Thursday, January 31, 2013

Are You Ready For This?

Reading Shawn Cornally's post Just Throwing This Out There:  ThThTh's School for the Boredom-Averse I was reminded of an Educon 2.5 session with Will Richardson earlier in the week.  In the  session titled "Why School?", Will asked us to come up with "95 Theses" reflecting the world of contemporary learning and schooling.  We, along with Andrew Coy from Digital Harbor Foundation, came up with the following list:

  • Learn how to learn.  Learn to love learning
    • No more lesser motivations
  • Learning should happen all the time
    • No more division between school and life
  • School work should be real work
    • No more solving problems that have been solved already
  • Anyone can be a content expert
    • No more single point of knowledge and structural hierarchy
  • Information is everywhere and infinitely abundant
    • Curation is something you do, not something done to you
  • Your audience is as big as your network
    • No more handing work in to a teacher only
  • Evaluation is a conversation and should be based on worth to others
    • No more grades
  • Bring the common back to the classroom
    • No more absolute teacher control
  • Learning is no longer location-based
    • No more wall, excuses, or smells
  • Learning is exhausting
    • No more complaining
  • Time in non-linear and accessible
    • Nothing worth doing stops because the clock moves
  • Engagement is control
    • No more behavior management tricks
  • Learning is on-demand and anyone can demand it anytime
    • No more waiting to learn
  • Age is irrelevant
    • No more predicting graduation year based on your date of birth
  • Teachers:  If you are not curious, find something else to do
    • No more coasting on when you used to learn
  • Teachers:  You teach students, not subjects
    • No more subjects

Is this really too good to be true?

 We're in.  Are you?

-Ken Kozar

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shouldn't This Count As Data?

You don't need a grade book to prove that these kids are learning.  There isn't a short-cycle assessment that captures what is captured in these photos.  However, this is a short-cycle assessment, 

The mistake we make is that we try to translate what we observe about student learning into numbers and letters.  Ralph Waldo Emerson identified this in 1837 when he wrote, "Yes hence arises a grave mischief.  The sacredness which attaches to the act of creation, - the act of though, - is transferred to the record. love of the hero corrupts into worship of his statue."

This push for data, this collective craze for measurement, this constant short-cycle testing, it all falls short of what can be learned by looking at these students consider a real problem, with real stakes, and with real curiosity.  Are we even talking about curiosity anymore? 

Maybe we've been relying on quantitative measurement of learning because we didn't have easy access to the tools that capture qualitative assessment.  In an age in which photos are free and video is easy, why aren't we turning to them as evidence of learning instead of our latest scores spit out by the Scantron machine?

Formative assessment is designed for both the learner and the teacher, and therefore, in a way, formative assessment is a conversation.  The digital record we are compiling of our learning as we engage in The WikiSeat project is a valid type of formative assessment, and we're increasingly sure of our students' ability to develop the kind of mindset that will serve them well on the more formal tests that purport to measure our students' capacity.

- Sean Wheeler

Monday, January 28, 2013

The WikiSeat Project: Oranges and Books

Over the past two days, to begin work on this year's iteration of The WikiSeat Project, our 10th Grade American Literature class ate and examined an orange slowly over the course of 25 minutes and closely read through Ralph Waldo Emerson's The American Scholar (1837).  Here's a look at what students are saying about it in their blog posts, I think it speaks for itself.  I also have some notes, more from a teacher's perspective on the project, here. - Sean Wheeler

 * To read complete posts, click on the student's name.

"Have you ever eaten an orange for a half an hour? No? Well I did." 

"This experience was pretty interesting to me because I never thought about looking at anything and examining it or really thinking about it. Like, where it came from, how it was made or how it smelled. It was an interesting day in class." 
- Kaitlin K.

"Books should not be there to read because we have to, but to be there to read because we want to."
 - Faith C.

"I discovered that under the white skin of the slice there are many small individual thin pieces filled with juice, probably about twenty or thirty of them. I never knew that, or bothered to see them before, and thought it was pretty cool."
- Alex M.

"It sounds really weird but, actually, it did make me think about taking my time with other things to appreciate their value more. Also, it was probably the juiciest, best tasting orange I've ever had." 
- Mercedes L.

"...and that books destroy the true beauty of people's thoughts and that you should go out and have adventures instead of reading, unless you have nothing else to do." 
- Mike J.

"I now try to take more time to eat things or do things so I can appreciate it more." 
- Augie S.

"Honestly, this was the best orange I've ever eaten. I've never taken twenty-five minutes to eat an orange. Maybe five minutes. But in that five minutes, I never appreciated it, thought about where it came from, or looked at the cells. Now, I've tasted the juice, smelled it well, and will probably not look at an orange the same again. I liked this activity because it showed me how to look at things in a different perspective." 
- Sara T.

"So how does an orange relate to English? Well, it doesn't, to me anyway. Mr. Wheeler has this idea, not his original idea, about how if we take time to experience things, they become better; more living.  Experiencing life in a slower manner helps you appreciate the little things, like oranges." 

"So many of us are afraid to speak our mind and "possess" more of our minds.  It's a real shame."

"The American Scholar and eating the apple are very much related, if you don't go out of your way to experience life, you simply won't. You will not get all that you can get out of life if you shut yourself in behind books or the walls of your house." 

"This got me thinking. What if I took music to this level of thinking?" 
- Nathan M.

"After everyone was done I thought about the connection with not only appreciation, but also with thinking about and analyzing things." 

"In class one day my teacher was telling us how much better things are when you do something instead of just watching or reading it. When I first heard this I could right away relate to it. I just thought it was cool because I could actually relate to something in school."
- Victor S

"I know what you're thinking. "Who takes twenty-five minutes to eat a small orange that you can eat in five?" Well, we do. That helped me realize that, if you slow down and don't rush, you can see things in a completely different perspective. Now, when I see an orange, I think of that activity. It now reminds me to slow down. It may sound weird, and it may not sound like your average 10th grade English class, but that's what makes it fun. Because it's different"

"Looking around at the kids in this class, I no longer see kids, I see futures."