Posts Tagged ‘Project Zero’

So, I’m still thinking about this idea of the commonplace book reinterpreted. This idea fits nicely with the ideas of slow learning that were highlighted at the Project Zero conference I attended in October. We, as observers, notice things all the time, but how much of it goes in one ear/eye and out the other? Honestly, a lot of it can just keep on going since I know I see and hear an awful lot of crap. However, systems to keep the good stuff and the “it might not be so good but it is really interesting to me” stuff are key.

One of my booksnaps for "How it Went Down" by Kekla Magoon

One of my booksnaps for “How it Went Down” by Kekla Magoon

With my second semester class, I plan to keep the noticing and collecting going, but want to adjust the format a little. This course has a lot of shorter books, rather than a few longer ones. And, comparing and looking and the works in groups is a key component to the work we will do. So, I wanted a more group oriented, public system where we could put a lot of raw data. @TeacherDebra introduced me to booksnaps some time ago. Time to put them to use. I was not a snapchatter myself, but I set up a Snapchat and a Tumblr. We are gong to use Snaphat as a photo editor; I am not going to be sending snaps to the students directly. Students take pictures of passages of text that stand out to them, annotate them in some way with the Snapchat tools, save the image, submit it to our Tumblr page. (Full disclosure, I got the tumblr idea from the amazing Ann Hamilton’s habitus project and the collection of quotations about clothing she solicited through her tumblr: cloth a commonplace. Seriously, I love Ann Hamilton.)

Since we started the semester with several independent reads, it was a great way to share our books. Then, we moved on to a unit of three books we all read together. The students and I took turns leading class for these books. Part of the job of leading class was to share, before or after, a few booksnaps to support the ideas of the discussion. For the independent reading, it was a good option that helped us talk about common characteristics that we were seeing. As we moved on, I didn’t incorporate the booksnaps into class as well. Therefore, the students had a hard time remembering them too. No surprise that when I dropped the ball, they dropped it too.

We are just finishing this unit, and I am going to return to the booksnaps as we move into our next group of texts, perhaps with a little bit of focus.

Anyway, there are several things I like about our Tumblr booksnaps so far. It’s a pretty quick and easy way to collect passages, and the students are so used to the tool that they add comments and notes in no time. Therefore, I get more information about their thoughts about the books. Victory! I really just want my students to think and share that thinking with me. So, if I can find a way that accomplishes both of those goals, I’m happy.

So, I’ve been thinking about when the right time for professional development is. Is there even an answer for this?

In an ideal world, professional development would happen just-in-time. The practicalities of this approach are a challenge. It’s hard to plan to attend conferences if one waits for just the right time and certainly hard to get a good airfare or hotel rate. Online, asynchronous professional development to the rescue! I’ve participated in and continue to participate in plenty of that type of learning. It’s a great option that is weather resistant and family friendly. On an individual level, I can do a lot on the spur of the moment.

CCO Public domain image by Antanias on Pixabay

CCO Public domain image by Antanias on Pixabay

However, there are some events worth the effort of planning ahead. Bigger events, national organization events, for example, do take time to plan and don’t change dates because I have had a tiring week. Whenever I plan and attend conferences, whether they are informal EdCamps, conversation driven EduCon, or conferences with big presentations like Project Zero or ISTE, I come away tired and glad to have attended. I am wondering if I can train myself to be ready for learning at a particular time of year or at a particular location. I am not being silly here. Habits are powerful. For example, I have trained myself to sit silently in a room with other people for an hour and not find it strange. For me, this habit is inextricably linked to the time and place. Another example–when I was younger I was lucky enough that my family went to a very simple house in the Poconos regularly. We didn’t have any TV or cable or anything there (it was the dark ages, there was no internet); I got used to and came to appreciate that time there was different, and more importantly for this discussion, I got in the habit of changing my mindset upon turning in the driveway. Conditioned response anyone? It is clear to me that I can and have done this on a small scale for myself. How can some of those habits of mind, attitudes, conditioned responses be applied to professional learning?

An entire faculty is never going to be in the zone at the same time. (And, if everyone were in the zone at once, wouldn’t that be some kind of foul anyway?) Maybe it is more realistic to think about the routines we can develop to do some of the get-in-the-zone work for us. How can I/we engineer that turn-up-the-driveway response when there is a schoolwide initiative that requires professional development?

 

(CCO Public domain image) My driftwood pile is already getting mixed in with my rocks and shells from elsewhere.

(CCO Public domain image) My driftwood pile is already getting mixed in with my rocks and shells from elsewhere.

So, I’ve been thinking more about the Project Zero conference (Learning Together: Leading Together) I attended a few weeks ago in Washington, DC. (I already wrote a brief post about this conference.) One of the final speakers,Project Zero researcher Tina Blythe, talked about finding your driftwood–that piece, that nugget to take back to your classroom and your practice. Well, I brought back a lot more than that. I will admit that I am a collector at heart and bring things back from pretty much anywhere.

Here’s a list of key ideas I am holding onto. The list got kind of long, once I started writing. That’s the way it is with a good conference.

A GLOBAL  PERSPECTIVE

The global outlook at the school and in discussions about art was noticeably different. I am thinking a lot about the potential for being more global, or maybe just more outward looking, as the ‘why’ for the interdisciplinary work my school is investigating. I’m not sure why it felt so different; it’s not as if we don’t discuss the world at my school. We do. I suspect that a lot of the difference was the international participants. Even though this is an area that is hard to quantify, I was struck by it almost immediately. Plus, I am definitely going to look into the Out of Eden Learn project where “walking parties” join journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek as he walks 21,000 miles retracing the spread of humans across the planet.

SLOW LEARNING

There was a lot of talk about the need to slow down and recognize the time it takes to think and wrestle with ideas. (David Perkins from Project Zero spoke about this, but others also referenced this need to slow down to think.) Thinking critically about complex ideas is easier said than done; we need to recognize this and help students enter and identify parts of the thinking process. In addition, we need to be aware of when we are taking thinking shortcuts (which we will need to do sometimes in the interest of time and return on investment), and what those shortcuts mean. One of the things I am thinking about with this is homework and quantity of homework. Are we assigning thoughtful work or just work? If it’s just work, what’s the point? All it does is get in the way of spending time really wrestling with something that is substantive. 

UNDERCURRENT (in a good way, not in a creepy way) of USE OF TOPICAL WORLD EVENTS

While this wasn’t THE focus for any session I attended, it a given in a lot of the work showcased. This connects with the global piece above. I saw a lot of evidence of effective use of very current events (spread of Zika, refugee crisis, etc) to focus class investigation. This kind of study necessitates an interdisciplinary approach as well as slowing down to learn about the issue from many vantage points. Victory! In this area we also saw evidence of student directed learning. Maybe this was in connection to events that were being studied, but there seemed to be a lot of this. It dovetails nicely with a lot of conversations we have been at my school.

VISIBLE THINKING ROUTINES

This is a big Project Zero thing (Making Thinking Visible) and something that really interests me. As a former elementary/middle school teacher, using graphic organizers, color coding information, making charts and graphs is right up my alley. What I notice is that this kind of work often fades away in high school settings. These strategies are frequently seen as the supports that are used until students can just write about all of this in a paper. However, with complex ideas, it’s important, at any age, to break pieces apart, gather, group, and regroup information. The tyranny of text is real, in my opinion. Text is not always the best format or at least not the only format. The idea that we can support students in deep, slow critical thinking without helping to make thinking patterns visible is unrealistic. This works directly in support of deeper, more interdisciplinary, global study. 

STUDENT AND TEACHER DEMONSTRATIONS OF LEARNING

At conferences there is often a feeling of teachers as a learning community. The people who attend are there to learn. However, another thing that was on display at the conference was schools hosting Exhibitions of Learning. These might be students displays but also might be teacher displays. I loved this idea that learning was on display by all members of the school community. In the session on teacher displays, the format was that teachers made 3-fold science boards, just like students do for science fairs. Teachers share an idea that they tried to implement, their results, and reflections. Others give them feedback on their work as the tour the learning fair. This was a big take away for me. I love to talk with colleagues about teaching ideas. However, I have my regulars with whom I talk. This exhibition of learning is a great idea for sharing across disciplines and promoting a culture of continued growth.

Finally, I was impressed by the seriousness with which WISC (Washington International School) went about incorporating Project Zero ideas and work into their community. Once they decided this would important school-wide, they committed to spending serious money and time with PZ researchers in their school for 2 years. They view it as a significant commitment; one they acknowledge they are still working to realize. 

Phew. That’s a lot of drift wood.

So, I’ve been thinking about professional development. My partner in tech coaching crime, @TeacherDebra, and I have been on the look out for some new opportunities. (I wrote about our desire to “Escape our Bubble”.)

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-5-11-18-pmWell, I did it. I attended the Project Zero: Learning Together, Leading Together conference in Washington, DC last weekend. It made for a jam-packed weekend since the conference started bright and early on Friday and went through Sunday mid day. I will write about some of the specific sessions later in the month.

The two key things for me were going with colleagues (some different colleagues than I have attended workshops with before) and going to a conference that had a different focus and therefore different attendees (I don’t think I saw anyone of my ‘usual suspects’ from conferences.)

Attending conferences with conferences as a team is totally worth the multiple registration costs, in my opinion. (see here) All those new ideas at conferences are great, but it’s helpful to have a home team person to help filter the ideas. Amy Poehler has written about the way women can make each other feel bad about motherhood stuff, and her advice is this: “Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again.” I think this is a great mantra in so many areas of life. It’s great to hear about some amazing thing another school is doing, but it may not be right for my school. However, with the help of my trusty colleagues, I can think about how just about every session or workshop can offer up some nugget of wisdom. In fact one of the last speakers, Project Zero researcher Tina Blythe, mentioned just this idea when she suggested that we each needed to find our own “drift wood” to take home from the conference. Tina Blythe encouraged us to take this drift wood home, combine it with the other ideas at our own schools, and make something new. My traveling colleagues and I are planning a debriefing session or two over snacks–another thing I love.

I also loved having an entirely new group of people and ideas to think about. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing my regular PLN people at conferences and catching up with them in real life. But, it was exciting to find all sorts of new people to learn from. Of course, as an introvert, I didn’t meet a lot of them, but I made a few connections, and I’ve been adding people to my twitter lists. So, I’ll be getting to know them slowly and virtually. Plus,  finding this other community is awesome. The group was much more international than a lot of the events I attend and, given the topics, that fact added so much to the experience for me. Between the global piece and the thinking routines piece, there was so much to take away. Luck for me my Evernote notebook can accommodate a lot of drift wood.

On the ride home, I talked with one colleague. We were energized by our experience, even though it was a full weekend, and we were headed to school the next day for a day long professional development day on another topic. We were wondering why everyone doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to do this kind of thing. Our school is very generous in funding professional development both during the school year and in the summer.

I am excited to become a part of this new-to-me community, to debrief over snacks, and to make good use of my drift wood.