Friday, August 31, 2018

Playing the Long Game

This year I am playing a long game when it comes to building partnerships with my colleagues and expanding design thinking pedagogy. I had an opportunity to offer a PD spark to the faculty at my school and chose to focus on the question of how might we shift how we think about what we do so that we are teaching the students in the room, so that we are acutely in tune with who they are?

We began with a brainstorm in AnswerGarden of the best possible outcomes of "group work". Here is the word cloud they created:

Next I asked my colleagues to turn and talk about the obstacles that interfere with students achieving those outcomes. When I asked them to share with the whole group, here is what they said:

  • "they don't get along"
  • "indifference"
  • "they change topics rather than staying on one topic and delving into that"
  • "they socialize"

At this point I invited my colleagues to go on a journey with a group of students. We watched a video of students engaged in group work. While watching, I asked my colleagues to look for instances of the positive outcomes being achieved, interference by any of the obstacles, and any unanticipated outcomes or occurrences. I explained that as the students in the video were working, things get a little heated. I promised to do my best to hit pause before the expletives started flying.

Thanks to Micah Shippee there is a clean version of this video with subtitles, so if you choose to use this with students you don't have to worry about the language.

Embedded here is the video version that I showed by colleagues. I stopped it at 1:38.

Now, full disclosure: I would have avoided all profanity if I had stopped at 1:37. I purposely used the explicit version and let it play until the first bleepable word before hitting pause. I did that for two reasons:

  1. the dropping of the f-bomb is an indication of a change in tactic
  2. it got a laugh from a room full of teachers who had just sat through an hour of blood-borne pathogens and other required training

After the video I asked if they agreed it was group work. They did. And we talked about all of the successful elements ( with evidence drawn from what they could see and hear) and how the obstacles emerged and, in some cases, were overcome. And then we wondered together about how to make our classrooms the kind of environments that promote that kind of collaboration. What we discussed is summarized in this slide:

The next day I surreptitiously delivered a small maker kit to each department's work room. Each kit had the same craft materials and one piece of a little bit. They looked like this:

 Each kit was accompanied by this note: 
 The Science department has already submitted their animal! When all submissions have been received, I will display them in Library with a sheet of paper listing the directions for the project, anyone passing through the library will be invited to post stickers on the sheet corresponding to their favorite animal or the one they think best represents the department that created it. They will be invited to write feedback on a post-it and leave it with the animal. Based on those votes, I will announce "the winner". That department will receive the "Leeroy Jenkins Collaboration Award" -- a costume warrior helmet.
They will be able to proudly display the helmet in their workroom for the rest of the month. While in possession of the helmet, they can decorate, adorn or build it out in anyway they see fit. At the start of next month, I will announce a new challenge. The winner of that challenge will be the new keeper of the helmet, and so on. My goal: together we learn to make, we have fun, we practice pedagogy, we take safe risks, we celebrate each other's creativity, and we build a culture of innovation. It is only Day 2 of this long game. Stay tuned for updates!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Off-to-college packing list

In the spirit of the content of this post, I am attempting to author it entirely from my pixel 2 phone! And because I struggle to type on a phone, I'm using voice tools.

My daughter will be leaving for her freshman year in college in about 10 days. Needless to say, we have been busy preparing everything she might need to bring with her. As we have been perusing the back-to-school shelves in various stores, something dawned on me. Most of what I packed to take with me to my freshman year in college back in 1986, has been replaced for my daughter, in 2018, by her smartphone.

Some of these things that she does not need to pack are obvious. She doesn't need a touch-tone landline. Nor does she need a flashlight, or an address book, or envelopes and stamps. Some of the things she doesn't need are a bit nostalgic. For instance, she doesn't need a push pin cork board or a white board to hang on her dorm door. Who will stop by to write a message on her door when they can just send her a Snapchat?

The more I thought about what she didn't need, the list became more and more interesting. Is there really any use any longer in your dorm room for a television or a calculator? She has never owned a stereo so she won't bring that. And her headphones no longer keep her tethered to her music source. She doesn't need a checkbook or even a physical credit card or debit card. Ostensibly, she could Google pay or Apple pay her way through any necessary transactions. She certainly doesn't need a printer. Go paperless. And, I can imagine the day when she wouldn't even need a laptop.

Now the question arises, what does she need that I would never have thought of bringing with me because, in all likelihood, it didn't even exist? Likely, a bunch of portable chargers. And a complement of cords and different adapters to be sure that all of her devices can charge on the fly. It is on those devices that she will access the services to which the she subscribes and the databases her university provides, because she won't have magazines delivered to her mailbox and will have less need (any need?) for textbooks. Do college students even have mailboxes anymore?

So the question that I am now asking not just as a parent but as an educator is this: how are her professors and her university prepared to engage with her in this learning journey because she is not, and really never has, lived in an analog world? And when we engage with our K-12 students, how are we preparing them for their unknown future? How will we nurture the habits of mind of innovation, problem solving, entrepreneurship? How will we contribute to the development of empathetic, global citizens? How will we encourage and cultivate the flexible thinking necessary to adapt to and thrive in this rapidly changing world? (Please share your thoughts in response to these questions in the comments!)