This explains everything

I have just read some brilliant blog posts from a remarkable educator:
Prof. Stephen Heppell

This section in particular stood out to me and really helped me to understand my journey this year with my Big Picture PreCAL class….

“What a remarkable century this is already turning out to be for Learning. All around the world teachers, schools, families and even policy makers are waking up to the view that building learning in this new 21st century using the structures and strictures of the previous 20th century is a wild and reckless gamble that all too often fails. But sadly, for so many of them, exploring and testing new ideas within their own context leaves them feeling lonely, brave and rather exposed. Curiously, and rather reassuringly, in isolation many have arrived at very similar conclusions about just what effective 21st century learning strategies and practices might look like. Think what progress they might make together!”

This is how I have often felt this year…lonely, (at times) brave and very exposed. It most likely explains why I have become a voracious reader of many learning and educational blogs and purchased many books of this genre.

  • The Element – Ken Robinson
  • Doc (The story of Denis Littky and Big Picture) – Susan Kammeraad-Campbell
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  • Fires in the Middleschool, Fires in the Middleschool Bathroom – Kathleen Kushman
  • The Ethic of Excellence – Ron Berger
  • Made by Hand – Mark Frauenfelder
  • There are no Shortcuts, Teach like your hair’s on fire, Lighting their fires – Rafe Esquith
  • Horace’s Hope and Horace’s Compromise – Theodore R Sizer
  • Experience and Education – John Dewey
  • Johnny Bunko (The last career guide you will ever need) – Dan Pink
  • Rare Trades and Makers Breakers and Fixers – Mark Thomson
  • How children learn, Learning all the time and Instead of education – John Holt
  • Sparks – Peter Benson
  • Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar – James Bach
  • Weapons of Mass Instruction and Dumbing us down – John Taylor Gatto
  • Mindstorms (Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas) and The Children’s Machine – Seymour Papert

Since I have been teaching on my own this year it was understandable. The readings helped me to realise that I was blazing my own trail with many other educators who are doing the same thing and with the same intentions. It has helped me to not feel alone and to confirm I was on the right track.

All of the above has confirmed for me that the Big Picture model is a proven approach to facilitate learning for all students.


Learning to change – Changing to learn

A wonderfully inspiring video of educators talking about the revolutionary change we need in formal ‘learning’ environments.

Here is a rippa quote:

“The death of education, the dawn of learning!”

GVSU – student and staff lipdub

Here is one of the best lipdub music videos I have seen. I have always wanted to do one of these and it has not worked out so far. What a great way to express yourself, be creative and collaborate on a major project.

A project such as this being online has now promoted the Uni in an impressive way. Congratulations to all involved and especially the organisers who had a mammoth job and executed it beautifully.

Behind the scenes…

One of the first lipdubs (aka lip synch) I had seen that apparently inspired many others was this one. The song is Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger. ”

We did this video one night after work. We are a company called Connected Ventures, a group of friends who work for: Vimeo, CollegeHumor, Busted Tees, and Defunker.”

Love is a better teacher than duty – Albert Einstein

“Love is a better teacher than duty.” (Albert Einstein)

What a wonderful quote and explains the Big Picture model of learning whereby students are encouraged to follow their interests/passion.

I found this quote in my insatiable quest to read more about learning and how best we can make learning more personalised for the youth who are disengaging from schools by the truckload.

Here is the paper below about amazing work being done by Seymour Papert.

A Glimpse of the School of Tomorrow?

By Lygeia Ricciardi

Two teenagers sit on the floor, surrounded by a pile of LEGO bricks with which they are constructing robotic cars. Across the room, students upload digital photos for a newsletter for their community. In another small cluster, students play video games they have programmed themselves.

These appear to be average teenagers, yet their projects — and the pride they take in them — are unusual. Their school is indeed atypical in many ways; to start, the students here are all convicted by courts of what would be considered criminal offenses if they were adults.

The setting is the Maine Youth Center in South Portland, where two hundred twelve to twenty-year-olds are incarcerated for offenses including theft, vandalism, and even murder. But in one classroom, a group of students seem to momentarily forget their troubled pasts as they learn with, and about, the technologies of the future.

The students are participants in a pilot program spearheaded by Dr. Seymour Papert of MIT, a pioneer in the use of computers for learning. The program grew out of an interest on the part of Governor Angus King Jr. to find innovative ways to improve education in the state of Maine. If deemed successful, it may serve as a model for new technology-based programs throughout the Maine public school system.

Papert has assembled a team of project leaders including David Cavallo of the MIT Media Lab, Gary Stager of Pepperdine University, and Fred Taylor, who has taught at the Maine Youth Center for more than a decade. Under the team’s direction, groups of ten students work for periods of several weeks in a one-room schoolhouse equipped with PCs, a scanner, a digital camera, and computerized LEGO blocks that can be programmed to move and to react to stimuli such as light and temperature.

The pilot program does away with the usual school curricula, boundaries, and divisions. Here, learning flows smoothly from one traditional subject area to another; blocks of time span several hours; and students of all ages work together. Students are encouraged to develop their own projects related to their individual interests. For example, one boy is building a website about skateboarding which features elaborately animated spins and jumps.

The motivation that drives students to reach goals they have personally defined, according to Papert, pushes them to master difficult concepts usually reserved for the most advanced classes in traditional schools. Papert is fond of citing Albert Einstein’s maxim, “Love is a better teacher than duty.”

What do Papert and his team hope students will learn? Much more than a set of technical skills: “We want students to come out of the experience with a positive vision of themselves and of the world they want to live in. They should see themselves as contributors to creating that world,” says Papert.

To gain that vision and translate it into action, students must learn to concentrate for long periods of time, to solve problems as they arise, and to be self-motivated and self-confident.

The students show signs of developing these abilities. As one boy describes his experience in the program, “I did a lot of trial and error, and I found a lot of new ideas. And I keep going at it, and did not give up.” Another explains, “My computer game was having some trouble at first, but I killed the bugs, and I am feeling a lot less anger, and more happy, because I accomplished something positive.”

Similar lessons have been learned for centuries without the help of modern technology. So why is the pilot classroom brimming with the latest digital tools? Papert combines high-tech tools with low-tech materials, such as books, building blocks, and paper and pens. He believes that computers can greatly facilitate learning, in part because they adapt easily to a wide variety of learning styles.

Computers also lend themselves to the acquisition of certain “powerful ideas” in science and math, such as those connected with geometric shapes and figures, variables, formulas, functions and graphs. Through writing computer code, designing simulations, and building robots, students gain a concrete sense of abstract concepts such as speed and torque. At the same time, they hone their communication skills.

Despite numerous evident successes, Papert’s pilot program has had its share of glitches to “debug”. Students sometimes become discouraged by the high expectations the project leaders set for them, but most agree that the returns are well worth their efforts. In addition to those presented by students, the staff team faces other challenges, such as integrating a program based on exploration and intellectual freedom into an environment defined by the enforcement of control and confinement.

Facilitating meaningful change, whether in a learner’s mind or in an organization’s methods, is not easy. Students and project leaders alike are grappling with the difficulties of, and learning much from, the pilot program at the Maine Youth Center. It remains to be seen whether policy-makers and schools on the other side of the barbed wire fence will rise to their challenge.

Grade 1 teacher who GETS technolgy

This is a great video about a Grade 1 teacher who expresses very well about how she uses blogs (technology) for her class, the benefits and the challenges.

You also get to hear the children and a parent talk about their thoughts.

Wonderful. And reminded me of when I used to teach this age group way back to my first year teaching.

Inspiring stuff also for the work I am doing and how important it is to use technology with my students.