Posts Tagged ‘school reform’
Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people. — Seth Godin
From the video:
We are a species of moonshot thinking – People can set their minds to magical, seemingly impossible ideas and bring them to reality through innovation, science, and technology. This sets others on fire.
Human progress has been a series of amazing, audacious things, Our ambitions are a glass ceiling in what we can accomplish. When you find your passion you are unstoppable. You can make amazing things happen. It has been true through history. I believe in the human spirit.
If we become afraid to take these risks, we stop inspiring people, we stop achieving things. The biggest nightmare scenario is that we won’t have what it takes to solve the really big challenges.
Moonshot thinking is actually an “invention” of Google’s Solve for X project. It’s general ideas and concepts, though, have application to being an educator and encouraging learners to engage in moonshot thinking. Here are some of the general concepts and principles that have application across disciplines.
Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction; they are 10x improvement, not 10%. That’s partly what makes them so exciting.
Moonshots can come from anywhere—people of all ages and places, companies, academia, inspired experts, enthusiastic newcomers, and often from accidental discoveries. (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/whats-your-x-amplifying-technology.html)
Our society has many ways of telling us to play it safe: We say “walk before you run,” “slow and steady wins the race,” “under-promise and over-deliver.” In repeating these mantras we’re not training ourselves to think big. I’m a father to four kids, so it bothers me that even though our children think big naturally, our society systematically trains them out of thinking that way.
Not all moonshots have to be about technology. Gandhi’s Salt March or the struggle for civil rights in the United States are examples of social moonshots.
Why focus on moonshot thinking? Isn’t it enough to work harder to collectively solve problems to make the progress we need? Actually, no, not really. Because we might be solving the wrong problems. These moonshots aren’t just for the few experts in some moonshot inner circle.
What if we could replace all that effort on the wrong problem with the bravery to change the very question itself? (Also see Learners Should Be Developing Their Own Essential Questions). Often, if you step back and apply enough audacity and creativity, the new perspective you get makes doing the impossible, possible
These moonshots aren’t just for the few experts in some moonshot inner circle. All of us can come up with solutions for society’s most intractable issues. We can train ourselves to make moonshot thinking not an occasional thing but a habit of mind. No one really knew how to build an airplane when they decided to build the first airplane — but they kept going and achieved it. We can ask the same hard, slightly crazy questions of our own and declare our own moonshots as individuals and as groups. (http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/02/moonshots-matter-heres-how-to-make-them-happen/)
In my presentations, I always state that learning should be filled with epic wins. The idea of moonshot thinking is directly related to epic learning, doing, and being.
Epic doesn’t rely upon a prefabricated blueprint (although it soaks up as much learning as it can from whatever blueprints are out there). Epic understands that it has to go someplace new, feeling its way through uncharted territory by the light of its own intuition.
Epic is an artist, bringing all of its values to work, pushing the extremes of personality, slapping a soulprint on the world.
Epic is about bringing it.
Epic is about showing unique value.
Epic is about provoking and illuminating and being insanely useful and reaching people emotionally and shifting the paradigm a lot or a little.
Epic is scary. It moves you outside your comfort zone. Instead of following a leader, you are the leader, and the only thing to follow is the voice at your core, your actions and mistakes and triumphs and feedback. http://justinemusk.com/2013/04/19/6-observations-about-writing-epic-shit/
Marsha Ratzel, a National Board-certified teacher in the Blue Valley School District in Kansas, discusses the results of transforming her classroom into an epic learning journey.
My students are willing to take on hard tasks and don’t always want the easy way out. I just told one of my kids the other day: we are the kind of people who do the hard stuff now, and if we wanted it easy we would have looked it up in a book. Instead we have developed confidence in each other, and we want to discover the answers for ourselves. My students “get” that learning is a process. And while they may encounter moments where something doesn’t turn out the way they expected, they know how to change that into something positive. If students have a better idea than the one I present, they ask me to change things up. We co-create and co-learn with each other.
I feel that I’m a totally different teacher. This style of coaching learners allows me to find the Zone. You know — that place where you just “do” teaching. It’s probably not something I can explain very well if you haven’t experienced it. But maybe it’s happened to you in some situation where you took on a challenge — a sport, a hobby, even having a child. When you start out, just like in mountain biking, it’s all a technical undertaking. Small problems are magnified. Now, instead of being confounded by a narrow trail, rocks and too much sand, I have developed a natural sense of just how to take those trails. More importantly, my students know how to avoid spinouts as well. They’ve learned along with me.
Once you’ve tasted this kind of teaching — seen students learn so much more in your classes than they ever have learned before — then the fun of it, the reward of it, is so great that you strive to get back into this kind of flow every time you walk into the classroom. It changes the way you do lesson design. You look for the same content, but you’re imagining different approaches that make it student centered. Now it’s less about the teacher talking or showing how and more of the kiddos doing.
In the Classroom
Living is this time and age, we all have the potential, voice, and tools to create a world based our own ideas, dreams, and passions . . . to be audacious and epic.
How do educators convey this message, promote this way of thinking, and teach learning how to learn skills to facilitate this way of being? What follows are the beginnings of some questions I developed to initiate and encourage a dialogue (internally and/or with colleagues) about moonshot thinking and being epic.
- Can you, as the educator, approach teaching open-ended, not with the end in mind, but open to all kinds of possibilities and outcomes?
- How is innovation and disruption described and discussed with your learners?
- What examples do you show learners about innovators and innovation?
- Do you assist your learners in finding, seeking, exploring, and developing their passions?
- Do you permit, encourage, and celebrate authentic efforts even when they fail?
- How do you facilitate epic learning and wins in the classroom?
- Finally (maybe most important) – what amazing and audacious ideas do you, as the educator, have to change the lives of your learners and education? What actions have you taken to try out those ideas?
Having essential questions drive curriculum and learning has become core to many educators’ instructional practices. Grant Wiggins, in his work on Understanding By Design, describes an essential question as:
A meaning of “essential” involves important questions that recur throughout one’s life. Such questions are broad in scope and timeless by nature. They are perpetually arguable – What is justice? Is art a matter of taste or principles? How far should we tamper with our own biology and chemistry? Is science compatible with religion? Is an author’s view privileged in determining the meaning of a text? We may arrive at or be helped to grasp understandings for these questions, but we soon learn that answers to them are invariably provisional. In other words, we are liable to change our minds in response to reflection and experience concerning such questions as we go through life, and that such changes of mind are not only expected but beneficial. A good education is grounded in such life-long questions, even if we sometimes lose sight of them while focusing on content mastery. The big-idea questions signal that education is not just about learning “the answer” but about learning how to learn. (http://www.authenticeducation.org/ae_bigideas/article.lasso?artid=53)
Although essential questions are powerful advance organizers and curriculum drivers, the problem is that the essential questions are typically developed by the educator not the learners. The educator may find these questions interesting and engaging, but that does not insure that students will find them as such.
Jamie McKenzie describes what actually happens in most schools and classrooms in terms of questioning.
There have always been plenty of questions in schools, but most of them have come from the teacher, often at the rate of one question every 2-3 seconds. Unfortunately, these rapid fire questions are not the questions we need to encourage because they tend to be recall questions rather than questions requiring higher level thought. The most important questions of all are those asked by students as they try to make sense out of data and information. These are the questions which enable students to make up their own minds. Powerful questions – smart questions, if you will – are the foundation for information power, engaged learning and information literacy. Sadly, most studies of classroom exchanges in the past few decades report that student questions have been an endangered species for quite some time. (Goodlad, Sizer, Hyman, etc.) (http://fno.org/oct97/question.html)
Steve Denning in a Forbes article, Learning To Ask The Right Question, stated:
In education, there is often more emphasis on teaching than learning. The current test-driven system, which views teaching as imparting the right answers to the students, often does a poor job of equipping students to find the right question. If as I suggest the true goal of education is inspiring students with a lifelong capacity and passion for learning, it is at least as important that students be able to ask the right question as it is to know the right answer.
McKenzie (in 1997!) further discusses how the art of learner questioning by is especially relevant in this age of information abundance:
As long as schools are primarily about teaching rather than learning, there is little need for expanded information capabilities. Considering the reality that schools and publishers have spent decades compressing and compacting human knowledge into efficient packages and delivery systems like textbooks and lectures, they may not be prepared for this New Information Landscape which calls for independent thinking, exploration, invention and intuitive navigation. (http://fno.org/oct97/question.html)
Questioning comes naturally to children and seems to become a lost art and skill as people age.
Paul Harris, a developmental psychologist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, argues that questions occupy a more central role than we realize in childhood cognitive development. Young children, he says, learn a great deal about the world simply by asking questions and listening to others. When Harris thinks of children asking questions, he sees them performing a series of complex mental maneuvers. “The child has to first realize that they don’t know something…and that other people are information-bearing agents,” Harris said. “Then the child has to be able to, somehow or other, realize that language is a tool for shifting stuff from that person to them.”
Adults tend to rush through those steps, perhaps because they seem like second nature. But figuring out what makes a good question—or rather, what kind of question will get us the information we want—isn’t such a simple thing, even for grownups. It requires stopping to think about what we’re trying to find out, what the person we’re talking to might know, and what words we should use to coax them into helping us. Being good at asking questions is the art of identifying those gaps, sorting them, and figuring out how to fill them. Considered that way, it is a strange skill: “the ability to organize your thinking around something you know nothing about,” said Rothstein.
That can get harder as we get older, in large part because we grow more confident that we understand the world around us, and lose the capacity to see past our own beliefs. Business consultant and former Hewlett-Packard chief technology officer Phil McKinney in his book “Beyond the Obvious,” argues that crafting good questions is precisely what allows people to make imaginative leaps. “The challenge is that, as adults, we lose our curiosity over time. We get into ruts, we become experts in our fields or endeavors,” (http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2012/05/19/just-ask/k9PATXFdpL6ZmkreSiRYGP/story.html?camp=pm)
I believe most educators would agree that learning to compose a good question is a skill students should possess. There is evidence that the art of asking a good questioning is a skill that most adults do not possess and that schools are not doing a good job teaching. There are some classroom activities educators can do to teach questioning techniques.
Jamie McKenzie, Ed.D. and Hilarie Bryce Davis, Ed.D. propose in Classroom Strategies to Engender Student Questioning some of the following activities to have students generate their own questions.
- Begin a New Unit with Students Developing Questions: Try starting a new unit by asking your class to think of questions that could be asked about the topic.
- Create a Taxonomy of Questions: When students begin to label the different kinds of questions, they learn to select different kinds of questions to perform different kinds of thinking. No matter what the level of schooling, some kind of label can work effectively.
- Ask Students to Create Questions as Homework (this would work with the Flipped Classroom): Put your classroom questioning typology to work with your homework assignments. If students read an assignment, let them form questions for the next day’s discussion. Ask them to:
- write three comparison questions about the story they are reading;
- identify the question the author was trying to answer;
- find a question which has no answer, or two thousand answers or an infinite number of answers;
- ask a question that is the child of a bigger question that they can then ask the rest of the class to identify.
Although, I am not big on formulaic learning, the folks at the Right Question Institute proposed process for students to learn to formulate their own questions. This can be a good start to having students learn to compose questions. The QFT has six key steps:
Step 1: Teachers Design a Question Focus. The Question Focus, or QFocus, is a prompt that can be presented in the form of a statement or a visual or aural aid to focus and attract student attention and quickly stimulate the formation of questions. The QFocus is different from many traditional prompts because it is not a teacher’s question. It serves, instead, as the focus for student questions so students can, on their own, identify and explore a wide range of themes and ideas.
Step 2: Students Produce Questions. Students use a set of rules that provide a clear protocol for producing questions without assistance from the teacher. The four rules are: ask as many questions as you can; do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer any of the questions; write down every question exactly as it was stated; and change any statements into questions.
Step 3: Students Improve Their Questions. Students then improve their questions by analyzing the differences between open- and closed-ended questions and by practicing changing one type to the other.
Step 4: Students Prioritize Their Questions. The teacher, with the lesson plan in mind, offers criteria or guidelines for the selection of priority questions.
Step 5: Students and Teachers Decide on Next Steps. At this stage, students and teachers work together to decide how to use the questions.
Step 6: Students Reflect on What They Have Learned. The teacher reviews the steps and provides students with an opportunity to review what they have learned by producing, improving, and prioritizing their questions. Making the QFT completely transparent helps students see what they have done and how it contributed to their thinking and learning. They can internalize the process and then apply it in many other settings. http://www.hepg.org/hel/article/507#home
A case study of this process in action can be found at Educators Want Students To Ask The Questions and the following Prezi does a great job describing the need for student-generated questions and the QFT process:
Wielded with purpose and care, a question can become a sophisticated and potent tool to expand minds, inspire new ideas, and give us surprising power at moments when we might not believe we have any.
Isn’t this a skill we want our learners to develop?
Schools are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning Education 3.0
Schools are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning and implementing Education 3.0.
This post seeks to compare the developments of the Internet-Web to those of education. The Internet has become an integral thread of the tapestries of most societies throughout the globe. The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being; and people influence the development and content of the web. The Internet of today has become a huge picture window and portal into human perceptions, thinking, and behavior. Logically, then, it would seem that schools would follow suit in mimicking what is happening via the Internet to assist children and youth to function, learn, work, and play in a healthy, interactive, and pro-social manner in their societies-at-large.
Most schools are still living within and functioning through an Education 1.0 model. Although many would deny this, they are focusing on an essentialist-based curriculum with related ways of teaching and testing.
The foundation of essentialist curriculum is based on traditional disciplines such as math, natural science, history, foreign language, and literature. Essentialists argue that classrooms should be teacher-oriented. The teachers or administrators decide what is most important for the students to learn with little regard to the student interests. The teachers also focus on achievement test scores as a means of evaluating progress. Students in this system would sit in rows and be taught in masses. The students would learn passively by sitting in their desks and listening to the teacher. (http://www.siue.edu/~ptheodo/foundations/essentialism.html)
This description (1) rings true with a lot of schools in this age of standardization, accountability, NCLB, Race-to-the-Top, Common Core Curriculum Standards, and (2) has a lot of similarity to Web 1.0 . . .
Web 1.0 was an early stage of the conceptual evolution of the World Wide Web, centered around a top-down approach to the use of the web and its user interface. Content creators were few in Web 1.0 with the vast majority of users simply acting as consumers of content. Web 1.0 webpage’s information is closed to external editing. Thus, information is not dynamic, being updated only by the webmaster.Technologically, Web 1.0 concentrated on presenting, not creating so that user-generated content was not available. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_1.0)
Web 1.0 came out of our existing mindsets of how information is transferred, and very much reflected the 100+ year history of industrialism, with experts/businesses dispensing identical knowledge/products to mass consumers. http://www.stevehargadon.com/2007/04/web-20-and-school-20-connection.html
Derek W. Keats and J. Philipp Schmidt provide an excellent comparison of how Education 1.0 is similar to Web 1.0.
Education 1.0 is, like the first generation of the Web, a largely one-way process. Students go to [school] to get education from [teachers], who supply them with information in the form of a stand up routine that may include the use of class notes, handouts, textbooks, videos, and in recent times the World Wide Web. Students are largely consumers of information resources that are delivered to them, and although they may engage in activities based around those resources, those activities are for the most part undertaken in isolation or in isolated local groups. Rarely do the results of those activities contribute back to the information resources that students consume in carrying them out. (http://p2pfoundation.net/Education_3.0)
Steve Hardigan noted the following in 2007:
Web 2.0 has really been the flowering of new relationships between individuals and businesses, and reflects new ways of thinking that the technology has facilitated or created. It’s about engaged conversations that take place directly, and don’t rely on top-down management, but peer feedback and mentoring. It’s an incredibly effective restructuring of how learning takes place, and somehow we have to figure out how to bring this experience into our learning institutions–or they will become obsolete. (http://www.stevehargadon.com/2007/04/web-20-and-school-20-connection.html)
Similar to Web 2.0, Education 2.0 includes more interaction between the teacher and student; student to student; and student to content/expert. Some school administrators and educators seem to have taken some steps and moved into a more connected, creative Education 2.0 through using cooperative learning, global learning projects, Skype in the classroom, and shared wikis, blogs and other social networking in the classroom. But in 2013, this should be the norm not the exception.
Education 3.0 is based on the belief that content is freely and readily available. It is self-directed, interest-based learning where problem-solving, innovation and creativity drive education.
Education 3.0 is characterized by rich, cross-institutional, cross-cultural educational opportunities within which the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts that are shared, and where social networking and social benefits outside the immediate scope of activity play a strong role. The distinction between artifacts, people and process becomes blurred, as do distinctions of space and time. Institutional arrangements, including policies and strategies, change to meet the challenges of opportunities presented. There is an emphasis on learning and teaching processes with a focus on institutional changes that accompany the breakdown of boundaries (between teachers and students, higher education institutions, and disciplines) (http://p2pfoundation.net/Education_3.0).
Education 3.0 is a constructivist, heutagogical approach to teaching and learning. The teachers, learners, networks, connections, media, resources, tools create a a unique entity that has the potential to meet individual learners’, educators’, and even societal needs.
Derek W. Keats and J. Philipp Schmidt further describe the individual components of Education 3.0:
- Wide diffusion of of e-learning
- Growing interest in alternatives to teacher-centred approaches such as constructivism (Dewey, 1998), resource based learning, etc.
- Local, regional, and international collaboration to create repositories of educational content
- Awareness for the need of recognition of prior learning
- Increasing use of the Internet to find information and just in time learning
- Increasing use of information technologies in daily life and for social purposes
- Increasing social use of online virtual spaces
- A new definition of self and society that includes computer mediated social structures, and people outside of one’s immediate physical environment
- The widespread adoption of personal computers and the Internet (especially e-mail and the World Wide Web)
- The emergence of Web 2.0, including blogs, podcasts, social interaction tools, etc.
- E-Learning platforms or learning management systems that incorporate features of Web 2.0
- Free and open source software
- The development of alternative licensing mechanisms to traditional copyright, which promote the use and reuse of (educational) content without requiring further explicit permission by the author or copyright holder or payment of royalties (http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1625/1540)
The one “organized” proactive movement that I know of that is promoting a model of Education 3.0 is Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design:
Connected learning taps the opportunities provided by digital media to more easily link home, school, community and peer contexts of learning; support peer and intergenerational connections based on shared interests; and create more connections with non-dominant youth, drawing from capacities of diverse communities.
All of the pieces of an Education 3.0 are literally freely available for the taking, why aren’t those involved in the planning and implementing of schools integrating these ideas, tools and strategies into their systems? The time for planning for Education 3.0 was actual yesterday, but doing it now is okay, too.
I sit in the lecture hall with 10,000 others waiting for my new teacher to speak. I look at my cell phone and silently groan that this in going to be a long hour; as long an hour as an hour can be as is typically the case when I listen to a lecture. She begins, “Let me tell you about Uncle Willie.“ I take a deep breath of relief and settle in to hear her story.
I came at the age of three to Grandma and my Uncle Willie in this little town in Arkansas. Uncle Willie was paralyzed on the right side. My grandmother and Uncle Willie owned a little store in town, and they needed me and my brother to work in the store. So Momma taught me to read and write, and my Uncle Willie taught me to do my times tables. He used to grab me by my clothes and hold me in front of a potbelly stove, and with a slur attendant to his condition, he’d say, “Now, Sister, I want you to do your foursies, your sevensies, your ninesies.” I learned my times tables so exquisitely even now, 60 years later, if I’m awakened after an evening of copious libation and told, “Do your twelvsies,” I’ve got my twelvsies.
I was so sure that if I didn’t learn, my Uncle Willie would grab me, open the potbelly stove, throw me in, and close the door. Of course, I found that he was so tenderhearted he wouldn’t kill a fly. One day my Uncle Willie died, and I went to Little Rock where I was met by one of America’s great rainbows in the clouds, the black lady who led the children into the high school in the late fifties in Little Rock.
She met me and said, “There is somebody who is dying to meet you.” She introduced me to this handsome black man in a three-piece suit.
When I met him, he said, “I don’t want to shake your hand. I want to hug you.”
He then said, “You know, Maya, the State of Arkansas has lost a great man in losing Willie. In the 1920s, I was the only child of a blind mother. Your Uncle Willie gave me a job in his store, paid me 10 cents a week, and taught me to do my times tables.”
I asked him, “How would he do it?”
He said, “He used to grab me like this…”
Then I knew he was talking about Uncle Willie.
He said, “Because of him, I am who I am today, the mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, first black mayor in the South.”
I look back at Uncle Willie, that crippled, black man in the South where lynching was the disorder of the day, I have no idea the range of his influence. But I know that when it looked for me like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put “a rainbow in the clouds” in the form of Uncle Willie.
I tell you my stories not to brag but to tell you about all of rainbows in my clouds. You are the rainbows in somebody’s cloud.
. . . Maya Angelou tells the 10,000 educators who sat at her feet at the recent ASCD conference. I exaggerated at the beginning about the expected boredom. This would have been the case if the speaker started to lecture to me. I knew Dr, Angelou would tell us stories and read us poetry. She is a master of storytelling, poetry, speaking, and teaching; and the energy in the room was palatable as she spoke to us.
I am a strong advocate against the use of lecturing for teaching which I discuss in detail in Who Would Choose a Lecture as Their Primary Mode of Learning? This does not mean I am against an educator standing in front of a group of learners to give procedural directions or to tell a story to teach a concept. I have been challenged by colleagues because I really like TED talks but many of the best TED talks tell a story. One of the most popular Ted talks of all time was Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight who told the story of her stroke and insights about the brain due to her her stroke.
So what is it that makes stories such powerful teaching?
Stories are different. Stories have everything that facts wish they had but never will: color, action, characters, sights, smells, sounds, emotions–stuff that we can easily relate to. We can imagine ourselves doing, or not doing, or having already done, what the story describes. Stories put facts into a meaningful, and therefore memorable, context. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/douglasmerrill/2013/03/08/a-story-about-stories/)
Brain Activity: Lecture versus Storytelling
It’s in fact quite simple. If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens.
When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too. (http://lifehacker.com/5965703/the-science-of-storytelling-why-telling-a-story-is-the-most-powerful-way-to-activate-our-brains)
What follows is a graph of a student’s brain activity during a given week. The student’s brain activity, the electrodermal activity, is nearly flat-lined during classes. Note that the activity is higher during sleep than during class.
So what happens to the brain when being told a story?
We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home. We make up (short) stories in our heads for every action and conversation. In fact, Jeremy Hsu found [that] “personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.”
Now, whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our exiting experiences. That’s why metaphors work so well with us. While we are busy searching for a similar experience in our brains, we activate, a part called insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, or disgust. (http://lifehacker.com/5965703/the-science-of-storytelling-why-telling-a-story-is-the-most-powerful-way-to-activate-our-brains)
So my advice for teachers is that next time you feel the need to convey information via a lecture, create or find a story that illustrates those concepts and tell learners that story. All will benefit.
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.
Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact. — Robert McKee
Educators are given a lot of suggestions about how to improve their classroom practices, but as we know, change needs to begin with oneself. I’ve heard a lot of such suggestions at recent education conferences – SXSWedu, ASCD, and DML2013 – but the missing piece is that these changes need to begin with the educators, themselves, with expectations, tools, strategies, time (for collaboration and reflection) to do so. What follows are my ideas related to how it can begin with the teacher – please add to the list if you have any others.
If we expect educators to help learners formulate good questions, we need to permit and encourage them to ask their own hard questions about their own practices, content area knowledge, and pedagogical beliefs.
If we expect educators to integrate technology into their classrooms, we need to give them the brainstorming time, strategies, tools, and training to play, tinker, and engage with technology.
If we want educators to come up with some really great ways to improve their classrooms, we need to give them innovation days with great food, beverages, and comfy bean bag chairs. (Mrs. Walf)
If we want educators to use cooperative learning strategies with their students, we need to give them the strategies and time to work with their colleagues.
If we expect educators to move beyond textbook lesson plans, we need to encourage and show them how to open-source their best lessons online, allowing peer to peer and bottom up sharing of best practices. (Kevin Miklasz)
If we expect educators to assist students in becoming self directed learners, we need to give them autonomy to create and direct their own learning journeys.
If we expect educators to embrace the growth mindset and encourage learners to be free to openly make mistakes and learn from them, we need to create schools that reflect a growth mindset in their culture, expectations, and requirements. (Joan Young)
If we want educators to develop their own professional learning communities, we need to tear down the walled gardens of the school to enable them to connect with other educators.
If we want educators to encourage creativity and innovation, we need to remove the literal and metaphorical classroom, testing, curriculum, standards-driven walls.
If we want teachers to be lifelong learners, we need to start this process with the expectancy they will be so when they are themselves young students.
If we want educators to create magic in their classrooms, we need to give them the encouragement and permission to develop and use their own unique magic wands and pixie dust.
Design Thinking is trending is some educational circles. Edutopia recently ran a design thinking for educators workshop and I attended two great workshops at SXSWedu 2013 on Design Thinking:
Design Thinking is a great skill for students to acquire as part of their education. But it is one process like the problem-solving model or the scientific method. As a step-by-step process, it becomes type of box. Sometimes we need to go beyond that box; step outside of the box. This post provides an overview of design thinking, the problems with design thinking, and suggestions to hacking the world to go beyond design thinking.
Design thinking is an approach to learning that includes considering real-world problems, research, analysis, conceiving original ideas, lots of experimentation, and sometimes building things by hand (http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/03/what-does-design-thinking-look-like-in-school). The following graphic was developed by Design Thinking for Educators to explain the process of design thinking:
As a further explanation of this process, here is an exercise by the d.School about how to re-design a wallet using the design process.
Here is another take on the design thinking process as applied to learning within a community setting:
“What does it take to create education in this age of imagination?” was the theme of the following Ted talk. Imagination, play, and social interaction become important to the learning process.
To further learn about design thinking, visit:
- The d.school’s Virtual Crash Course of Design Thinking
- d.School at Standford University
- The Third Teacher+
Problems with Design Thinking
Bruce Nussenbaum, in a Fast Company article, Design Thinking Is A Failed Experiment. So What’s Next?, discussed the benefits of design thinking but also noted it has become a type of flavor of the month for corporations.
Design Thinking broke design out of its specialized, narrow, and limited base and connected it to more important issues and a wider universe of profit and non-profit organizations. The contributions of Design Thinking to the field of design and to society at large are immense. By formalizing the tacit values and behaviors of design, Design Thinking was able to move designers and the power of design from a focus on artifact and aesthetics within a narrow consumerist marketplace to the much wider social space of systems and society. We face huge forces of disruption, the rise and fall of generations, the spread of social media technologies, the urbanization of the planet, the rise and fall of nations, global warming, and overpopulation. Design Thinking made design system-conscious at a key moment in time.
There were many successes, but far too many more failures in this endeavor. Why? Companies absorbed the process of Design Thinking all to well, turning it into a linear, gated, by-the-book methodology that delivered, at best, incremental change and innovation. CEOs in particular, took to the process side of Design Thinking, implementing it like Six Sigma and other efficiency-based processes (http://www.fastcodesign.com/1663558/design-thinking-is-a-failed-experiment-so-whats-next).
I fear a similar outcome for design thinking within educational settings. As I stated in the introduction, design thinking, being a type of problem-solving model, is it’s own type of box. It attempts to solve problems via a specific process in order to come up with a new solution or product. John Media, in If Design’s No Longer the Killer Differentiator, What Is?, emphasizes the limited perspective that design thinking can create:
Designers create solutions. But artists create questions — the deep probing of purpose and meaning that sometimes takes us backward and sideways to reveal which way “forward” actually is. The questions that artists make are often enigmatic, answering a why with another why. Because of this, understanding art is difficult: I like to say that if you’re having difficulty “getting” art, then it’s doing its job.
Paul Pangaro, a technology executive, who combines technical depth, marketing and business acumen, and passion for designing products that serve the cognitive and social needs of human beings, further critiques design thinking in his video, The Limitations of Design Thinking.
If we stop with design thinking we won’t solve those problems that those in design thinking say they want to solve. Paul Pangaro
Hacking the World
All of this leads to the question of what types of learning in today’s classroom would help students acquire knowledge, skills, passions, and attitudes for living, working, and playing in today’s world. Design thinking is one process for creative problem solving, but to really survive and thrive in a world of such constant and rapid change, kids need to go beyond design thinking and be able to hack their world. Not only is it important to be able to use a creative process to solve problems, it is equally important to be able to identify problems to solve. As humans living within systems that are safe and comfortable for them using the tools and strategies that are familiar to them, it becomes difficult for many to step outside of that comfort zone to critically analyze these systems to identify problems and to discover better ways of living for themselves and for others.
Hacking is a way to do so. Hacking can be defined as:
Hacking is research. Have you ever tried something again and again in different ways to get it to do what you wanted? Have you ever opened up a machine or a device to see how it works, research what the components are, and then make adjustments to see what now worked differently? That’s hacking. You are hacking whenever you deeply examine how something really works in order to creatively manipulate it into doing what you want.
The real reason to be a hacker is because it’s really powerful. You can do some very cool things when you have strong hacking skills. Any deep knowledge gives you great power. If you know how something works to the point that you can take control of it, you have serious power in your hands. Most of all, you have the power to protect yourself and those you care about (Hacker High School).
In an NPR article, At This Camp, Kids Learn To Question Authority (And Hack It), Michael Garrison Stuber, whose daughter participated in the camp, stated:
“Why would I do this?” he asks, while laughing. “Fundamentally the world is about systems. And we work within systems all the time, but sometimes systems are broken, and we need to be able to subvert them. And that is a life skill I absolutely want her to be able to have.”
In developing hacking as a skill, an attitude, and/or as an approach to construct and de-construct the world, it is more than just hacking in terms of computer science. In order to hack the world, we need to tear it apart, deconstruct it and analyze its components parts and how they operate in relation to one another within various systems. This is a mental, social, emotional, and whenever possible, a physical process.
The following icebreakers are designed for web design, but they could also be used to establish a climate of thinking outside of preexisting mindsets which, in turn, becomes a goal of hacking: to develop alternative mindsets.
To get a broader perspective on helping young people become white hat hackers (folks who enjoy thinking of innovative new ways to make, break and use anything to create a better world), see:
- DEFCON kids 2012 conference schedule -http://www.defconkids.org/?page_id=406
DEFCON Kids: Hacking roller coasters and the power grid with cell phones – http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/defcon-kids-hacking-roller-coasters-and-power-grid-cell-phones
Although I am currently looking towards hacking as a way to facilitate creative thinking and positive (world) change, it also has the potential to become a more standardized process as is the issue with design thinking. Hacking, but its very nature, should force learners and learning to the limits, but attempts to scale any movement can inadvertently and unintentional create the type of standardized, procedural system it is trying to avoid.
Teachers’ Perceptions About the Achievement Gap: Understanding the Discursive Construction of Whiteness
About 18 years ago, I taught my first Master’s level course. A quiet, attentive young woman sat in the back of the room. She didn’t say much but her eyes attended to everything going on in the room. I read her first paper and said to myself, “This woman is brilliant.” Eighteen years later, I had the privilege to serve on her dissertation committee and witness her complete her formal education journey by defending her dissertation and becoming Dr. Virginia Padilla-Vigil. I am so very proud of her.
Not only does this dissertation have significance for me personally, but the content has significance for me as a teacher educator and educational reformer. As Dr. Padilla-Vigil noted in her dissertation defense, teachers are the most powerful people on the planet. They make decisions every day that affect each of their student’s lives. These decisions last a lifetime. As such, diversity and cultural awareness initiatives must include examining and unlearning whiteness-at-work and racism through the development of critical reflective practices.
The following excerpts are taken from Dr. Padilla-Vigil’s (Gina’s) dissertation are especially relevant in this discussion. I recommend reflecting deeply on her comments and findings.
Padilla-Vigil, V. (2013). Teachers’ Perceptions About the Achievement Gap: Understanding the Discursive Construction of Whiteness. Unpublished dissertation: University of New Mexico.
As I look back on my experiences as a student in northern New Mexico schools, I would describe my schooling in the tradition of the “banking method” of education (Freire, 1993). I was taught through a rigidly authoritarian framework and I have vivid memories of feeling fearful and intimidated as a learner in classrooms. Critical thinking, problem solving, analysis and other higher level thinking skills were not a major part of my school curriculum and students did not have much voice in the classroom. In fact, my school’s curriculum resembled the working class schools Jean Anyon refers to in “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work” (Anyon, 1980).
As I heard the stories of (my study’s) participants (new teachers in an alternative licensure system), the way in which they described their schools reminded me of my own schooling experiences. Their beliefs about the world, teaching and learning, students, themselves, and the education system shape their approach to teaching and the resulting impact they have on student learning. More importantly, their ideologies, as precursors to beliefs, shape teacher behaviors and practices, which in turn impact student learning.
The participants expressed a general desire to make a difference in the lives of their students and to ensure their students achieve academic success. They held a broad perspective of diversity and acknowledged it as both a challenge and an asset. What became evident through my interactions with the participants was that while they hold positive intentions for students, their hegemonic ideologies will override their positive intentions. Without intervention, the participants’ hegemonic ideologies manifested in their practices will perpetuate whiteness and undermine the success of their diverse students.
I do not believe they are prepared to act in the best interests of historically marginalized students. Again, although well-meaning, the participants have not developed the critical consciousness and race awareness necessary to act in equitable and liberating ways. They have not gone through the critical process of unlearning racism and, as such, they will continue to repress any notions of whiteness, further supporting their deficit perspectives of diverse students. While they have gained a conceptual understanding of diversity and what it means to be an effective teacher of diverse students, their understanding is mired in hegemonic ideologies that serve to fragment their knowledge and distort their structural consciousness of it. These hegemonic ideologies were not exposed and interrogated in the program and as a result the participants did not experience ideological transformation or a re-coding of their knowledge that would disrupt their repression and denial of whiteness.
Colorblindness will prevent them from getting to the heart of inequity where they will find urgency and purpose in counter-hegemonic teaching. Not having engaged in the deep critical reflection required to expose hegemonic ideologies, the participants hold limited and distorted understandings about diversity and inequity that make it difficult for them to act in favor of truly equitable education. These limited and distorted understandings are characteristic of dysconscious racism (King, 1991) and will serve as a hindrance to their success and the success of their diverse students.
Countering inequity in the educational system is no small task. Although there are numerous factors that influence student learning, it is well known that effective teachers can make a big difference in terms of narrowing the achievement gap. Yet, our public education system continues to allow students growing up in poverty, students of color and low-performing students to be disproportionately taught by inexperienced, under-qualified teachers (Darling-Hammond & Sclan, 1996; Peske & Haycock, 2006) in under-resourced and low-quality schools.
Although I agree that teacher quality is important, I believe there is much more to being an effective teacher in a racialized society where schools serve as sorting mechanisms maintaining the hierarchial structures and preserving whiteness. As such, it will take much more than providing children of color with access to high quality teachers. Teachers must be critically conscious, having gone through the process of unlearning racism and positioned to engage in transformative counter-hegemonic pedagogy. Any reform efforts aimed at improving the education of diverse students and closing the achievement gap must take into account the powerful potential of teachers to make a difference among the many other factors that impact student learning and achievement.
For true transformation to take place, teachers must realize their roles as counter-hegemonic teachers who challenge the unjust structures, policies and practices in schools that undermine the success of students of color. Further, they need to transcend the conservative and liberal multicultural frameworks that serve as the cornerstone of most teacher education programs. To become anti-racist teachers, they need to develop a critical multicultural perspective that will serve as a tool in subverting racism (Nylund, 2006). Empowered with a critical lens, they will see whiteness as the“every day, invisible, subtle, cultural and social practices, ideas and codes that discursively secure the power and privilege of white people”, but that strategically remains unmarked, unnamed, and unmapped in contemporary society” (Shome, 1996, p. 503)
Critical reflection as an inward focused form of ideological critique can trigger a personal transformation where problematic ideologies are replaced with counter-hegemonic ones. Essentially, ideological transformation can be equated with the unlearning of racism. It is at this juncture that teachers may consciously choose their moral and ethical paths: whether to deny and repress conceptions of whiteness and continue to perpetuate and preserve it through their practices, or to acknowledge whiteness and work to dismantle it by enacting counter-hegemonic practices. The latter requires a deep commitment on the part of the teacher, and in making this commitment, the teacher subjects herself to a journey ridden in resistance and conflict, for no longer can she view her work through the rose colored glasses of the liberal framework that maintains an illusion of racelessness and the insidiousness of whiteness..
What is required is that teachers achieve ideological transformation through the unlearning of racism that replaces hegemonic ideologies with counter-hegemonic ones. Unfortunately, given the recent pendulum shift towards standards-based, accountability models of education, it is unlikely that teachers will enter classrooms with even the bare minimum of cultural competency, as competencies related to diversity are sorely lacking in teacher education curriculum and state/national standards.
Anyon, J. (1980). Social class and the hidden curriculum of work. Journal of Education, 162(1), 1-11.
Darling-Hammond, L., & Sclan, E. M. (1996). Who teaches and why: Dilemmas of building a profession for twenty-first century schools. In J. Sikula (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (pp. 67-101). New York: Macmillan.
Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum Publishing Company.
King, J. E. (1991). Dysconscious racism: Ideology, identity, and the miseducation of teachers. The Journal of Negro Education, 60(2), 133-146.
Peske, H. G., & Haycock, K. (2006). Teaching inequality: How poor and minority students are shortchanged on teacher quality. Washington, DC: The Education Trust.
Nylund, D. (2006). Critical multiculturalism, whiteness, and social work: Towards a more radical view of cultural competence. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 17(2), 27-42.
Shome, R. (1996). Race and popular cinema: The rhetorical strategies of whiteness in city of joy. Communication Quarterly, 44(4), 502-518.
On Valentines Day, 2013, I participated in One Billion Rising:
Along with thousands spread across the globe, dancing and singing, we were participating in the “One Billion Rising” movement, an international initiative led by Eve Ensler and her V-day organization. One in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime; one billion women will be violated. This was a day for communities to insist on change. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meredith-hutchison/vday-in-drc-one-billion-r_b_2692163.html)
It was one of those powerful life experiences that changed me just a little bit. I am certain other women (and men who attended) felt the same. I have a hunch that more women, due to their experiences with One Billion Rising, will feel more empower to use their voices to demand fair and just treatment for themselves and their sisters.
I have a dream that a similar movement can occur for education, the one billion will rise and insist on free and quality education for all. This post seemed from a question I thought about this week, “How did such a well meaning system with the goal of educating children and youth get so out of control of its majority stakeholders of teachers, administrators, and students?”
I often tell my pre-service educators to never forget why they became teachers, which is often because they love children, their content areas, and the process of teaching. But they do forget. They become the mechanized information disseminators and text givers that the system grooms them to be. I have seen same thing happen to the once passionate veteran teachers. In these days of standards-driven and standardized curriculum and test-driven accountability, they go through the motions of being a teacher. Too often the spark in their eyes is gone, the spark that was there when as growing up, they talked of their dream of becoming a teacher. They work from a place of fear of losing their jobs if they don’t follow the protocols forced upon them. This is passed onto the students with too many students going through the motions of being a student. I discuss these thoughts and ideas in my post The Most Honest Three Minutes
So when did education become more about the test scores than about the learners’ passions? Teachers have become more focused on test preparation than on the preparation of creative, engaging learning activities. Horace Mann, John Dewey, and Maria Montessori are identified as some of this country’s greatest educational philosophers. Why are educators giving them more lip service than providing services and activities in the classroom based on their ideas and principles? Why has the classroom become a place of more frowns and moans than of smiles and laughing? Why are kids running out of their classrooms at the end of the day rather than running into them at the beginning of each school day with excitement of a new day of learning? Why are far too many teachers hurrying to turn off the classroom lights at the end of the school day rather than staying a little longer to figure out how to turn on the lights in children’s minds? When have classrooms become places of discouragement and disillusionment rather places of enlightenment? When are teachers going to remember why they became teachers? When are teachers going to revisit the idea that the legacy they leave will not be how many worksheets and tests they gave, but in how many sparks they helped ignite in their learners?
There are pockets of amazing people doing amazing things. There is Malala Yousafzai, the 15 year old Pakistani girl, who fights for education of girls in Afghanistan and was shot for doing so. “Notwithstanding the constant danger she faced during her campaign, 15-year-old Malala never waiver in her belief that girls have the right to receive an education” (http://www.policymic.com/articles/20433/time-person-of-the-year-2012-malala-yousafzai-should-be-the-one). Other young people have attempt to have their voices heard for educational reform. See Student Voice in Educational Reform.
Teaching and students are striking. In Seattle, teachers and students are protesting the MAP tests. See Students skipping, teachers protesting standardized MAP test.
But the problem with these little pockets of protest is that these people are seen by many as dissenters and radicals with possible consequences of becoming marginalized and in the case of Malaki, shot by gunfire. Marie Bjerede discusses the factors that makes the education resistant to change in To Disrupt Education, First Shift the Balance of Power: Why the current education system resists change–and what we all can do to push forward.
The education ecosystem is rigid and in a state of deep equilibrium – it is nearly impossible to shift, and even successful efforts are ephemeral, with the system trending back toward the status quo in short order. Although there are many “spot solutions”, examples of education excellence in isolated instances, the system as a whole resists the spread of such innovations.
If the education ecosystem is in a meta-stable state that resists change, and if the institutions of education have near absolute power in defining and awarding accreditation, and if the processes and outcomes of this system are sub-optimal for most students as compared to our aspirations, then disruption, as with the Web 2.0 shift elsewhere, is much more a matter of removing constraints and allowing organic evolution than it is of top-down reform.
When will the collective of those passionate about educating children and youth stand up and say enough? In this day and age of open education resources, the ability to share ideas, strategies, and content globally, and the ability to have a voice and organize movements through social media, there are infinite possibilities for every child (and adult) to receive a quality education. This call to action is not just for free education but one of quality and substance, one not driven by corporate and political interests but one driven by educator and learner interests.
If one billion global citizens do as Marie Bjerede suggests.
Question the fundamental mechanisms of learning in light of what we now know about our brains and what we now can accomplish with technological support. Question the reasoning behind coercive education, age-based cohorts, and high-stakes testing. Question the role of education in a world evolving on Internet time. Second, demonstrate the will to build the infrastructure of personal agency and independent learning, the infrastructure of innovation. Re-imagine education as a platform that each learner can use to achieve his or her unique goals, and create the means for all children, regardless of zip code, to have meaningful access. (https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-02-12-to-disrupt-education-first-shift-the-balance-of-power)
. . . then the system (or lack of any in countries where education is not a right) would need to listen.
Violence against woman is a more pressing, serious issue but I am borrowing from the One Billion Rising theme song Break the Chain as a call to action
Let’s break the rules. Let’s stop the pain, Let’s turn it upside down. It’s time to break the chains.
Earlier this week, I tweeted,
If we focus on preparing students for their futures in college and the workforce, we often miss the joy, passion, enjoyment and flow of what is occurring in the present.
This was posted prior to the Sandy Hook tragedy. This tragedy reinforced how important it is to be in and grab onto every moment with our students. As a young adult, I embraced the existential philosophy and the tenet that knowledge and acceptance of our death assists us to live in the present.
Knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift ever given to us because unless you know the clock is ticking, it is so easy to waste our days, our lives. Anna Quindlen
I have taken this awareness or knowledge into my teaching. My teaching experiences include elementary gifted and PE, and teacher education courses. Some classes last an hour, some a full day (gifted kids and weekend intensives for pre- and in-service teachers). I bring this philosophy into the classroom in all my teaching – regardless of the age or content. The learners are giving me their time, literally pieces of their lives. It becomes my responsibility to provide them with experiences worthy of their time. In most of my teaching situations, I would see them again for the next class – but one never knows. I have had a handful of students who suddenly went missing-in-action due to family conflicts, emergencies, etc.
In terms of what this means in my teaching practices, I strive to bring magic and joy into my classroom. I want students to shiver with positive anticipation and energy when they enter class that day – not knowing exactly what to expect, but knowing it will be something exciting.
I reflect upon and assess my performance after each class session using the following questions to guide me:
- Did I express and/or show students that I cared deeply for them? Sandy Hook teacher, Kaitlin Roig, locked her and her first graders into a bathroom to protect them by the Sandy Hook shooting. She told reporters:
I need you to know that I love you all very much. I thought that was the last thing that they would ever hear. I thought we were all going to die. I don’t know if that was okay because, you know, teachers, but I wanted them to know someone loved them. I wanted that to be one of the l http://youtu.be/X4RzAQuH81Q
I was so proud of Kaitlin but it broke my heart that she thought it was not okay to tell her students that she loved them. I don’t use the word “love” easily but do tell my students I love them. I do give them hugs (even with all the admonishments about touching students.) I “preach” to my pre-service teachers that if you don’t love them, then find a different professional field.
- Did I put student needs above the need or desire to cover content? If the student(s) experienced emotional distress, did I stop the lesson instruction and spend time to discuss it? When studies are stopped to help students with some emotional problem they are experiencing, they are given a powerful message that they are important and worthy of class time.
- Did the students learn, do, and/or experience something new during class . . . a new aha . . . a new question . . . a new insight . . . a new interest . . . a new sense of personal power?
- Did the students experience joy, laughter, excitement, flow, astonishment during class time? I seek to create moments where students’ minds, emotions, bodies, hearts, and “souls” are congruent and present in the moment. For each time we are together, I attempt to create powerful, experiential, awe-inspiring instructional activities.
- Did the students feel being an important part of and connected to each other and the world? As is discussed in so much of the literature on human needs (e.g., Maslow), a sense of belonging is such a powerful, universal, and important human need. All of my class sessions include some form of peer-to-peer interaction and groupwork.
- If I lost my temper with the student(s), did I say I am sorry? I am human, I loose my temper. When I do, I also believe in and act upon making apologies. The situation dictates whether I do this in a who group setting or on a one-to-one with the student.
- As the students exited my classroom, did I make some kind connection with every student? My ritual, at the end of each class day, is give each individual student a high five and a smile as as they leave the classroom.
I work towards and have a desire for every student to leave each class session qualitatively different than when he or she came to class that day. This is a lofty goal but really adds to the creativity, engagement, and joy I attempt to infuse into each class session. I want each student to leave my classroom each day saying, “I was happy to be in class today.”
I want to loudly reinforce to my students of all time, “I love you.”