Thursday, January 30, 2014

Podcast: Highlights and Mentors

In this episode, Melissa and Don talk about groups securing mentors, "good" failure vs. "bad" failure, and some standout student blogs.   Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.  Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe".

Catching Our Breath

Now that we are past the Idea Showcase and Pitch Day, kids have a chance to dig in and really conduct the research to learn about and execute their projects.  Some of the projects are going beautifully and some are stalling out a bit.  During our 20% class time, there were many groups who worked bell-to-bell while a few others sat, doing nothing.  It is those groups that concern us.  We asked, "What's next?" trying to get them thinking about the logical next step of the process and sometimes that worked.  Other times, not so much.  As with anything, the kids must take ownership of their learning in order to succeed.  Melissa talked to some of the struggling groups about "good" failure and "bad" failure.  "Good" failure is trying very hard to achieve project goals but falling short.  "Bad" failure is not even giving the project their best effort.  

Groups tried this week to line up their mentors.  About 75% of the kids have mentors and some are still searching for mentors.  Teachers on staff at Hixson, community members and even an eighth grade student (who is a mechanical genius) have all agreed to mentor some of the projects.  Our Superintendent, Dr. Sarah Riss, is mentoring the "Operation Beautiful Hixson" project as it dovetails perfectly into the Rachael's Challenge program in the district.  Having a mentor to offer guidance and direction is crucial for the kids and we are very happy with the groups' mentors so far.

Within the next few weeks, we will have another check-in point that will entail some demonstration of the progress made since the last check-in and also a reflection of how the project is coming together in the long term.  This checkpoint will give us a better idea of who is struggling or lacks direction.  

On another note, Melissa and I will be showcasing our 20% Time program at EdCampSTL on Saturday, February 8 from 8:00-4:00 at Affton High School.  If you plan to be there, please come by and take a look. - Don

Friday, January 24, 2014

Podcast: The Idea Showcase

In this episode, Melissa and Don talk about logistics and troubleshooting for the Idea Showcase, how the event unfolded, and comments from teachers and administrators.  Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.  Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe".

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Photos of the Idea Showcase

Podcast: Pitch Day

This week, Melissa and Don talk about Pitch Day and the comments and reactions from some of the Pitch Committee members.  Listeners can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.  Search "Harmonized Learning" in the podcast section and click "subscribe".

Friday, January 17, 2014

Making "The Pitch"

On Wednesday, kiddos finally faced the Pitch Committee, a group of district administrators and coordinators, to pitch their 20% Time Project ideas. We broke the kids into two groups and posted the assigned order of pitches outside the classroom door. During the time some kids were pitching, the others were working in a vacant classroom on their Idea Showcase visual.

 We have to say, the pitches went beautifully. Right after lunch, many of the kids changed their clothes so that they would look more professional for the committee. Each student/group walked in, introduced themselves to the committee, and began their presentation (opening remarks, launch video, talk a bit more and then open things up for questions).

From what we saw while peeking in to the presentations, the committee members were asking excellent questions of the kids and the kids, for the most part, had solid answers. The conversations centered around the process and the goals of each project. While debriefing with the committee afterwards, they seemed impressed not only with the project ideas but also with the thinking that went into the project and the process. The fact that many of the projects were community-based seemed to please the committee members as well.

 The projects represent a change in thinking for many of these kids. This part of their schooling is not about learning knowledge but creating it. Since many of these kids are doing things that have not been done before, they will create a knowledge base for others to use. Impressive indeed. - Don

Friday, January 10, 2014

Podcast 4 - Harmonized Learning

In this podcast, Melissa and I talk about the upcoming Pitch Week, the progress of students' blogs, the changing minds of adolescents and the Idea Showcase. Our podcasts are now available on iTunes (search "Harmonized Learning" to listen and subscribe. - Don

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Preparing for "The Pitch"

This week we have been furiously preparing for the Pitch Committee.  While the students are busy preparing their videos and presentations to "wow" the committee, we (Melissa and I) have also been busy coordinating the logistics of Pitch Day.  We will have six district dignitaries serving as the Pitch Committee.  Each individual/group will present to the committee and sell the committee on their idea.

Part of the challenge is simply space and time. For example, we had to decide how many pitches could reasonably fit into the amount of time we have.  We had to scrap the first idea (changing lunch periods and having the time block span three hours) to something more doable.  We decided that splitting the Pitch Committee into two smaller committees would help.  Because of the split, we can now be assured that all of the students will have ample time to pitch their ideas.  We have other teachers cooperating by allowing us to use their rooms to house the kids who are preparing to pitch while we use our own rooms for the actual pitches.  We feel good about the schedule that we developed during our troubleshooting session.

Today we will send out reminder invitations to our committee members with a sample attachment they will be using during the pitches.  Students will be given feedback on their content, presentation style, video, appearance, communication and overall effectiveness in presenting their ideas.  We liken Pitch Day to the television show "Shark Tank" and have used that show as an example with the kids.  Of course, we will also allow time for pitch rehearsals early next week.

We will have more information about Pitch Day within the next few days while we begin preparing for the next step of the process - the Idea Showcase. - Don