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.

Passion for learning

Here’s my attempt at a description that comes to mind from some things I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks.

When a teacher’s passion for making a difference in kid’s lives, for the subject, for being a coach, for reading, for math, for using technology, for asking questions, for telling stories, for creating connections, (among so many other things teachers do) combined with the art of teaching it creates amazing opportunities for learning.

They create a culture in which everyone is respected, supported, and loves being a part of.  They take risks.  Kids are excited to come to class and bummed to leave.  They’re engrossed in their learning.  There is joy in discovery. There is passion for learning.

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.

A map vs. a compass

A map provides a picture of a specific location. It can show you the routes you may take.  If you stay on the roads, you know the path you’re going to take.

A compass always points the direction you’re heading.  It allows you to get on and off a course.

A map shows you the known ways.

A compass gives you the freedom to discover new ways.  It allows you take your own path while still getting you to your desired end goal.

A map tells you what is interesting.

A compass guides you to find your interests.

A map is a representation of the world.

A compass helps you navigate the world.

It’s good to understand how to read maps.

It’s better to use your compass and follow your own path.

It’s even better to discover new paths, ideas, points of interest and share the map you’ve just created.

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!