Project Based Learning Workshop

Project Based Learning WorkshopExternal Experts Jill Akers and Shayna Cooke from the World Leadership School lead the Upper School team in professional learning focused on the inquiry-based, teaching approach known as PBL or project based learning. The Upper School team learns how to lead a class discussion without a teacher “at the front.” Each person must speak at least once before the next prompt/question is posed. Someone at the board maps out the discussion to make sure each person speaks and that no one monopolizes the air-time. The teacher does not make eye contact and does not allow the students to engage him/her, but “snaps” when the text/article is referenced. What does assessment look like, feel like, sound like? What does it look like at the “end”?

Watching a clip from “The Karate Kid.” Mr. Miyagi is the ultimate teacher. His preferred strategy is not lecture, but hands on, real world engagement. Daniel doesn’t even realize he has been learning karate.

Any professional learning workshop is incomplete until Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy makes an appearance.  See Bloom’s question stems.

Introducing Faculty Badges: Winter Edition 2017

Today was the grand unveiling of the new suite of badges designed for faculty by Amy Wilkes and Katie Cain. Like a kid at Christmas, I still get excited when new badges are designed and introduced. These badges are only available through the end of April, so don’t let them pass by you.

Remember, a badge has six elements to its design. Although the artwork is often the most visible and appealing aspect of a badge, it is only 1/6 of the design. Like a quarterback who gets all the credit when a team wins, the artwork can overshadow the other 5/6 of the badge. 

There are a number of things I really like and wish to highlight about these particular badges. First, I love how we have developed specific ‘families’ of badges. For example, there are now 3 badges related to PBL (project based learning). They look very similar, yet they are distinctive. True learners and die hard badgers will collect them all.






Next, notice how the badges offered are not only highly relevant to the larger mission and work of the whole school, but also how they combine multiple school initiatives. For example, the Spotlight on the 4 C’s incorporates the wildly important Mount Vernon Mindsets (4 of the 6 21st century core competencies) AND the spotlight feature of Folio Collaborative along with the important practice of learning walks (see more on learning walks).

Finally, the Random Act of Kindness badge breaks new ground by being the first badge you cannot apply for yourself. A colleague must apply on your behalf. I’m interested to see how this one plays out in the weeks ahead.

And on a final, final note…I think my favorite ‘family’ of badges currently are the Challenge Badges. I love the colors and ‘look’ of these badges. And, I love each of the challenges associated with them. To me, they are the most ‘fun’ of all the criteria. The Blogger Challenge was an early success last summer. The Visible Thinking Routine Challenge was equally fun as teachers posted their classes in action to twitter and Ann Plumer featured the work on bulletin boards in middle school spaces on each campus. I hope our teachers will go for it with the Virtual Reality challenge. 

Pre-Planning Recap: Day 1

pre-planningOpening Session Agenda:
1) Welcome
2) Special Guests: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump lead us in icebreakers (Thank you Matt & Laura)
3) Circle up and introduce yourself
4) Play game “Would you rather”
– Apples, Oranges, Peaches
– 70s, 80s, or 90s
– Bring back Chris Farley or John Candy
5) Tips for how to get the most out of your pre-planning experience
– Accept the calendar invitations (and notice details ie location)
– Make wise use of your “GTD” (Get Things Done) times
– Be early/on time and ready to contribute, move us forward
– Look for someone to help
6) Inspiration: Share about “Raiders Guys” and compare to Gold Standard PBL
7) Break and Transition to PBL Session w/Jenny & Maggie

Location: New, empty Middle School room


Visiting Brightworks

Visiting Brightworks

Visiting Brightworks

Arriving a day early for the NAIS Conference in San Francisco, our team took the opportunity to visit the Brightworks school. Greeted by Founder and Education Architect Gever Tully who wrote the book 50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do, I was immediately struck by the open layout and the sense of freedom and possibility in the school.

Visiting BrightworksVisiting Brightworks
Visiting BrightworksStudents can access tools to construct prototypes of nearly anything one can imagine. The more dangerous tools are placed higher on the wall, if only to give pause to a student before proceeding to utilize. Visiting BrightworksVisiting Brightworks
Visiting Brightworks We were given a tour by one of the older students who was working on an airplane when we arrived. There are no classrooms, only spaces. No classes nor grade levels, only ‘bands.’ Students gather in spaces to following specific learning arcs and/or their own learning passions and curiosities.Visiting Brightworks No lockers, only cubbies. Visiting Brightworks Visiting Brightworks Visiting Brightworks Visiting Brightworks Visiting Brightworks Visiting BrightworksA stack of “Lord of the Flies” shows that classical literature has a place in every school.
Visiting Brightworks Visiting Brightworks Spotted some familiar sights like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and some unique sites (we don’t have our own school dog yet).Visiting Brightworks Visiting Brightworks I felt right at home once the students brought out the drone. They let me try on the FPV (First Person View) goggles which puts you in the front seat of the aircraft. Visiting Brightworks Visiting Brightworks

My visit to Brightworks was both inspiring and uncomfortable. I’m so glad we had the chance to tour and learn. As someone who grew up (and taught) in fairly traditional Atlanta schools and who currently works in a school that leads in innovation, I had a lot of questions about how certain logistics worked.

Inspired by folks who are trying a different approach to educating children, I left wrestling with the healthy tension between letting curiosity (a natural motivator) drive learning v. a prescribed, strict set of require content (learning outcomes). I think there is a need (and space) for both.

What do you think? When designing a lesson, unit, classroom, school, or any learning environment, what is the best mix/balance of content and curiosity?

Passion Based Learning

Passion Based Learning: The “Other” PBL

Middle School students in Grades 7 & 8 are piloting an incredible opportunity with an incredible educator. Over a dozen students voluntarily signed up for a 6 week course (2 days per week) stayed after school to pursue their own learning passions. Led by a volunteer teacher, Mikala Streeter, students are diving deep into a whole range of topics they they chose including coding, cooking, stop motion video making, origami, and guitar.

passion1 passion2 passion3 passion4 passion5

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How might we create more opportunities like this for our students?

I Build Learning Experiences by Mikala Streeter
Why and How to Let Students Decide by Alfie Kohn