As I fell deeper into bow making, I began to search far and beyond my neighborhood.
I’ve been studying the TED talk below – “Dong Woo Jang: The art of bow-making.” In a high-pressure, high-stakes testing environment, Dong Woo Jang pursues a personal passion and extended project that helps him construct knowledge, skills, understanding, and wisdom from areas that we would typically separate and subdivide in school, likely with no intentional, threaded connection.
What drive and persistence it takes for a young person to make time for such committed exploration and discovery while living in a system that dominates so much of his day having to study someone else’s interests.
What if school were more purposefully designed for the committed pursuit of our passions and curiosities? So that a story such as Dong Woo Jang’s would be ordinary instead of extraordinary.
Colleague @jgough sent me: The Cockroach Beatbox. YouTube’s version is below. Fascinating! Made me think we should facilitate more of this kind of work with students. Yet, I hope the students would be the scientists, not just the audience. I hope they could produce the equipment, animations, video.
Then, I read comments at Cockroach Beatbox; my brain sparked to invaluable discussion and debate possibilities, too.
Twenty-four, eighth-grade synergists are working in six discreet groups – their projects originated from the data-mining of over 300 observation-journal blog posts that they collected. The projects are:
Graffiti (is it art, vandalism, both? how can we use it for good?)
Nancy Creek (what can we know and understand about the creek that runs through our campus?)
Crusade for Cleanliness (how could organizational-flow changes enhance the stewardship in our dining hall?)
Obesity (how can we improve the alarming issue of obesity in American youth?)
Sleep (what impact on school do our sleep habits create?)
Habitat for Humanity Spring Fling (how could a school fair raise money and awareness for homelessness?)
Because Jill Gough, one of the two Synergy facilitator-coaches, was presenting at the Learning Forward Annual Conference on Monday, Dec. 5, she was in Anaheim, CA. The other facilitator-coach, Bo Adams, was in Atlanta, GA. Having grown accustomed to and convinced of the viability of team-teaching in such a project-based course, Bo and Jill felt some anxiety about having only one facilitator present to serve best the six groups during this critical phase of their project development.
[In your mind's ear, cue that quintessential cartoon superhero intro theme.] Never fear…video conferencing is here!
As we think about preparing students for a work world that will most likely include significant use of such tools as iChat, Facetime, Skype, and other video “conferencers,” then it seems natural to practice such work processes. Perhaps students already use such tools socially, but school could help coach the use of such tools for more formal, business-like purposes. Additionally, we should all be thinking more about how we can invite various co-teachers into our classrooms – to break down the walls that seem to preserve the arcane model of one adult per group of classroom students. Practice leads to enhanced proficiency. On Monday, Dec. 5, Synergy engaged in some additional practice of tearing down those 20th century classroom walls. Who knows who else we might next invite to teach with us…from the exterior of our learning space’s four physical walls.
As one student-learner can be heard exclaiming in the video: “This is so next level!”
Our Synergy team is at the halfway mark, time wise, of the semester. For the past 9 weeks we have been recording images, questions, and thoughts in our observation journals. We use a common space, a Posterous group, to communicate, collaborate, and connect ideas.
The challenge now upon us…What data mining strategies should we employ to uncover community issues that, as a team, we want to study, investigate, problem-find and problem-solve? We have over 300 posts. It seems daunting, almost overwhelming to sift through our data.
Via his talk at TEDGlobal 2010, “How complexity leads to simplicity,” Eric Berlow was our “guest expert” to help us think about and learn that “complex doesn’t always equal complicated.”
A couple of key insights that stuck with us include:
[Use] the simple power of good visualization tools to help untangle complexity to just encourage you to ask questions you didn’t think of before.
The more you step back, embrace complexity, the better chance you have of finding simple answers and it is often different than the answer that you started with.
Here is a quick trailer and then approximately 4 minutes of video from Monday’s Synergy learning experience to show one of our attempts to find simplicity on the other side of our complex task of data mining for new projects.
If you facilitate project-based learning, how do you empower students to determine the team projects?
What other methods would you recommend to us for putting students in “that driver’s seat?”
How does assessment for learning change when immersed in PBL?
How would you assess the various learning demonstrated in the video?