Thursday, June 27, 2013

A New Culture of "Imagination"

Yes, we will order one for everyone!
As I begin to prepare for what next school year might look like and what we might want to focus on, I remembered a book that Mrs. Rehlander, our school psychologist, shared with me as she worked with one of our students.  The title of the book is CHALK, by Bill Thomson.  The book is about a group of children who begin to draw with chalk and their drawings come to life.  After being chased by dinosaurs, they problem solve using their imagination and ultimately return things to normal.

Ironically, Thomas and Brown in their book, A New Culture of Learning, talk about how important imagination is in education.

Play, questioning, and perhaps most important - imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning. Children, for instance, embrace play as a central part of how they experience the world, and they learn that questioning the world is one of the key ways they can understand it. Think of how a child's imagination blossoms when she discovers the "why?" game, for instance.

This is so true.  I can remember a number of imaginative games or scenarios that I used to create - interestingly enough after school.  I could recreate an entire baseball game in my back yard with a tennis ball, a brick wall, and a glove (not graded!).  I could imagine a war that broke out suddenly in my back yard or neighboring woods and save the day as a heroic soldier (not graded!).

Why don't we tap into these imaginations while students are at school?  Why don't we provide experiences where students can come up with these imaginative scenarios after researching, reading, and writing about them?  I bet a third grade group of students could come up with a great simulation of the exploration and settlement of South Carolina after reading, researching, and writing about the era.  Instead of the teacher designing such an event, I bet the students would love to make this happen with the teacher's support.  Personally, I would have written, drawn, explained, directed, and persisted with something like this as a student.  Instead, I had to wait til after school.

To learn more about imagination in education watch the video below.

Click Here

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A New Culture of Learning

In this post, I am going to focus on one of the first few sentences of Thomas and Brown's book, A New Culture of Learning. The authors state, "In our view, the kind of learning that will define the twenty-first century is not taking place in a classroom - at least not in today's classroom. Rather, it is happening all around us, everywhere, and it is powerful." (p. 17) Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators, says that knowledge is a commodity (yep! mass-produced). Knowledge or at least information is easily and instantly available these days (i.e. the growing world wide web access, a plethora of informative television channels, and the ability to connect with people around the world - nearly instantly).

When I was in the classroom, the textbook and teacher's manual was the sole keeper of knowledge.  I would take my teacher's manual and a student textbook home and study both of them to make sure I disseminated accurate information to my students. I would practice the problems and answer the questions myself so that I knew what I was talking about. Of course, I always had to throw in the Mr. "H" twist with technology, creativity, and humor, etc...  Later, a CD came with the series that helped me disseminate the information.  Next, a website was provided that gave us more ways to access the information in the textbook.

Today, information is updated so fast that textbooks and teacher's manuals cannot possibly keep up.  The information is now accessible by students and their parents easily and instantly.  What these resources (textbooks and teacher's manuals) do somewhat provide are the skills and strategies that students can use to apply information and technology in effective and practical ways. For example, close reading (not "cloze" reading) is a skill that is being emphasized with the Common Core Standards. This very well could be a strategy that is taught using a reading instructional series.  Well shucks, I just found out that this can be accessed via the Internet as well:

Thinking Notes: A Strategy to Encourage Close Reading

Our role as educators is to present a problem and or project that is interesting to our students, provide the needed resources and or technology for them to "problem solve," and to facilitate their learning in conjunction with the Common Core Standards.  A good educator will design a unit, lesson, or project keeping the end in mind.  Good educators ask themselves; What is it that I want my students to be able to do or learn? Then design the learning experience to answer that question.   

Today's educator is a facilitator (one who brings about an outcome). Yes, that means that we still must be smarter than our students. We must think about what we (as educators) want our students or followers to be able to do or learn. Yes, I believe that there is a difference. To learn means to gain knowledge or understanding of something. To "apply (or do)" means to put something to use for a practical purpose. As we design lessons, units, and or projects, we must make sure that what we ask students to do meets their interests, needs, and passions. The way we teach is changing rapidly and the students we are educating believe it or not are going to be creating the future. Are you ready?

Click Picture to View Corning's Video


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Well, we are well into the first two weeks of summer.  There has already been some great professional development attended by many of us.  If you get a chance, check out the Google Drive doc I shared with you about summer professional development.  It is reading a lot like a blog with all of the great ideas and things people are learning this summer.  

Dr. Catoe, Mr. Lawrence, and I just returned from the South Carolina Association of School Administrator's (SCASA) conference.  I was very encouraged by the fact that most of the conversations/sessions/speeches, etc... centered on things we are learning about and practicing at NSE and in Richland Two. Of course, common core was a huge topic in many of the sessions, but so was project based learning, the flipped classroom, student led conferences, STEM education, being student centered, personalized learning, etc...

Another conversation that I participated in had to do with "balance."  I think that what we are doing at NSE by tapping into the interests, needs, and passions of our students and engaging them in the work is the right thing to do for kids.  We are no longer the keepers of information and knowledge (textbooks and teachers manuals), but facilitators of learning through technology and collaboration.  However, we do need to make sure that our students have the basic skills to accomplish the work that we design for them.

I encourage you to take some time this summer and learn more about the common core standards, the Smarter Balance Assessment, project based learning, flipping your classroom, student led conferences, STEM education (good for all students), and whatever else interests you.  Creating a New Culture of Learning is not a mandatory read, but is definitely aligned with the framework of the district.  There are many other books that are worth reading as well.

Out of Our Minds by Sir Ken Robinson
Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner (recommended by Dr. Catoe)
Choice Words by Peter Johnston (recommended by Mrs. Hethcox)

I think that it is also worth noting in this post that since we have begun working together here at NSE we have had a focus on student engagement through Schlechty's work, project based learning through Ron Berger's book, and now technology through Thomas and Brown's book (Creating a New Culture of Learning).  I want to remind you that the first book that I introduced to you was Paper Airplane: The Flight of Change.  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for us to be innovative in our approach to teaching and allowing our boys and girls to be creative and innovative at school.  You all have done some great things here at NSE to engage more of our students in a true learning process that is meaningful and engaging to them and not just the adults.  If you get a chance, click on the Paper Airplane link above and watch Michael McMillan's video about being creative and innovative in the classroom!!!