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.

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.

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.

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.