Friday, February 28, 2014

The Value of Mentors

As part of our 20% Time projects, groups had to secure mentors.  These individuals serve as available experts on the project topic.  Kids can communicate with their mentors through e-mail, during school time (provided the mentors can schedule some time with us), or outside of school (some of the mentors are parents of our students).  Mentors are important because so many of the 20% Time project topics are things about which Melissa and I know little.  With mentors, students can get real experts to work with them.

Today, one of the groups, The Brainy Bunch, is putting on a special event at school, Hat Day.  The idea is that each student can pay a dollar in order to wear a hat throughout the day (it is normally against the school rules to wear hats).  This morning, the group raised over 150.00 for their charity, Friends of Kids with Cancer.  They are planning on three more Hat Days before the end of the school year.

To execute this special event, the group had to meet with our assistant principal, Dr. Miller, and, with her help, develop a plan of advertising, money collection, identifying which kids paid to wear hats, etc.  Through the experience, they learned to create a plan which would conform to the school expectations and make this event as painless as possible for the teachers and administrators while also making it as popular as possible for kids.

Another project group, Steger2Hixson, needs to create a website for their project.  One of our team parents is an IT Professional.  She has agreed to conduct a "Creating a Website" workshop next Wednesday, March 5, for all of the groups who need to create websites (4-5 groups need to do so).  Kids are completing some work for her before she comes in so that they are more prepared for the workshop.

This kind of adult guidance is essential for our students' success.  The kids are learning from real experts in real-life situations.  It is experiential learning that will stay with the kids for a long time.  - Don

Friday, February 21, 2014

Podcast: Waxing Philosophical

In this episode, we talk about the philosophical underpinnings of creating and managing 20% Time projects in class.  Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.  Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe".

Friday, February 14, 2014

Podcast: EdCampSTL and Student Blogs

This week we talk about EdCampSTL and the possibility of changing our district PD to an edcamp model.  We also talk about student projects and the successes and failures of those projects.   Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.  Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe".

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

EdCampSTL - The "Unconference"

This past weekend, we attended EdCampSTL, a professional development "unconference".  The premise of this "unconference" was that teachers would be teaching teachers.  Presenters sign up in the morning for sessions they'd like to facilitate and others show up to attend those sessions.  Teachers are told to "vote with your feet".  If a session is not useful to them, they leave and find another session to attend.

Melissa and I presented our 20% Time project, Harmonized Learning.  We were not really sure how much of an audience we would have for a project like this but were pleasantly surprised.  Both of our sessions were pretty much full.  We talked a lot about our experience so far this year, our successes and failures, and what we would do differently if we could do it all over again.  The teachers in the session had excellent questions because we could tell that they were already thinking of how they would incorporate this type of project into their own teaching situations.  The conversation went from the philosophy of 20% Time to the nitty-gritty of how much time to dedicate during an average week.

For us, it was an amazing experience.  We felt validated for what we are trying to do and now realize that there are many teachers out there who believe in the power of student choice, motivation and the passion of learning.  Now we are on a mission to change our school and district professional development program to one that is more like EdCampSTL.  It just makes sense to tap into the vast expertise that our teachers have on-site.  In doing so, our professional development will be more relevant and effective.  - Don

Friday, February 7, 2014

Podcast - Keeping It Real

In this episode, Melissa and Don talk about the progress kids are making, the problems they are having, troubleshooting, and one student's collaboration with an older student.   Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.  Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe".

Monday, February 3, 2014

Creating Hovercraft Designs

The Hovercrafting 101 group hard at work creating various designs that they plan to test later this semester.  Check out their blog in the list on the right side of this blog.