Posts Tagged ‘passion-based learning’
Educators are creating their own professional development opportunities on their own time without compensation, acknowledgement, nor credit.
With so many great resources on the web, teachers are realizing that they can learn just as much (if not more!) from their personal learning network (PLN) as they can from traditional professional development (PD). Educators are connecting with like-minded individuals across the globe, reading about best practices and new trends in education, and sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues. Through social media, popular blogs and webinars, teachers are taking ownership of their learning and finding PD opportunities that weren’t possible a decade ago (Do-It-Yourself Virtual Professional Development: Taking Ownership of Your Learning).
Here is a list of how they are doing it:
- Being active on Twitter via
- Twitter Hashtags (see http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/05/a-comprehensive-index-to-educational.html )
- Tweet Chats (see http://goo.gl/IYDNqk)
- Attending and/or presenting at a virtual conference:
- Participating in a MOOC:
- Attending and contributing to ongoing webinar series:
- Writing Blog posts – reading and commenting on others’ blogs.
- Going to and/or helping organize Edcamps (see http://theeducatorsroom.com/2014/05/edcamp-unconference/)
For more information on self-directed professional development, see my post, Teacher Agency: Self-Directed Professional Development:
Due to the interest of my post The Other 21st Skills, I decided to individually discuss each of the skills or dispositions I proposed that are in addition to the seven survival skills as identified by Tony Wagner. This post focuses on vision for the future.
Having a vision for the future is an natural extension of Hope and Optimism, another 21st century skill I proposed. A vision for the future enhances hope and optimism. To clarify, having a vision for the future is identifying and taking steps toward fulfilling one’s dream. It goes beyond and is qualitatively different than identifying what one wants to be when one grows up or thinking about college. It is about dreams.
The following excerpt was from my post, Dream-Driven Education. . . Seth Godin in Stop Stealing Dreams states:
Have we created a trillion-dollar, multimillion-student, sixteen-year schooling cycle to take our best and our brightest and snuff out their dreams—sometimes when they’re so nascent that they haven’t even been articulated? Is the product of our massive schooling industry an endless legion of assistants? The century of dream-snuffing has to end. The real shortage we face is dreams, and the wherewithal and the will to make them come true. We’re facing a significant emergency, one that’s not just economic but cultural as well. The time to act is right now, and the person to do it is you.
We can teach them not to care; that’s pretty easy. But given the massive technological and economic changes we’re living through, do we have the opportunity to teach productive and effective caring? Can we teach kids to care enough about their dreams that they’ll care enough to develop the judgment, skill, and attitude to make them come true? (http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)
I propose that educators take a proactive stance to move from a system that may steal kids’ dreams to one that promotes the actualization of learner dreams. I have a dream today and everyday that education can become a conduit through which learners are provided with the time, knowledge, strategies, and tools to make their own dreams come true. We are living in an era that education can be passion-based and dream-driven. In this context, the role of the educator becomes that of dream-facilitator.
The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams. We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be. We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen. (http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)
- Vision for one’s own dream.
- Identifying and taking steps to achieve one’s dream.
- Finding and connecting with a like minded community.
- Reflecting on progress towards achieving one’s dream.
One of the first tasks of the educator as a dream-facilitator is to discover and help his/her learners discover their dreams, passions, and interests. The message given to the learners can be something in line with the following:
Visions must be about your deepest dreams of what you want when you listen to you heart. You can’t dream about toys or things we buy that only make you happy for a few minutes. You must use your heart to imagine yourself creating a happy life – what you want to do, who you want to be, and how you can help others. (adapted from http://glad.is/article/create-a-vision-board/)
Some guiding questions to help learners identify and articulate their dreams include:
- Given no restrictions, what would you like to do in your spare time?
- If you could wave a magic wand and be or do anything you want, what would it be?
- In one year from now, 10 years from now, what would you like to be doing that would make you happy?
- What would your life be like if it were perfect?
Learners can be provided with a choice with how they answer theses questions: verbal or written responses, video or audio recording, or a drawing. Erin Little, a 5th-6th grade teacher, had here students blog about these questions. Here are some example blogs:
An extension of this activity might be asking learners to create a vision board (see Vision Boards for Kids and Visions & Values for Kids). Technology could be used for this process by giving students the opportunity to create a Glog or an Animoto of images that symbolizes their dreams.
20% Time or Genius Hour
Classroom time can be set aside for students to spend time with and work towards their dreams and visions. Genius hour and/or 20% time is being implemented in many classrooms for this purposte:
For more information about Genius Hour and 20% time, see:
- Embrace Change in the New Year with Genius Hour
- 20% Time in Education
- Genius Hour Manifesto
- Why “20% Time” is Good for Schools
Student-Driven Personal Learning Networks
Support systems or personal learning networks could then be established based on grouping learners with similar dreams. The group would act as cheerleaders, support-providers, progress-checkers, and resource providers for one another. One of the group’s learning activities could focus on expanding their personal learning networks to include folks with similar dreams who they locate via social networks like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other social networks.
Dreams will only come try if actions are taken to achieve them. As such, the educator should facilitate a method for learners to reflect on progress towards their dreams.
- What did you do today, this week to achieve your dreams?
- What obstacles are you having or foresee having in progress towards your dream? How can you overcome your obstacles?
- What resources did you locate that can help you fulfill your dreams?
Blogging or micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter) could be used for this reflective process.
As a parting shot about young people and their dreams, here is a short film by high school student, Sam Fathallah. The asked his classmates to write their dreams out on a transparent whiteboard.
. . . and for those who just want some additional inspiration, Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams . . .
Zak Malamed of StuVoice.Org mentioned in a student voice panel that when given projects by teachers to complete, it was often just another “thing” to get done, just like a paper or worksheet. I have seen lessons shared by teachers that they called Project-Based Learning, Inquiry Learning, or Maker Education, but upon close examination they appear to be another form of direct instruction with a hands-on activity thrown into the mix. These activities had no connections and very limited relevancy to the real lives of students. Students using scissors, markers, drawings, or a Web 2.0 tool does not make a PBL or Maker Education curricular unit.
Just because it’s hands-on doesn’t mean it’s minds-on. Many projects, problems, situations, and field trips do not yield lasting and transferable learning because too little attention is given to the meta-cognitive and idea-building work that turns a single experience into insight and later application. Grant Wiggin’s Experiential Learning
As noted in the TLC High School Google site in Projects” vs. Project Based Learning’s What’s the difference or are they the same?
Projects done in school are usually the result of learning students have done. The typical approach is to learn about a topic through readings, worksheets, direct teacher instruction, then to create a project that demonstrates the learning that has occurred through the unit.
Project Based Learning is an approach that guides the learning, through driving questions and student inquiry, to uncover or discover the information needed to answer a question, solve a problem/mystery, or invent/create something new. In Project Based Learning, the project is not simply the visible result or culmination of the learning, but rather the cause of the learning.
This got me thinking about the necessary conditions for implementing PBL or Maker Education as a viable and effective instructional strategy. The guiding questions I developed are:
- Does the educator have a deep understanding the philosophical principles and theoretical underpinnings of the instructional strategy?
- Is there an authentic and relevant context directly related to the students’ lives?
- Does the educator incorporate student voice and interests in its conception and development?
- In its implementation, do the students have permission and freedom to go in a direction that interests them?
- In its implementation, does the teacher fade into the background with students coming into the foreground of thinking, doing, and discussing?
- Are there the venues, space, time, strategies for reflection so students can construct their own meanings and understandings?
Does the educator have a deep understanding the philosophical principles and theoretical underpinnings of the instructional strategy?
In order to use any instructional technique effectively, the teacher needs to understand the fundamental principles and assumptions upon which the specific technique is based (http://www.adprima.com/strategi.htm). Educators should go through a process of learning, understanding, and articulating the theory and guiding principles of a new teaching strategy-framework when considering the use of the strategy in their own classrooms.
Grant Wiggins recommends asking students the following questions about their learning within an experiential framework, but educators could benefit from also addressing these questions in determining and developing PBL and Maker Education curriculum:
- What are you doing?
- Why are you doing it?
- What does this help you do that’s important? Grant Wiggin’s Experiential Learning
Free and accessible content on the Internet provides educators with a variety and full range of opportunities to learn about the instructional strategies being considered for implementation in the classroom.
Resources for Project-Based Learning:
- Buck Institute of Education Project-Based Learning
- Edutopia’s Project-Based Learning
- Scoopit of PBL resources
Resources For Maker Education:
- Invent to Learn book by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager
- Maker Club Playbook
Why the Maker Movement matters to educators article by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager
Is there an authentic and relevant context directly related to the students’ lives?
The topics, content, and processes being introduced to students need to be relevant to the students themselves. It needs to have a context within their lives. School curriculum often presents content in these bits and pieces of facts and knowledge that are un- and disconnected to anything related to the students’ prior knowledge and life experiences. Because of this disconnectedness, this content often floats away. A relevant, current, and timely context provides students with the stickiness needed to make the content relevant, deep, and long lasting.
Contemporary views on learning see it as an active and recursive process. This perspective is driven by greater recognition of the pivotal role of the ‘learning context’ in knowledge construction and understanding. This is the constructivist perspective on learning. It is grounded in the belief that learning and cognition are most potent when situated within a meaningful context, and within the culture and the community within which learners live. (http://pcf4.dec.uwi.edu/learning.php)
“In education we provide problems separate from the relevance or the context in which they need to be used.” Ntiedo Etuk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC_T9ePzANg#t=345)
Without meaningful context and sensible processes, learning can become, well, merely academic. The learning system of the 21st century must be designed to deliver the right content via the right processes in the right context. The definition of “right” is whatever gives learners access to their own skills, creativity, and success. What works today could be obsolete in six months, so we must focus on creating opportunities for self-generated, relevant learning that allows people to discover avenues for self-empowerment in the future (http://www.fastcompany.com/73376/how-learning-relevant-me).
Project-Based Learning and Maker Education, when effectively implemented, have the potential to establish relevancy. Hands-on, experiential activities, the uses of all senses, a sense of play and fun, and immediate and authentic feedback are natural elements of these instructional strategies. They are multisensory, multidisciplinary, and multidimensional increasing the chances to be seen as relevant by the students.
Because the educator has the background knowledge and skills related to the PBL or Maker Education curriculum being implemented, s/he can clearly address each of the following questions:
- What? What are we doing in class today? What questions will we try to answer? What concepts will we address? What questions will we answer? What activities will we do?
- Why? Why are we studying this? How are today’s content and activities tied to the other areas of one’s life? What should I know or be able to do after today’s class? How can the information and skills be used in everyday life?
- How? How are we going to address the content? (http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/why-are-we-doing-this-establishing-relevance-to-enhance-student-learning/)
Add to this mix student voice and choice (see next section), then relevancy can be almost assured.
Does the educator incorporate student voice and interests in curricular conception and development?
If the educator develops the guiding questions, the methods of exploration and inquiry, and the expected outcomes, then it is the teacher’s project not the students’. The students still may be interested in the lesson, but the ownership is still that of the teacher.
Effective PBL and Maker Education are often driven by guiding or essential questions. If the educator is serious about students voice, then s/he will involve students in generating these questions. As I discussed in Learners Should Be Developing Their Own Essential Questions:
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. ( (http://fno.org/oct97/question.html)
. . . and if students are helping to generate the guiding questions for the PBL or Maker Education curricular unit, then it follows that their interests, passions, and wonderings will also be incorporated
As both PBL and Maker-Education are process-oriented instructional strategies, these questions should be re-visited throughout the process by the students to see if they need to be changes, revised, or re-generated.
In its implementation, do the students have permission and freedom to go in a direction that interests them?
PBL and Maker Education entails the educator becoming a tour guide of learning possibilities; showing the students the learning opportunities and then getting out of the way. This translates into letting go of expected products or outcomes; letting the learning process naturally go in the directions that students take them; expecting and embracing failure as learning opportunities; and listening to and validating student suggestions.
In its implementation, does the teacher fade into the background with students coming into the foreground of thinking, doing, and discussing?
Another one of my beliefs about good education is that the students should be doing more talking, doing, and thinking than the teacher during instructional time. This literally means the educator becomes the guide on the side and the observer from the back. Students naturally emerge as co-learners and peer tutors as the PBL and Maker Education learning activities evolve when they given the permission and freedom to do so.
Are there the venues, space, time, strategies for reflection so students can construct their own meanings and understandings?
PBL and Maker Education, when done “right”, become discovery-based learning leading to students constructing their own understandings and meaning. It is a constructivist approach to learning.
Discovery learning is an inquiry-based, constructivist learning theory that takes place in problem solving situations where the learner draws on his or her own past experience and existing knowledge to discover facts and relationships and new truths to be learned. Students interact with the world by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments. As a result, students may be more more likely to remember concepts and knowledge discovered on their own. (http://www.learning-theories.com/discovery-learning-bruner.html)
Incorporating reflection into the instructional process with the goal of articulating learning insights helps insure that learning is not left up to change. Moon points out the conditions for reflection include time and space, a good facilitator, a supportive curricular, and an emotionally supportive environment (https://sites.google.com/site/reflection4learning/why-reflect). It needs to be intentionally built into the curriculum and as with all aspects of instruction, student voice is the primary voice during the reflection process. To read more on the reflection process, visit Where is reflection in the learning process?
A good amount of education-related social media in the past few months has focused in being a connected educator. The context of these discussions is about the educator being connected to other educators via social networks and developing their personal learning networks.
But the primary, most important aspect of a connected educator is one who connects deeply and authentically with each and every student in his/her class. As Rita Pierson notes in her powerful Ted Talk, Every Child Needs a Champion:
Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. Teachers should leave legacies of relationships that can’t disappear.
Sir Ken Robinson also discusses the importance of the student-teacher relationship in Why We Need to Reform Education Now.
To improve our schools, we have to humanize them and make education personal to every student and teacher in the system. Education is always about relationships. Great teachers are not just instructors and test administrators. They are mentors, coaches, motivators, and lifelong sources of inspiration to their students.
All young people have unique talents and interests. In his moving poem, Malcolm London argues that education has to connect with the real lives of young people and not stifle their hopes and dreams.
To do so, teachers need to become a type of ethnographer of their students, which I discuss in more detail in Teaching as a Human – Humane Process.
As teachers know, every class they teach is different, every student in each of these classes is different and unique. Good teaching entails seeing (really seeing) every student in the classroom, getting to know each of them as the individuals they really are and deserve to be. (Disclaimer: I know this is difficult, if not impossible, for educator who work with hundreds of students at any given time.)
The teacher as an ethnography gets to know individual students as individuals, being able to assess what the student needs when. Teaching as a human-humane process translates to knowing when to push, when to pull back, when to ignore, when to encourage, when to praise, when to critique, when to challenge, when to nurture, when to cheer, when to show love.
Being fair with students is not about providing all students with equal treatment at all times. This actually leads to unfair treatment of students as they are individuals and are not like widgets – equal in all respects. It also acknowledges and honors that individual students differ from day to day, sometimes minute to minute as they continue to learn, grasp concepts, change moods, change relationships, and to grow. This translates into continually assessing individual learner needs and offering them what you think they need to grow and learn at any given moment.
The result are those light bulb moments, when a learner “gets it” – understands something that s/he has struggled to understand, when his or her self-efficacy rises, when a learner realizes s/he is smarter than previously believed – it is these moments that are the most meaningful for me as an educator.
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?
The Four Quadrant Poster is the newest activity added to Technology-Enhanced Social Emotional Activities. I love using this activity as an icebreaker for students to get to know one another and to provide me, as the educator, with a lot of information about student interests, passions, and thoughts.
- To provide a forum for learners to explore and identify their learning interests, strengths, and personal wonderment.
- To help learners get to know one another.
- To provide educators with diagnostic information about each of their learners.
- Hands-on: One 8″ x 8″ piece of cardboard or plywood per learner, lots of paint and paint brushes; paper and markers
- Technology-Based: Google Presentation doc shared so each learner can each have a slide; Internet access to find images and/or mobile devices so learners can take images.
- Explain to learners that they will be creating a four quadrant poster that includes images or symbols that represent the following:
- Quadrant One – The thing you do best
- Quadrant Two – Best learning experience ever
- Quadrant Three – The most fun thing you’ve ever done
- Quadrant Four – One thing you wonder about
- The following slide can be used as a template.
- For the hands-on version, provide learners with poster board or plywood and paints/brushes.
- Here are some examples:
Fifth grader Marc believes he is best at writing, finds art to be his best learning experience, being with girls to be the most fun and also wonders about girls :)
Second grader, Jeff believes he is best at computers and finds computers to be his best learning experience. Playing with friends is his most fun thing and he wonders about sunsets.
- Once done, tell learners that they will then present their posters to their peers. To prepare for this sharing phase, distribute blank paper and markers. Help learners divide paper into blocks equal to the number of students in the class and to put names of their peers as labels for the blocks; one peer’s name per block. Explain that as their peers share, they are to sketch into the blocks the one quadrant that they find most interesting. See example:
- Note/Reflection: The act of orally sharing one’s poster can be a powerful experience. It was time for one of the fifth grade boys, John, to share his poster. He was a blend-in-the-woodwork type of kid – not popular, not ridiculed, just kind of ignored. He got to his fourth quadrant. He had painted a picture of a man with a jet propelled backpack. He stated that he wondered when humans will fly on their own. Several of the boys at the same time spontaneously yelled out, “cool”. The look of pleasure on John’s face when they did so was priceless.)
- For a technology-based option, set up a Google Presentation so that there is a slide for each learner. Ask learners to locate or take photos to represent each quadrant. They can use their mobile devices to take photos or find copyright available images online. Here is an example:
- Learners can use a Google Spreadsheet to record information about each peer’s Four Quadrant poster.