This week I have watched the ACEC conference twitter stream from the sideline with more interest than any other with several students from my school attending as part of a Digital Leaders group. A great opportunity to listen to presentations, tweet thoughts and questions and interact with teachers and keynotes.
They have done a brilliant job of pushing ideas and reflecting genuine student voice and have also been excited by the various learning opportunities showcased at the event.
20%PROJECTS: Donating 20% of your time to solving a problem relevant to you. Can turn into something big; next best thing #ACEC2014
— ACECDigitalLeaders (@ACECDLs) October 3, 2014
After hearing about this idea over 2 years ago, I developed Passion Project time in my own teaching and had our faculty run the projects with students over a term. This year as part of a different team we have implemented this concept into a “Big Idea” project with our entire year 8 cohort.
The concept remains the same, students can work independently or in groups on a project of their choice. There are expectations to develop a proposal and present/share findings or experiences upon completion.
Whilst I treasure and value these opportunities for students, I also wonder: how long can we keep adding this into our week as an extra though? How can we justify to students that this learning is different to their classroom learning? How much does that devalue what they are doing in each subject?
“Ok in this ‘special’ time you can learn about things that interest you and are meaningful to you, in any way you like, but the rest of the time, it’s just stuff you have to do!”
My argument here is not that we ditch these projects. I found it was a great stepping stone in my own experiences of supporting students to complete very different projects but on a similar time frame. I have learnt a great deal in this time including how to scaffold and lead discoveries and push students to ask and develop their own questions.
I am suggesting that instead of keeping these projects or times separate from our everyday school experiences, it should just be part of our everyday learning in classes. Why can’t kids be involved in ‘real’ and meaningful learning experiences in all their subjects?
Instead of adding another subject/lesson into the timetable, shouldn’t we be looking at what is already happening in classes and working on how we can make that more meaningful?
Shouldn’t this kind of learning be more like 80% not 20%?
Seth Godin is someone I really enjoy reading regularly. I don’t always agree with everything he has to say, but his reflections on stigmas, cultural change, relationships and education are always interesting and often inspire further exploration. The following post had me thinking about our roles in maintaining the status quo in education.
If we think we are, we probably will.
We’re more likely to laugh at the comedy club. More likely to like the food at a fancy restaurant. More likely to feel like it’s a bargain if we’re at the outlet store.
Am I supposed to applaud now? Be happy? Hate that guy? Use a fork?
Judgments happen long before we think they do.
And successful marketers (and teachers and leaders) invest far more into “supposed to” than it appears.
As we approach a new school year, I have been considering how I will support the continued development of learning experiences we cultivate for our students. I often get told that my perspective is fresh because I haven’t always been a teacher. Whilst that may have some truth and I do believe that we all benefit from the richness of experiences we indulge in beyond the school walls, I think it is also true that we need to approach teaching with new eyes every day.
We have all spent at least 13 years in an education system, good, bad or otherwise which means we have an expectation of what school is “supposed” to be. Parents and families (and of course students) also have an expectation. I certainly don’t go to my doctor and say, “yes but when I was a doctor” but our families do have experience of being a student “in school”.
“All to often, on the long road up, young leaders become servants of what is rather than shapers of what might be.” ― John Gardner
I never want to maintain a practice just because it has always been done that way. I want my actions and choices to be determined by purpose, merit and opportunity, to be open to what might be. Part of this challenge is to work with families, community, peers and students to change their ideas of what school is “supposed” to look like, feel like and sound like. Even the smallest of changes can have a huge impact on perceptions and attitudes. Something as simple as committing to welcoming your students each and every day can increase their sense of worth and make them want to be at school, through to developing real world projects that give students opportunities to make a difference in their community or another.
I am extremely excited about the opportunities we can make this year and I will continue to be open to what might be.
Will you be reproducing, or shaping something new?