Tag Archives: student agency

There is genius around us – and within us

A. O. Scott said:

The incentives not to think – to be one of the many available varieties of stupid – are powerful. But there is also genius around us, and within us.

via http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/sunday-review/everybodys-a-critic-and-thats-how-it-should-be.html

Are we unlocking genius in our classrooms?

East Campus: Uncovering the brilliance in every student

High school student Jeff Bliss famously said in 2013, “If you would just get up and teach them instead of handing them a freakin’ packet, yo. It’s kids in here that don’t learn like that. They need to learn face to face.” Unfortunately, too many alternative high schools are just about worksheet packets and self-paced online courses. East Campus in Muscatine, Iowa takes a different approach, one that is paying enormous dividends in terms of student engagement, academic success, and high school completion.

Hydroponics, East Campus, Muscatine Community School District

East Campus has a strong emphasis on hands-on academic activity. For example, students learn about metal absorption, evolution of plant species, and trait adaptation in science by engaging in real-world hydroponics and phytoremediation projects. They partner with the University of Iowa and Muscatine Power & Water to do this work, learning about cell biology, ions, and molecular polarity along the way. Similarly, they’re learning about urban renewal and the environmental impacts of human behaviors through the lens of bicycling, applying their English / Language Arts skills as they evaluate resources, write grant proposals, utilize social media, and engage in marketing techniques to advocate for more bicycle-friendly areas in their community.

Students also are investigating molecular structures by testing sugar substitutes and seeing which configurations taste better; the end goal is to create a book or video that places a culinary lens on the subject of chemistry. They’re working with a nonprofit that makes hand-powered bicycles for people who have lost the use of their legs, analyzing different countries and cultures to determine where the need for such transportation is greatest. Most students are learning to code, and nearly all of them are incredibly active in their community’s Blue Zones initiative, helping the food insecure grow healthy vegetables and making commercials that promote healthy behaviors. They work with Monsanto to understand the seed production process. They make documentaries with local survivors of heart disease for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. They’re using scrum boards and other project management techniques. Their video production work is so fantastic that they participate in national media conferences and get asked by out-of-state businesses to make videos and commercials. And so on…

The work that East Campus students do isn’t sitting at a desk regurgitating facts from a textbook. They’re not just answering a few short essay questions based on a teacher lecture days before. Instead, they’re engaged in challenging, real world work. Their assessment is in the quality of what they do, not just recalling minutiae that can be found in five seconds with a smartphone voice command. Are your high school students doing this kind of complex, authentic work on a regular basis? Are your local youth making a positive, meaningful impact on their community and the world around them?

In his most recent TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson notes that our best alternative education programs are “very personalized” and often “involve students outside school as well as inside school. And all the evidence from around the world is – if we all did that – there’d be no need for the alternative.” East Campus proves that every day, reclaiming students’ brilliance that too often gets lost in our more traditional systems.

Can we answer this question satisfactorily for our students?

Paul Sinanis, middle school student, said:

I don’t understand the point of school. What’s the point? Everything that I am interested in and connects to my world doesn’t ever come up in school, so what’s the point?

via http://leadingmotivatedlearners.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/whats-point.html

Creating, making, and doing in Northwest Iowa [VIDEO]

My team’s most recent video about the maker experiences that we’re facilitating in our Northwest region of Iowa. Happy viewing!

When all students bring home is a piece of paper

Albemarle Maker Ed Video

Matt Caduff said (about a summer maker camp):

When all I bring home is a piece of paper and I picked B instead of C, I don’t have a lot to talk about with my parents and because I picked C and the answer was B I don’t want to talk about it. . . . If I’m bringing home something I made and it’s right because I made it – it was my plan – or I know how to fix it, I’ve got a lot to do at home.

I’ve watched kids be really successful and they’ve been successful, I’m pretty sure, in ways that they never have been at school and they’ve felt things that they have never felt at school.

via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUoVuYWNp0k

Happy viewing!

Image credit: Maker Spaces, Trevor Przyuski

The roars of approval as we revert back to what we’ve always done

Applause

George Couros said:

Sometimes when the statement is made, “it is not about technology, it is about pedagogy”, you then hear the roars of approval, and off we go on our merry way with nothing changing for many students.

In reality sometimes it is about the technology, and the opportunities that it provides that were not there before for a student.

via http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/5250

Image credit: and the crowd went wild, Tim Bayman

Don’t intervene

Bharat Anand, Jan Hammond, and V. G. Narayanan said:

a typical approach to intervention in online [university] courses was to amass larger numbers of TAs [teaching assistants], so that some “expert” was ready to intervene quickly on any question as it arose. One unintended consequence? “Soon, everyone expected the TA’s to answer questions. No one took it upon themselves to do so.”

“Trust the students,” we preach in our classrooms. It’s one of the hardest axioms to follow. The temptation for an expert, or a teacher, is to help at the first sign of confusion. But letting it simmer can aid learner discovery. Indeed, the power of collaboration comes when you trust the group so that they are strongly encouraged – forced, even – to resolve problems on their own. Let an expert intervene, and you could undermine collaboration itself.

via https://hbr.org/2015/04/what-harvard-business-school-has-learned-about-online-collaboration-from-hbx

One of the things I love about the Discovery school in Christchurch, New Zealand is that the educators there do a wonderful job of handing everything over to the students. Teachers don’t leap in to solve learning or logistical problems. Instead they say, ‘What do you think?’ and ‘What might be some ways of solving that?’ and then honoring the kids’ ideas and solutions. Over and over and over again…

As Alfie Kohn noted over twenty years ago, “the way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.”

Is an hour really that subversive?

Audrey Watters said:

we’re seeing calls for an hour: “A Genius Hour.” “An Hour of Code.” An hour.

Is that hour really that subversive? What does it mean that schools are applauded when students are sanctioned – for one hour – to follow their passions? What message does that send them about the rest of their day and week at school? Does an hour even count as incremental change?

Are these efforts transformative? And are they sustainable? Will these hours or days remain in place? Or will they face the same fate of Google’s policy, and be quickly set aside when schools’ goals trump students’ interests?

Don’t we need to think about how to re-evaluate 100% of time in order to make school more student-centered, not simply fiddle with a fraction of it?

via http://hackeducation.com/2015/02/14/genius-hour

Be awesome, 7th graders [VIDEO]

The 7th graders at the International School of Brussels had an entire day of technology- and Internet-suffused awesomeness yesterday. I was asked to send them a short kickoff video for their day since they had previously watched my TEDxDesMoines talk. Here’s what I sent them…

ISB 01

ISB 02

ISB 03

Why would students feel valued at school?

Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations

Without having seen the exact survey questions, here are some quick reactions I have to these data…

  • Why on earth would students say they feel valued at school? In most schools, students are told what to do nearly every minute of every school day, are generally treated as passive recipients of whatever adults foist on them, have their thoughts and opinions routinely and blatantly ignored or dismissed when it comes to day-to-day operations, and are punished whenever they deviate from organizational compliance structures. The number of schools in which students have significant input into things that actually matter is miniscule. But, hey, it’s all about the kids and we care.
  • Kids are bored. Gallup boredom data reinforce the Quaglia boredom data, as do the tidal waves of anecdotes from anyone you want to ask about their school experience. But we don’t seem to care enough to do anything about it.
  • Everyone’s a learner, everyone’s a teacher. Online we exist within interconnected, interdependent webs of learning and teaching. But not in school.

Your thoughts and reactions?

Data source: How to help kids find their aspirations

Download this image: jpg png

Switch to our mobile site