Monday, 30 January 2012

Learning@Schools and Co-construction

 CORE Education's Learning@Schools conference, two full days of challenging and extending my thinking and connecting with inspiring educators, finished on Friday. Here are some reflections on my learning from the conference.

Co-construction is a nice education-y word, and one that I thought I understood pretty well and was a reasonable practitioner of. However, several discussions during the conference seem to have conspired to blow apart my understanding of it somewhat. Following our meeting via Twitter (@samcunnane and @christianlong) and on this blog, my colleague Lorena Strother and I attended Christian's presentation on designing 21st C learning spaces. Our post-presentation discussion about the curriculum integration project was wide ranging and inspirational. One of the more immediately applicable outcomes was a decision to begin the project by letting the students design the arrangement of their learning space from the bare room upwards. This isn't the most obvious epiphany (!), but it feels like began to crystallise a significant shift in my thinking about how I teach.

Maybe it's better explained like this: I have a increasingly clear vision of what I want students at Fraser to learn or become: people who know what they're passionate about, and who are learning how to develop the skills to make a life in that area of the world and society. For those of you who are teachers, think of that as our ultimate 'learning objective'. Previously I've assumed that the best way to get to that 'point', or at least to head students in the right direction, was to set up a series of activities that would step them along the journey. I might co-construct how these activities would be done with the students, but essentially I expected them to take their direction from me. I assumed that essentially I knew the best way for them to get from A to B. What if (and being introduced to the concept of 'desire paths' during DK's session on the future of school design advanced my thinking in this area) my role is not to lay out the path, but to help the learners (myself included) find their way from wherever they are now in the direction of point B (recognising that where I thought point B was may well not be where they need to go anyway!). 

The upshot of this all is a move towards developing a point of connection, an intersection, between a whole lot of creatives (some of whom are Fraser students, and others whom are practicing members of the various creative communities), instead of just producing a magazine. So, if we assume that encultrating students into local and global communities of creative production is the end goal (and part of me now questions if even this is something I can assume, but for now we'll say it is), our new challenge becomes identifying within this what the 'problems' are that need solving so that our students become part of those communities. That makes the first weeks of school a bit different to the traditional "We'll be covering these standards, so get learning the answers"!

I suspect this post reads somewhat like a combination of jumbled ideas. Oh well! Check out the following for some additional (and more coherent) thoughts on the issue:

Teach your students to fail better, by Christian Long on ISTE

College Readiness: Learning Collaboratively, by Ben Johnson on Edutopia 

Ewan McIntosh at TEDxLondon, September 2011

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Third Teacher (on less than a shoestring)

I dropped by school this afternoon, and our classroom is 'ready' to start being transformed into the studio of a student driven visual culture hipster publication. As you can see, there's going to be a bit of work required to take it from where it is to a space that rivals Google's office environments.

However, as innovators, and not ones to be disheartened by the lack of a personal architect and a building team, we'll be transforming the space over the next three weeks into an environment that is at the very least conducive of a range of collaborative and individual learning opportunities. Our main ideas are based on flexible and interchangeable spaces for talking and working in various sized groups, spaces to socialize and recharge (couches and kai) and spaces for making work.

We'll be taking inspiration from The Third Teacher (a project I first met via the book, which my principal promptly stole off me when I showed it to her!). We're pretty excited about having Christian Long (from Cannon Design, home of The Third Teacher) speaking at the Learning@School conference right here in Hamilton later this month.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Studios in schools

Reading this article (Get Local) on the Design Mind site reminded me of Emily Pilloton's TED talk about the Studio H Project she and partner Matthew Miller run in Bertie County, North Carolina.

Check out more from Design Mind here.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

John Seely Brown: the architectural studio as a model of the classroom

Isn't it affirming when you find reminders that what you've been thinking a out and trying to achieve fits in with what a whole lot of other people have been thinking about and doing too? Over the last couple of days (and likely for the next few too) I've been doing a fair bit of wandering across the web following up interesting links, and it looks like the next few posts I make will be less of my own thinking and more of a collection of ideas our project aligns with and connects to.

This 2008 talk by Jorhn Seely Brown, which I came across in Fast Company's Co.Design post 4 lessons the classroom can learn from the design studio (which is definitely worth reading) seems to sum up and expand on many of the ideas we've based the development of our Curriculum Integration Project on.