimming; they listen and look out for the whereabouts and well-being of other surfers.  Similarly, observant leaders care for and watch out for everyone.  Leaders take a humanistic approach to decisions. They have a deep understanding of the global picture of their organization.  Leaders make calculated decisions based on the conditions, people, and the “health” of the organization. Leaders are also keenly aware of and seek opportunities for the growth of the organization.

I’m fortunate to work with a dynamic group of leaders that embody all of these characteristics. They make me do my best and make me better every single day.