Tag Archives: Synergy 8

Thus – Strive to be one (TBT Remix)

What if we narrow the space between them and us? Let’s strive to become thus – the intersection between them and us.  How often do we point out our differences when we should be pointing out our connections?

  • Math vs. and Science,
  • Faculty vs. and Admin,
  • Academic vs. and Co-Curricular,
  • Teacher vs. and Student, etc.

I believe we have more commonalities than differences.

Imagine what it might be like to be thus,
to dwell in the intersection…

It has me wondering what actions we might take to move closer to being thus.

If we want integrated studies with more learning-centered classrooms, what is the next step? If it is about learning rather than teaching, how do we learn? What actions do we take? How do we become…

Thus.


Thus – Strive to be one was originally posted on November 19, 2012.

Never Underestimate A Motivated Learner ~ You Gotta Have Faith (TBT Remix)

Who has faith in you?  In whom do you demonstrate faith?

On November 20, 2011, AS announced that she wanted to learn to knit. She is seven. I’m embarrassed to say that I thought:

Is she really going to learn to knit? I’ve tried to teach my adult friends and have about a 50% success rate. I am busy; I have a list of things that need to be accomplished today.

But, she was determined to knit, so she sat in my lap while I coached her through 4 rows of 10 stitches – about a 20 minute exercise.  You can see the results of that one “lesson”  in the video below and on my Posterous mother-daugher-based-learning blog post.

On Dec. 20, 2011, her blue scarf was approximate 3.5 feet long, and she started a new purple scarf.

What if I had put my list of “desired outcomes”
ahead of her interests and determination to learn?

What if I told her that she was not ready?

What if I indicated that she did not have
enough maturity, experience, prerequisite skills?

How often do I become focused on “getting through the list of learning targets in the curriculum” without stopping to listen to their interests and questions?

Meet Thomas Suarez – an iPhone app developer and a 6th grader:

Meet Birke Baehr – an 11-year-old concerned with industrialized food systems and the alternatives:

What do our learners care about?  What do they want to learn, study, think deeply about, and investigate?  How can we use our curriculum to serve and support their learning and interests? We regularly check-in with our learners by reading and commenting on their blogs.  Here are a few quotes from our Synergy 8 learners about their interests and concerns:

One thing that each member and I realized after we were talked to about poor quality housing and affordable housing, was that there are many children that do not have a safe place to call “home.”  ~ TY

Did you know that from 1980 to now obesity rates have doubled among adults and tripled among adolescents (USA.gov, Facts n. pag.)? Also, did you know in 2010 according to the CDC 29.6% of people in Georgia were obese (USA.gov, Overweight n. pag.)? Before starting this project, I knew that obesity was a problem and I was very passionate about this issue. Although, I had no idea that obesity affected that many people, especially in Georgia. ~ SE

Using this data, we discovered that most people get less sleep than they should. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, attention span, and ability to retain knowledge. Most teens think that they can do their homework and mess around until 12 am and then go to sleep.~ RV

I am a person that doesn’t like to work in groups in fear that people won’t do their work and I will have to make up for the work that hasn’t been done. Being in this Synergy class and working in groups has helped me to trust other people to do their work.~ HD

What are the active steps we take to help our learners find tangible evidence of success and learning?  How does our feedback indicate that we have faith in their ability to learn, to work collaboratively, to problem find and problem solve?  How do we actively demonstrate faith (and trust) in our learners’ quest develop thinking and understanding? (And, what does it convey if we won’t let them try because we are afraid that they are too young, too immature, too inexperienced, or that they are just “not ready” because they haven’t mastered the prerequisites?

Just meet the amazing speakers at TedxKids@BC from September 17, 2011 and then think about these questions again.

Who has faith in you?  In whom do you demonstrate faith?

We gotta have faith.


Never Underestimate a Motivated Learner – You Gotta Have Faith was originally published on December 29, 2011

Thus – Strive to be one

In 2013, should it be them and us? Let’s strive to become thus – the intersection between them and us.  How often do we point out our differences when we should be pointing out our connections?

  • Math vs. and Science,
  • Faculty vs. and Admin,
  • Academic vs. and Co-Curricular,
  • Teacher vs. and Student, etc.

I believe we have more commonalities than differences.

Imagine what it might be like to be thus,
to dwell in the intersection…

It has me wondering what actions we might take to move closer to being thus.

If we want integrated studies with more learning-centered classrooms, what is the next step? If it is about learning rather than teaching, how do we learn? What actions do we take? How do we be…

Thus.

LEARNing: Blogging: read, write, think, learn, communicate,…

We want learners to read, write, think, learn communicate, collaborate, reflect, and revise.  We want our learners to receive authentic feedback and have the opportunity to analyze the feedback and revise if needed.

“It is simple! Literacy is about communicating.  It is about reading and writing.  Blogging is about communicating.  It is about reading and writing.” (Warlick, 127 pag.)

We seek lifelong learning as well as opportunities to connect to others.  What if a child needs to write and connect with others to show what they know? What if we could reveal a learners strengths by simply allowing the ability to leverage technology to show work and effort at its best?

“When given the opportunity, kids WILL write.

“When they know what they write is not just for a grade, they write.

“When they know that someone cares to listen and respond, they write.

“When they know they are respected as writers and people believe they have something worthy to share, they write.

“When they know their writing is for a real audience, they write.

“When they know they can write to learnto figure something outto remember,  to connectto persuadeto reflectto questionto shareto thinkto have fun, they write.” (White, n. pag.)

_________________________

Warlick, David. Classroom Blogging: A Teacher’s Guide to Blogs, Wikis, & Other Tools That Are Shaping a New Information Landscape. Raleigh, NC: Landmark Project, 2007. Print.

White, Paula. “When Kids Write Because They Want To….” Web log post. Reflections of the TZSTeacher. EduBlogs, 24 Feb. 2012. Web. 20 May 2012. .

Brainwriting…collaborative brainstorming enhanced by Google Docs

Do the same members of the learning team contribute at every meeting, brainstorming session, and discussion?  Do we ever hear from everyone?  How do we offer others the opportunity to have their voices and ideas heard?

In Synergy and our PLCs, Bo and I have used Brainwriting from Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers to hear from everyone, to help members of our community engage in the ideas of others, and to build collaborative thinking.  This process, described at gogamestorm.com, uses index cards as the collaborative tool.

Here’s an example from our Synergy 8 team.  They were asked to pick a problem at school they would like to address and brainstorm.  (I had to type it up from the big Post-it notes used in the Synergy Coffeehouse.)

I think that sleep is a big issue that we need to solve.  I think over half the students at [school] don’t get enough sleep, and that we need to fix that.  Everyone needs a good amount of sleep to function well at school.  I think we should do a survey just to make sure of how many people at [school] don’t get enough sleep.  We should research different ways to get more sleep and educate others on our findings.  It would also help if somehow we made schedule changes to help school start later.  I think this project will end up bettering the lives of the students at [school] and help them come to school everyday better prepared.  I would hope that we could change the time of school starting in order to aid not just the students at [school] but students everywhere to get more sleep.  It will take a lot of research and preparation to

Pretty great thinking from 12- and 13-year-olds, huh?  Just for a little more clarity, four different learners contributed to the piece above.  Here’s how their contributions built the idea above:

Originator:

I think that sleep is a big issue that we need to solve.  I think over half the students at [school] don’t get enough sleep, and that we need to fix that.  Everyone needs a good amount of sleep to function well at school.

Index card passes to new team member and ideas are carried forward:

I think we should do a survey just to make sure of how many people at [school] don’t get enough sleep.  We should research different ways to get more sleep and educate others on our findings.

Index card passes to a third team member:

It would also help if somehow we made schedule changes to help school start later.  I think this project will end up bettering the lives of the students at [school] and help them come to school everyday better prepared.

Index card shifts to a fourth team member:

I would hope that we could change the time of school starting in order to aid not just the students at [school] but students everywhere to get more sleep.  It will take a lot of research and preparation to

Time is called.

It is important to note that as this idea was growing, three other ideas were growing too. To be more clear, here is another brainwriting sample from this team.

Why do people cut in line?  How do we prevent line cutting?

  1. Find people who cut in line
  2. Interview them: why, when, how they avoid detection
  3. Remove the motivation: this will prevent cutting
  4. Is line cutting different in different grades?

All good questions! How can we know who and why people cut in line?  How could we make others aware of the “taking the motivation” of cutting away?

They should notice.  If people cut to get bagels, for example, we could move or remove the bagels.  Maybe if they are somewhere else the line will form differently and cutting won’t happen.  I think we need more empathy for others.

How does my cutting affect/impact the people in line behind me?  Would anyone tolerate a senior cutting in line in front of a 1st grader?  Would we allow that to happen?  What is the difference in cutting in line when others can’t “fight back?” How do we encourage our community to model and live the Golden Rule?

We have also used brainwriting with our teacher-learners in PLC to build ideas and understanding around PBL.  We have used brainwriting with our Department Integration Specialists to build common lessons on digital citizenship.

The brainwriting process is fantastic and yields great results.  The index cards and Post-it notes are bound to a physical space.  What if we shifted this experience to a set of Google docs?  Would we get the same good thinking?

John Burk outlined using Google docs to using brainwriting with a team in his Quantum Progress post Brainwriting to explore digital citizenship.

“Here’s how it works:

  1. In google docs, create a template document with a writing prompt, and then place that document inside that collection. For us, the prompt was “Describe how to serve, lead and grow in a community.”
  2. Share the document with your class or colleagues, and ask each person to create his/her own copy of the template, and rename it with his/her last name.
  3. Have each person write for 3 minutes on the prompt on their copy of the template.
  4. After three minutes, ask each person to switch to the next document in the list, read what is written and then add to that document in the voice of the original author.”

John continues in his post saying “Once you’ve got 3-4 rounds with this, you’ll be pretty amazed by how the entire group has created a collection documents that present a range of viewpoints and yet share many common threads.”

How do we teach collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and divergent thinking?  How do we coach ourselves and others to listen and contribute to the ideas of others?

_________________________

If you have ideas of how to use brainwriting to create collaborative experiences to move teams, will you share them in the comments below?  Will you read another’s idea and extend it to learn and share?

Water instead of Soda #PBLidea #AskDon’tTell

Is there PBL potential and academic content in this commercial from Nestlé?

By replacing one sugared beverage a day with [a bottle of water], you can cut 50,000 calories a year from [your] diet.

The fine print in the ad says that this is based on replacing one 12 oz 140 calorie sugared beverage daily with water for a year.

Where could a discussion of this ad take us in class? What questions will learners ask? What questions will we ask our learners?  What questions might be asked to challenge learners apply what they know?  What questions might be asked to promote problem-finding, problem-solving, communication, leadership, initiative, action, service, and other critical competencies?

Ask; don’t tell.  Listen and learn.  Just ask a question…see where it takes us.

Practicing to be a TLC student leads to learning and questions

I am very intrigued by Steve Goldberg’s use of Google Earth for education and empathy.  Yesterday he posted A typical morning at TLC middle school.  For context, here’s what Steve predicts a day might look like at his school, opening in fall of 2013 in North Carolina:

In the spirit of learning by doing, I thought I’d practice being a student at Triangle Learning Community middle school and follow the typical morning plan for the Morning News Discussion…with a Synergy twist. In Synergy, we wanted to work in ripples – local, national, and international. I gave myself the 45 minutes to read and investigate. This 45-minute exercise turned into the entire two hours! It is the most concentrated news reading I have done in a while!

I started with the AJC to read and learn more about Atlanta. The article Three options for the ‘Gulch’ caught my attention. I noticed the “Gulch” just last week. I used Google Earth to see the area. I immediately thought of how to use the map view in 6th grade math when we teach the area and perimeter of “funny shapes.”

I was intrigued by the vocabulary and meaning of “multimodal passenger terminal” because I have just been reading about how car-oriented Atlanta is which can be frustrating for cyclists. The search for multimodal passenger terminal lead me to atlantadowntown.com’s Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal page.  I did not know Atlanta was planning to have a street car.  I also did not know about Bikes and Bites on July 21.  Bikes and Bites is billed as a car free initiative during Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week where Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) are encouraging diners to ride their bikes to dinner at more than 20 Downtown restaurants.  What positive environmental outcomes are predicted?  Wow!  Bo’s Whatever It Is I Think I See Becomes a PBL to Me! is so true!

I read and researched and connected these ideas for quite a bit of time.  I wanted to “go global” with my news reading too.  I returned to A typical morning at TLC middle school. After watching the video again and reading the linked article about child brides in Niger, I wondered what the headlines were from the paper in Niger.  Did they have a daily paper? I found Le Républicain Niger using Newspaper Map, a new-to-me resource suggested by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. Thankfully, Newspaper Map would translate this newspaper into English (from French) so I could read the headlines.  Talk about a lesson in perspective!  Not one mention of the plight of child brides, the hunger crisis, rapid population growth or infant mortality in the headlines of Le Républicain Niger.

How often do we not see problems in our own community?  How can we find (do we seek) new perspectives to see and observe what is happening in our neighborhoods and larger communities?

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (After 3) Coffee and Dessert: What Will Sweeten Your Teaching After #CFTSI12?

On Monday and Tuesday, June 25-26, Bo Adams and Jill Gough facilitated a ten-hour workshop on PBL at The Center for Teaching Summer Institute (#CFTSI12 on Twitter). With this post (see below the bulleted list), we are hoping to encourage and support the most important part of any conference or institute for professional learning – the “taking-things-back-to-school-to-enhance-learning” part.

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (After 3)
Coffee and Dessert: What Will Sweeten Your Teaching After #CFTSI12?
(180 Days of Possibility in 2012-13 – Keeping the Conversation Going)

CHALLENGE: Many believe that this is actually the best part of the meal. The #CFTSI12 for Synergy and PBL is complete, but the fun, decadent portion has just begun. As we all know, peak learning tends toward project-based experiences, and students long remember the sweetness of the projects that they taste and savor. Additionally, Steven Johnson advocates for coffeehouse environments that create the conditions for great conversations and colliding hunches. So…let’s feed our sweet tooth and share in those magical after-diner-coffee conversations. When (not if!) you implement PBL with your student learners, share the plates and cups with the entire table – POST your writing, resources, insights, and struggles regarding your PBL implementations. If you have a blog, please consider cross-posting to Synergy2Learn as a contributing author. If you don’t have a blog of your own, we still invite you to post to our collective-wisdom site for PBL – Synergy2Learn.

  1. When you are ready to share and contribute, email Jill and Bo, and we will set you up as “contributors” to the Synergy2Learn PBL blog.
  2. After you are set up as a contributing author, you can keep on posting about your pursuits and accomplishments with PBL.
  3. Even if you did not physically participate in the #CFTSI12 for Synergy and PBL, this offer still applies!

_________

Coming Soon…

Amazing stories of PBL experiments, implementations, and accomplishments from our #CFTSI12 participants and blog readers (hopefully!)…

[Cross-posted on It’s About Learning and Synergy2Learn]

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (3 of 3) The Second Course: “School’s Cool” – PBL for the Student-Learner

[On Tuesday, June 26, as part of the Center for Teaching’s annual Summer Institutes, Bo Adams and Jill Gough are facilitating day 2 of a two-day workshop on PBL (project-based learning, problem-based learning, place-based learning, passion-based learning, etc.). The online course description is linked below, and the outline for day 2 follows. The pre-institute assignment (the “appetizers”) and a short description of the “flights” structure can be found here, and the outline for day 1 is here.]

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (3/3)
The Second Course: “School’s Cool” – PBL for the Student-Learner
(Day 2 – Tuesday, June 26, 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.)

EL #1: I can share my deep understanding of PBL through PBL methods and pedagogies, as well as with direct-instruction and conversation.

EL #2: I can commit to PBL with student learners by working through stages of rapid-prototype planning, implementing, and assessing.

8:30 – 9:15 a.m.
Fail more…Fail Faster (Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail Reprise) Flight

  1. With your partner, use your PBL storyboard and developing asset pool to continue building your PBL multi-media tool. Remember to review the good thinking and storyboarding of other groups – it’s not “stealing,” it’s sharing and collaborating!
  2. Review and revise assets you made for self-selected “HW” last night…recycle, re-design, re-purpose, re-build,…
  3. At 9:00, we’ll do a quick sub-team check-in – by jigsawing among sub-teams – before we move on with the next flight. (Suggested protocol: THE 5 WHYS)

9:15 – 10:00 a.m.
Bloom’s Got Nothin’ On Us Flight

  1. Quick exploration and discussion of pbl-PBL matrix, a.k.a. “Adams-Gough Taxonomy.”
  2. Quiet reflection – place some of your current project work on a copy of the Adams-Gough Taxonomy.
  3. Brief share-out and mediated journal of possibilities for working in capital-P PBL (upper-right quadrant).

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
I Am Not a Commitment-phobe Flight

  1. Using DESIGN THE BOX or COVER STORY, create a model and story to share with the group. The model and story should share a PBL idea that you will commit to implementing with your student learners in the first semester of 2012-13.
  2. At 10:35, we will hear 2-3 minute presentations from each designer/group.
  3. During each presentation, contribute post-it feedback: 1) I like…, 2) I wonder…, 3) I want to know more about…

11:00 – 11:59 a.m.
Pardon Our Noise…It’s the Sound of PBL Construction Flight

  1. Time to complete the next iteration of your rapid-prototype design for the multi-media PBL tool.
  2. Time to workshop some of the feedback that undoubtedly will arise from the “I Am Not a Commitment-phobe” Flight.
  3. Time to question, question, question – they are waypoints on the path of wisdom.

12:00 p.m.
Lunch…PBL really stirs an appetite (especially on Day Two)!

12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
On the TEDxCFT/IGNITE Stage Flight

  1. Each sub-team will have 15 minutes: 5 minutes for presentation of their multi-media PBL tool + 8 minutes of Q & A + 2 minutes of transition.
  2. Don’t Get Stuck – You Have What It Takes to Make the Next Steps!
  3. Invitation to “Coffee and Dessert” Flight

_________

Coming Soon…

Synergy-PBL: Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom #CFTSI12 (After 3)
Coffee and Dessert: What Will Sweeten Your Teaching After #CFTSI12?
(180 Days of Possibility in 2012-13 – Keeping the Conversation Going)

[Cross-posted on It’s About Learning and Synergy2Learn]

Synergy – Questions are the waypoints on the path of wisdom #MICON12

On Thursday, June 14, Bo Adams and Jill Gough are facilitating a double-session at The Martin Institute’s 2012 Conference (#MICON12 on Twitter). Below, conference participants and blog readers alike can find an outline of our session (at least as we intend it before we start!), complete with links to the resources we plan to use.

Synergy – Questions are the waypoints on the path of wisdom (Framework Plans) [100 minutes]

  1. Marshmallow Challenge [18 minutes + setup + debrief = 30 minutes]
  2. Synergy 8 Preso + Showcase Project Products/Q&A [15 minutes + 15 minutes = 30 minutes]
  3. Reading from The Falconer re: Questions [5 minutes]
  4. Gamestorm to share about others’ experiences/practices with PBL (see “Post-Up”) + Gamestorm to generate future ideas for PBL (see “Storyboard”) [30 minutes]
  5. Wrap-Up + Goodie Bag[5 minutes]
    1. “7 Essentials for Project-Based Learning” article + “4 A’s” protocol
    2. Peak Learning Experience Exercise – “Think about your own life and the times when you were really learning, so much and so deeply, that you would call these the ‘peak learning experiences’ of your life. Tell a story (you may include pictures, symbols, or other icons, too) about this peak learning experience, and respond to the question, ‘What were the conditions that made your high-level experience so powerful and engaging?'(adapted from 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, Trilling and Fadel, 2009). Jill and Bo often use this prompt as a pre-writing exercise in order to connect people with the project-based nature of our most enduring learnings throughout life.
    3. Synergy2Learn (resource on PBL)
    4. Synergy 8 Logo, Essential Learnings, and Learning Targets (via Scribd) [also embedded below]

Title of the Conversation
Synergy – Questions are the waypoints on the path of wisdom

Conversational Focus/Audience
High School
Middle School
Upper Elementary School

Short Description
Like a tribe around the fire, let’s discuss how we implement PBL as an entire course or as an input to a class. The conversation starters will describe Synergy – an 8th grade community-issues course. Then, through story exchange, we will share a variety of PBL ideas and implementation methods.

Extended Description
In Westminster’s 8th grade, we are experiencing year two of a new course called “Synergy 8.” Synergy is a non-departmentalized, transdisciplinary, non-graded, community-issues, problem-solving course. While we begin with an “alpha project” to practice project process, we use the “Falconer” method to empower student questioning and curiosity. From the student questions, the entire team generates the projects on which learners of all ages ultimately work.

Our conversational focus will be PBL (project-based learning, problem-based learning, passion-based learning, place-based learning, etc.). We intend to generate ideas from an exchange of current practices and possibilities. We hope to move beyond mere conversation and bridge into collaboration by building for the future more student-learner generated PBL…perhaps even “big, hairy audacious” PBL that unites our various schools and increases the mass of folks working on the problems which define our world.

For more detailed stimulus about “Synergy” and “PBL,” see categories and tags on Bo’s and Jill’s blogs: It’s About Learning (Bo’s blog) and Experiments in Learning by Doing (Jill’s blog).

[Cross-posted at It’s About Learning]