The ever important pivot that every traditional newspaper publisher is realizing: “We are a technology company that happens to publish a newspaper. We deliver content. And we will deliver content on many platforms and in ways that we haven’t yet fully considered.”
Interesting white paper offering detailed models for blended learning environments.
Two design principles governed the process of updating and expanding upon the blendedlearning definitions:
1. Develop flexible definitions so that they can still be useful even as the field continues to innovate. The definitions are intentionally broad and open, rather than specific. They set forth basic patterns that are emerging, but avoid setting tight parameters about how a model “has to be.”
2. Exclude normative qualifiers. This principle is a holdover from the last report. Some blended programs are high in quality and some are not. Some use dynamic content, whereas others have more static content. Some are more expensive than the traditional schooling model; others are less costly. The definitions in this taxonomy leave out such appraisals. Just as a hybrid car can be either efficient or a clunker and still be a hybrid car, blended learning can be both good and bad.
Design for Social Impact: A High School Course for Creating Citizen Innovators
Two years ago, a colleague approached me about starting a course at our high school (residential 9-12 school) that dealt with ideation and creativity. As we talked, read, and brainstormed, the course which developed, Design for Social Impact, grew into an experience which teaches kids how to use design-thinking, a process for inquiry, development of a product/service, and innovation to make an impact on their immediate community.
The course is completely project based. Students spend the first part of ten weeks occupied entirely by a single project where we walk them through the design process as they engage in it. At the beginning of the project, they receive a design brief, like the one they got at the beginning of spring term: http://bit.ly/KHNBby . They’re organized into teams which, over the course of the project, are given the tools to think divergently about the issue and brainstorm possibilities, converge on a particular question or problem about the issue, research the constraints by closely observing those who the issue affects, then brainstorm and prototype solutions that can be synthesized and iterated upon before they arrive at a solution which they present at the end of the project.
This year the class worked on two big projects. The first, in which they learned about the process of design-thinking, students attempted developing solutions that would creatively and efficiently improve waste management on our campus. We have a huge push toward sustainability and recently inaugurated a 70 acre solar farm on campus, so this type issue resonates with our student population. You can see some of the artifacts from their presentations here: http://www.lvillepress.com/va511/design-projects/.
The second project was focused around the Harkness teaching an learning plan. Our classrooms consist of large wooden oval tables around which 12-14 students and a teacher sit and engage in discussion based learning. Here’s the design brief: http://bit.ly/KHRq0G. For this project we posed the challenge:
Develop an innovative way to deploy information technology for the improvement of Harkness teaching and learning at Lawrenceville.
For the second project the students were also divided into teams. Some of the solutions proposed were better than others, but the process of thinking about the opportunities for improvement in a system which everyone takes for granted was an enlightening experience for many.
Here are some of the artifacts from their inquiry and process:
Interesting to note: We expected the students would have an easy time making the videos for the class, but when we asked for their feedback, that was one aspect of the course they were most frustrated with. They did say that they wished they could take the course earlier in their Lawrenceville career; they thought the method they learned for designing projects would have been useful in many of their other classes.
All of the students in this class were seniors, so our hope was to encourage them into social entrepeneurship tracks in college. We brought in a couple guest speakers who were both inspirational and practical to that end.
Design for Social Impact, an offering for high school students is really a work in progress. Like any designed solution, the product will be re-designed and improved for every iteration. We put huge value on the feedback from students and are looking forward to an enriching experience for our students this coming fall.
The project grew from the intersection of Davidson’s research on the brain bases of emotion, Squire’s expertise in educational game design, and the Gates Foundation’s interest in preparing U.S. students for college readiness-possessing the skills and knowledge to go on to post-secondary education without the need for remediation.
"Skills of mindfulness and kindness are very important for college readiness," Davidson explains. "Mindfulness, because it cultivates the capacity to regulate attention, which is the building block for all kinds of learning; and kindness, because the ability to cooperate is important for everything that has to do with success in life, team-building, leadership, and so forth."
He adds that social, emotional, and interpersonal factors influence how students use and apply their cognitive abilities.
Building on research from the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at UW-Madison’s Waisman Center, the initial stage of the project will focus on designing prototypes of two games. The first game will focus on improving attention and mental focus, likely through breath awareness.
"Breathing has two important characteristics. One is that it’s very boring, so if you’re able to attend to that, you can attend to most other things," Davidson says. "The second is that we’re always breathing as long as we’re alive, and so it’s an internal cue that we can learn to come back to. This is something a child can carry with him or her all the time."
The second game will focus on social behaviors such as kindness, compassion, and altruism. One approach may be to help students detect and interpret emotions in others by reading non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body posture.
"We’ll use insights gleaned from our neuroscience research to design the games and will look at changes in the brain during the performance of these games to see how the brain is actually affected by them," says Davidson. "Direct feedback from monitoring the brain while students are playing the games will help us iteratively adjust the game design as this work goes forward."
On Saturday I reunited with old friends from Brown (I guess we’re not that old, but we are getting older). My friend’s (Anna’s) wedding was yesterday evening in an old church that Ani DiFranco bought years back and renovated into a venue and recording studio space. It’s one of those old style churches with seats wrapping around the perimeter of the second story, where congregants would look down on the altar action. The service itself was short and the dinner & dancing started shortly after.
You know how the bride and groom always have some novelty item that they ask everyone to sign and which they say they’ll cherish as a keepsake? Well Anna and Steve had wine bottles for each of the major anniversaries. I chose to sign the 20 year bottle. As I thought about what I wanted them to remember, it hit me that in 20 years I’ll be one away from fifty! LOLoShit! By that time I probably won’t even remember their wedding except for quick impressions, fleeting and vague.
It was nice to spend time with and catch up on the lives of friends I rarely see, but whom I always get along with when we’re together. Thinking back to college made me aware of all the ways I’ve “grown up” over the past 7 or 8 years. I remember my freshman year of college; I was so sure of myself, so concerned with myself, so naive. I remember making a number of mistakes that caused me to rethink the way I was, and slowly I changed. During my senior year I recall apologizing to a professor for being such a pain in the ass when I was a freshman. She just looked me in the eyes and said - “you’ve done a lot of growing up”. I guess for a lot of us, we constantly struggle with growing up. We don’t know how, exactly, or when to do it; and as we’re doing it, we can hardly see ourselves changing. It’s true when they say that we can’t see the forest through the trees.
I work at the high school I went to. It’s a special place. A lot of people hear about boarding school and imagine the draconian terror. But when you go to boarding high school you develop a bond with the people there that’s unlike anything else in life. With your classmates and housemates you share intimate experiences as you learn about responsibility and expectations: about how to take care of yourself and each other. I think that’s what drew me back there; I wanted to get back in touch with that reality. However, the longer I’m there the more I find myself thinking that I’m ready to grow up again. While teaching at my high school has been an experience very different from my time as a student, the desire to be part of that community is founded in the past. It’s based on some unfulfilled part of me that imagines I can get what I wasn’t able to the first time around.
I always talk to my students about learning to be comfortable in their stretch zones. I wonder: when it comes to those big decisions I make in life, do I follow my own advice, or do I too often fall back on experiences, people, and places with which I know I’ll be comfortable? The other day my brother posted a quote to Facebook: “You can’t win unless you play the game”. Playing the game means accepting a certain amount of risk. It means being ok with the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what the future might hold. When I think about making changes, big changes, I get a little scared. But I think I’m ready to grow up again and play a new game, whatever it may be, instead of letting the old game, the only game I know, constantly play me.
What you think about students (perhaps one or two, ideally late high school, first year college) as possible editors in the education tag? I've been seeing the discussion about different views and view points but you don't see much from actual students who are interesting in education. I think that the idea has much to offer to both info wise/opinions/new view etc. Care to share your thoughts on the idea? Why or why not? Thanks, K.
Great question, and great idea! I’m always interested in what resonates with those on the other end of the classroom divide. #education starts with students and student voices should always be part of the dialogue.
I boarded a train this morning. At first the movement, sudden and pointed, did nothing to quell the anxious waters in which I felt I was floating.
I’ve been reading about the human brain: how we decide, the ways in which we know we’re aware of the thoughts we have, and how our brain makes connections.
When I’m traveling, when I’m on a train, or flying high above the networks of roads and buildings below, I feel a greater awareness of what’s going on inside the caverns of my skull; the isolation that accompanies traveling helps me become a better observer of my own mental processes. Soon, my mind enters into a quiet, contemplative place, where I can begin to access the thoughts and connections that I’ve been developing subconsciously over weeks, but haven’t had the time to express. No, I suppose it’s not just a matter of time — it’s a matter of the right conditions. In order to gain access to certain neural networks which act as home to our knowledge, we require the proper conditions. When we’re constantly bombarding ourselves with expectations for social behavior, when we’re always feeling we have to seek out the next task which needs to be accomplished, we have a hard time tapping into the streams of consciousness which flow below our every experience.
In the books I’ve been reading, some authors and scientists call this mental place “the default network”. When we’re not specifically focused on a task or a project or on keeping continuous or steady concentration, it can feel like we’re in a haze. Some call this day dreaming. It’s the place where you let your mind wander, where you let go.
Even now as I sit in the terminal, waiting for my plane to board to Buffalo, I’m writing. I pick up a couple words here and there; a sentence begins to form. The thought is not complete when I begin to write. Instead it seems to arrive from a place I hardly know. I only have the words after they arrive. But it seems, they’ll come continuously if I can let them. When there are no words, I look up to my left. My eyes scan the space in front of me, but I’m not observing the world. On the surface it may look as though I’m watching the world around me, but I’m ruminating during these moments, letting the haze overtake me.
The Creative Act
I wonder: How can I put into words just what I think about a process that seems to have no beginning and no end.
When we’re performing the creative act, we’re in a constant feedback loop with ourselves.
We can choose to let go and remove the filters that suppress the flow of language.
I find that I often use physical gestures when I write. As I pause and consider what word will arrive to match the concept I intuit, my hands play the pantomime and I equate the dance of my fingers with the idea I’m looking for.
My mind begins to search and I wonder: is there a difference between writing for discovery and writing for an audience?
When I write about what I know well I can navigate my thoughts in a way that feels distinct from my own awareness. I can easily separate and imagine the ideas and thoughts I have from the perspective of “the other” and begin to compose the sentences that will help the imagined reader to make sense of my inner world.
As I write for discovery, I delve into my own thought processes and seek to discern exactly what it is that I know and what it is that I do not know about.
As the manuscript continues to form, it seems there are ideas present where a short time ago there were none. They relate to one another in ways that I must make clearer. This is the time where we go back and read our own writing to understand exactly what it is we’re saying, so that we can better assist in the construction of the context that’s emerging.
Sometimes we assign a metaphor to the process of writing: we call it a journey of discovery. The experience is much like travelling. In order to progress, to move in the direction that we will inevitably be pulled, we’ve first got to arrive at the station, the port, and prepare ourselves to board. Despite our journey leading us in one direction, we always end up looking back to see where it is we came from and how it is we got to that point of origin in the first place. Travelling is never just about forward motion. Being a journey means you take the time to look back at the information which has streamed out of you. It means rearranging the past to better prepare the ground for a fertile future.
I pushed out of my orbit this morning, anxious about the world I was leaving behind. Accustomed to habit, I let the cycles of routine influence me, but today I begin a journey. Journeying pulls us away from the orbits we’re embedded in. It forces us to let go and look for the path to emerge and it asks us to trust that our experience will be the fruit of possibility.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”—The Iron Lady (via quote-book)
[Another great facilitator who is on my radar is known endearingly as Doc Klein. He has experience as a consultant, as an Outward Bound instructor and an expert climber. Doc sees to the heart of people. I asked Doc to participate in the conversation about facilitation.]
Me:Doc, In what ways do you measure your own effectiveness as a facilitator?
Doc: There are many ways of knowing in this world and our society tends to favor the ways of knowing that are logic based and can be measured. There is a reason for this of course as much of what we call intuition has strong biases and is not always reliable. When I think of successful facilitation I think of three main areas of focus:
Creating a safe space for people to be vulnerable and share what really matters.
The quality of the dialogue, which includes the degrees to which people sought inquiry, suspended judgement to better explore the subject, and the synergy of engagement (referring to degree which people moved from their own egos to a high level of group think).
The degree to which the group arrived at a share vision and actions.
These can all be quantified if not measured.
My friend Peter Block in his book Community: The Structure of Belonging talks about six conversations that change the world.
He offers that if we can facilitate these conversations it will change the world.
We take our search engine experience so much for granted that it can be hard to see with clear eyes. Consider this: The dead-simple process of Googling something actually has three distinct phases. First, you arrive at the URL and type your query. Second, you scan the long list of blue links that are your results. Third, you hopefully find what you need. With their new search app, Axis, Yahoo is claiming to have eliminated one of those steps altogether. The insight lies in making search into a far more visual, rather than text-based, experience. “We’re focusing on the front end,” says Ethan Batraski, Yahoo’s director of product. “And in the last few years, the search experience hasn’t evolved much at all. But search is no longer a destination.”
[Recently I've been interested in how, as teachers, we can become better facilitators in our classrooms. At a school which touts the Harkness conference model as the cornerstone of a student's educational experience, the importance of understanding how to facilitate a group cannot be overstated. I spent the year working with a number of expert Outward Bound Instructors. Just watching them lead a discussion and debrief an experience taught me a great deal about facilitation and forced me to think about what's really going on when we make the assumption that learning is happening in groups. I asked Arianna, one of the North Carolina Outward Bound instructors for some advice. She inspired me to begin a journey of conversations with people whose facilitation styles I admire. Be on the lookout for great bits of wisdom in these chats. I've already learned so much; I'm excited to share with you and work on practicing what they've taught me.]
Me:Ari, What makes a facilitator effective?
Arianna:when facilitators guide their work based on the tone of the conversation--what is being said, how it is being said, how it is being heard; when they are able to attend to the mood of the conversation and gracefully make the implicit, non-verbal conversation in the room part of the explicit spoken conversation. Authentically showing up, being fully present and listening deeply with all our senses (including the subtler senses like intuition and the heart) have been key ways for me to do this. Facilitators are also effective when the people involved in the conversation feel like 90% of the process was based on self-discovery and their own decision-making. (in line with Lao Tzu's wisdom "A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.")...
I’m amused by the discussions currently going on among followers of the education tag and the editors of the highlighted post stream. I like the idea that they could work together to develop some shared criteria that will push posts to the forefront. However, if I’m reading the responses correctly, it looks like people feel as though the posts featured on the tag only represent a range of viewpoints.
I think it’s hard when you’re on tumblr and you want to come in contact with varied points of view, but most of what you read in your stream comes from the same bloggers. I think if you’re like most people, the list of tumblrs you follow doesn’t shift dramatically or often.
I think if you really want to be a contributing member of the education community on tumblr, you should go outside the garden walls and find links, articles, and content that aren’t yet memes and aren’t yet showing up in your streams. Tumblrs that act as gatekeepers to the rest of the internet are the ones that, I think, are most valuable, because they give us a chance to broaden our perspectives.
It’s interesting to see what tumblr has done to my speech/writing distinction.
I used to have a very sharp distinction, in that I basically never wrote how I talk. When I started on LJ, I started using a more colloquial type of writing than I do in stories or schoolwork, but it still was really…
“When Milton Glaser was sixteen, he decided to draw a portrait of his mother. “I was just sitting in front of her one night and I thought it would be fun to sketch her face,” he says. “So I got out a piece of paper and a charcoal pencil. And you know what I realized? I realized I hadn’t the faintest idea what she looked like. Her image had become fixed in my mind at the age of one or two, and it really hadn’t changed since. I was drawing a picture of a woman who no longer existed.” But as Glaser stared at her face and then compared what he saw to the black marks on the paper, her appearance slowly came into view. He was able to draw her as she was, and not as he expected her to be. “That sketch taught me something interesting about the mind,” he says. “We’re always looking, but we never really see.” Although Glaser had looked at his mother every single day of his life, he didn’t see her until he tried to draw her. “When you draw an object, the mind becomes deeply, intensely attentive,” Glaser says. “And it’s that act of attention that allows you to really grasp something, to become fully conscious of it. That’s what I learned from my mother’s face, that drawing is really a kind of thinking.”—Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
Seen through this lens, school is a place where people “learn to live a life of selfless service on behalf of the community; it’s where we find the path to virtue, subordinating innate self-interest as individuals to the interests of the community, the good of the whole.”
If it sounds a little pie-in-the-sky, think about the alternative. Students aren’t exactly breaking down the classroom door to learn disconnected facts that they’ll regurgitate onto standardized tests. Too many are bored, only jumping through the hoop of education because employers use degrees as screening tools.
The lack of purpose—think of all the times you asked a teacher “what am I ever going to use this for?”—gives students little incentive to not drop out. If students do graduate high school and college, too many don’t know what they want to do with the rest of their lives because they’ve never had to apply what they’re learning to the challenges facing the world. That could all change if students, parents, educators, businesses, government institutions, and nonprofit organizations all came together to make school a place that ultimately serves as a community-wide resource.
In this vision, schools would become hyper-local. The school community could, for example, collectively decide what neighborhood problems need solving. Students would then use their their creative and critical thinking abilities, as well as their academic skills, to tackle real-world issues like the dropout rate or homelessness. Then, when graduation day rolls around, a student wouldn’t just get a piece of paper signaling that she’s employable. Instead, upon completing formal schooling, “the highest possible title in a free society is conferred upon us: citizen.”