Friday, April 25, 2014

Go-Kart Test Drive!

Podcast: Shifting Our Paradigm

In this episode, we talk about the upcoming Ted Talks and how the students had to shift their paradigm of learning in order to do their 20% Time projects.  Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe". You can also follow us on Twitter @melissahellwig4 and @dayankee

The Stuff of Learning

"We don't know what to do next on our project," said a student.
"What do you think the next step would be?" I replied.
"Well, we could do (lists three things to do)," she said.
"That sounds great. Do those!" I said.

A few days later, the same student came to me and said, "Okay, we finished those three things. We're done."

This exchange exemplifies the battle we have been waging this year. Students are still dependent on teacher direction even when the project is their own. They want to know what the teacher wants them to do, complete those tasks, and be finished with it. This is NOT the stuff of learning.

The message we are trying to get through to the kids is that learning is never-ending. It rejuvenates our minds and our souls. People are most excited when they are learning something new or about to learn something new. Learning is the constant exposure to new things, some of which we didn't even know existed before. Learning is not fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice. It is Learner's Choice! We choose what we learn and we choose how we learn it. Even when students are in classrooms from the past, fact-based or multiple choice classrooms, they still choose what and how to learn. Much of the time students choose not to learn the material or figure out ways to avoid the tasks altogether. Even that is learning, just not the learning desired by the teacher.

Many of our kids are "getting it". They are racing further ahead than we could have imagined. They are not only learning a boatload of content but also the skills of learning: how to create, how to search and retrieve information, how to think critically, how to problem-solve, how to curate material, how to communicate their ideas and how to deal with the world outside our school walls. This IS the stuff of learning. - Don

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Want a Ride?

The Go-Kart Sound group is in the testing stages of its project. The boys are taking the go-kart to a place this weekend where they can drive it around, troubleshoot any problems and figure out some solutions. It looks like their project is coming to an AMAZING conclusion. - Don

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Podcast: Good Failure vs. Bad Failure

In this episode, Don and Melissa talk about both types of failure: good and bad. The projects are reflecting which groups are still going strong and the challenges of some of the groups.  Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe". You can also follow us on Twitter @melissahellwig4 and @dayankee

Monday, April 7, 2014

They Got Their Idea Off the Ground!

Our Hovercrafting 101 group is making great progress.  Over the weekend, they completed a first test of their prototype. Using everyday items, they have learned enough to get their idea off the ground...literally!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Podcast: Ted Talks and Twitter

In this episode, Don and Melissa talk about end-of-project Ted Talks and the value of building a Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter.  Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Search iTunes for Harmonized Learning in the podcast section and click "subscribe". You can also follow us on Twitter @melissahellwig4 and @dayankee

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It Only Takes a Spark to Ignite a Flame.

I know we usually talk about our students and how their 20% Time Projects are going for them, the struggles we have encountered or successes we have celebrated. However, today I want to talk about the motivation, both personal and professional motivation associated with the undertaking of this project and the unforeseen positives that have come from the 20% Project.

This year has been personally and professionally motivating and encouraging. I started off this year feeling discouraged, wanting to change my classroom parameters, but I didn't know how or what to do.  I stumbled upon this idea of 20% Time, Genius Hour, FedEx Day in a Google Community and one thing led to another.  I spent hours watching Ted Talks (particularly Daniel Pink's talk here), reading blogs (check this one out) and chatting in Google Communities.  I was inspired by the idea of students taking control of their own learning and choosing their own learning paths. In this model, they get to pursue a passion or interest that they have always had but maybe never had the means or opportunity to pursue.  20% Time was going to help get kids to love learning again!!! Motivate them! Ignite that inner flame of motivation that could follow them through the rest of their lives, creating a life-long learner.

We have been so amazed by what some of our kids are doing with their projects: raising money for cancer patients, building a go-kart, or starting an environmentally-friendly fishing lure business. More importantly, I have satisfied my own inner motivation personally and professionally.  Don and I have always taught this way but always behind closed doors, only collaborating with each other for fear of someone wanting to stop us in the type of teaching that we truly believed in. We knew that some people said that we "never did or taught anything" just because our students enjoyed being on our team or in our classrooms.  For me personally, that was always hard to hear. Those comments never threw Don and me from our path and we kept trudging along.

Education is changing and it is time for teachers to start jumping on the bandwagon.  Our students, more than ever, are growing up in the Information Age, where every answer is at their fingertips.  When we can answer a question with the click of the mouse, why are we making that content the basis of our curriculum?  I understand there was a need when access to that type of information was limited but that is no longer.  Curriculum needs to be changing with the needs of our students.  As teachers, we need to sit down and truly look at what is most important and what is good to know.  This is a hard step for any great teacher because we learned, when we were students in school, the traditional way to teach. When we went to college we learned the traditional way to teach, and so when we entered our career most of us clung to the traditional way to teach.  It is hard to let go of what you know and what you are comfotable with. It is scary to try something new in a classroom where you might fail or it might not work, especially if you aren't in a school culture where you are encouraged to try new things.  There was a time and place for traditional teaching (and there still is at times!) but as the world is changing, schools must change to do justice for our students.  We need to prepare our students for 20 years in the future, for jobs that haven't even yet been created.

I feel motivated now more that ever that the way I am currently teaching (I have changed what I was doing even from just a year ago!) is the correct path for my students.  Our students need skills like problem-solving, perseverance, critical thinking, social media skills, computer (or device) research skills, etc.  Is content awesome to know? Absolutely! But does our whole curriculum have to based upon the content anymore? I would have to say "No".  For example, this past week a student asked me in science, "What is the reason our hands or feet 'fall asleep'?"  I told them I didn't know the answer but asked if he had his device.  He did and I told him to find the answer for us.  What an awesome feeling this was and it was liberating as a teacher!

The role of the teacher has changed to "facilitator of learning" from "teacher-led learning".  We need create a culture of passion, love, and interest for our subjects while also allowing students a place to feel safe to "fail" and try again.  What this project has brought into me professionally could have never been foreseen.  It was the spark that ignited the flame for me in my teaching.  I encourage every teacher to be the spark for your school.  Get your peers to jump on your bandwagon because what you are doing for your students will have long-term effects on their learning.  If you believe what you are doing for kids, keep doing it.  It is hard to be the outlier but eventually you will be in the majority. - Melissa