A Successful Move

I get as tired as the next person of all these labels and acronyms. But this week I was so grateful for my network, and a friend who came through in a pinch.

For the last two years, we’ve had our school’s blogging platform hosted by Bluehost. Then, given one week’s notice, we were told we had become too large and needed to move. Yikes. I didn’t know what do to. Panic set in.

But Jim Groom came to the rescue (nobody helps like the Bava). Turns out Gardner Campbell was having similar issues, and between them and another friend, they flipped us over to a new site. Frankly, we would have been lost without his assistance. His recommendation (also sent by a former student) was to move to ThePlanet.com. A few phone calls on my part, and lots of hours on his part, and we are up and running!!

We have our own cloud server (I will probably need to learn how to manage some of it, but, hey, it’s good for the brain synapses, right?) And our kids can now continue sharing, reflecting, and learning.

All because one day I saw this tweet from Jim. Well, you can read more about it here.

I love what he wrote here:

Bully for Fredericksburg Academy for opting for a fast, cheap, and out-of-control approach to teaching and learning technologies that basically tells your students that you don’t hate them or distrust them, but rather are intent on giving them an open space to make their voices heard. Sometimes a little local sharing goes a long way!

You are so right, Jim. You rock. Thanks.

Knowing and Learning

How do you know? Have you ever asked that question?

Think about it differently now. How do you “know” things….

This evening I had another one of those intertube moments…where I read a short blog post about a new book: Leading Adult Learning by Ellie Drago-Severson. My interest in the tiny blip sent me googling Amazon for the book reviews.

Another search turned up Michael Ebeling’s piece on Drago-Severson’s work, his discussion about her research, and its implications for teachers and schools. He said:

Educators who are self-aware about and strategic in their response to their tendencies as learners and who engage one another in a school culture of teaming, leadership, collegial inquiry and mentoring, are positioned to model the zest for lifelong learning we seek to inspire in our students.

Tendencies as learners? Zest for lifelong learning? More googling…and I found an article by Drago-Severson herself in one of my favorite reads, YES magazine. Bingo.

Drago-Severson believes “that schools must be places where adults as well as children can grow.” Ok, I’m with her, there.

She lists and discusses the four ways of knowing:

4 Ways of Knowing: Rule-Based :: Other-Focused :: Reflective :: Interconnecting

Her research points to ways adult learners gather and process information–and how to help adults know and reflect more about their own styles. The chart (yes, there’s a PDF you can download) piqued my interest, and I found the post was part of a larger series by YES called Learn as You Go, why life’s best lessons are outside the classroom.

By the way, her work is based on Robert Kegan’s research on adult learning. He also writes about “immunity to change.” Want more on that? Here you go.

And people wonder why I spend so much time reading online. Fascinating.

Authentic Learning Works

How Liveblogging is Changing Journalism

Reading this article about Amir Abo-Shaeer, the recent MacArthur award winner, took me back a few years. Amir has established an experienced-based learning program for his students.  Fast Company reports he runs the engineering Academy “like a business.”

“Students help write grants; they do PR, and they develop our website.” He calls his approach project-based learning and says the students learn both soft skills and business skills so they are ready “to join the world of work.”

“We are going to be left behind if we don’t see a paradigm shift,” says Abo-Shaeer. He therefore wants to see his project-based learning applied to all subjects and taught across the United States in order to meet the demands of “students as consumers of education.”

I applaud Amir for his work and insight into how students learn best– and what we can accomplish when we create the right design for learning.

Years ago, I taught high school journalism along with the standard English courses. Whenever I stopped to think about the difference in the two courses, I was struck with how much the journalism students gained from their real-life work. They wrote, published (yes, even back in the 1980s we used a Mac and published our newspaper at the local printer), and sold advertising. Working in teams, they learned to lead, collaborate, and share. We had real deadlines, and we stuck to them.

In contrast, my English classes, for the most part, sat in rows quietly, discussing the previous night’s reading or taking a quiz.Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet learned how to transfer what I had designed in my journalism classes to the rest of my day.

The journalism students tended to become better writers than my English students. They also approached their learning eagerly, often spending far more time working on our newspaper than our class guidelines required of them. Students engaged in debate about truth and fairness, they set goals, and they learned communication skills. Each student focused on his or her strength, whether advertising, photography, or writing, and yet, they all learned the skills. Heck we were even blogging back in 2004!

I guess  I am a slow learner because I finally realized I could apply similar principles to my English classes. And, as I’ve written before, much improved  learning came from this approach.

Amir has created a powerful program for his science and engineering students. His philosophy of education resonates with all of us who have worked to create project-based, authentic learning in our classes. And now he has been rewarded fully with a grant to teach other teachers.

This works.

image credit: By digitaljournal.com