Tuesday, March 25, 2014


It is happening - right now.  Did you miss it?

Everything is coming together.

The convergence is here.

It started innocently enough - all the factions neatly tucked away in their corners of the concrete behemoth.

The business people here. The English people there.  Social students and science close, but not touching.  The engineers, agriculturists, and consumer scientists all had their cozy confines as well. There was equilibrium. There was peace. Each faction performing its necessary role to support the system.

But it wasn't enough.

Soon, the very citizens of these factions wanted more.  "Why are we learning this?" they lamented, and pursued their interests elsewhere.  The discord began - the leaders cried out: "They should do as they are told!" or "Why can't they just work like the others?".  However, there were visionaries; tinkerers if you will. They weren't happy like some of the denizens - they also wanted something more.

A Historical leader encourages writing.  A Consumer scientist points out the economic principles connected to our day to day lives.  The Artists push their citizens to defend their work verbally.  Like any great movement, it started small.

Then...the tech creeped in. Once designated to a far corner, the people slowly spread the word.  "Why are we separate?  Why should our important work be contained to the leaders of the different factions? Couldn't everybody benefit from what we are all doing?  That is our mission - we can make this happen!".

The other leaders threw up their arms, although some joined in.  Seeing the benefits of this partnership firsthand, they also wanted to spread the word. Slowly, the tendrils of tech grabbed hold in many areas.  Still yet, there were holdouts. "We are doing fine without you, and busy enough to boot. How can we accomplish our important work as we've always done it, if I need to make room for you? Our faction is FULL!"

As long as there were those who denied the partnerships that were occurring, the factions still felt disjointed.  As new leaders were elected, more and more changes took place. The old guard felt uncomfortable, and dug in their heels further.

The leaders of those seeking partnerships got together.  "Our citizens are benefited from this new found freedom. They are becoming more flexible. However, as long as the old attitudes remain, I don't believe our people will ever truly be 'free'".  So what should we do? cried out members of the leadership group.  If not everybody is on board, how could we ever give our people the connections they need to see the big picture, control their futures, and prepare for an uncertain and harsh world?

So they came up with an idea.  An idea that would connect it all. It wouldn't need everybody to be on board - it would be a space for citizens to travel to!  When they wanted freedom and they wanted to explore, this space would always be available. In some ways, it was the "anti-faction" - encouraging all groups working together, instead of separately.  The citizens could see how reading and writing impacting their ability to create some mechanical.  The important of economics and finance could be seen when purchasing and maintaining the materials of this region.  Leadership, interpersonal skills, technology, and art - all intertwined.

In fact, there was nothing that these citizens couldn't pursue on their own in this space.  All they needed as the time, freedom, and opportunity to take part. Although not all ventured to the Maker Arena, the hope of the leadership committee would be to see, much like had taken place with the Tech faction before it, this "idea" spread throughout all the factions. And that one day, there wouldn't be any factions. The citizens would be free to pursue their interests when they wanted to and when they needed to, without the forced context of the current system.

And this dream is coming closer to a reality. The convergence is here. Are you ready?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Owing Attention

"Okay, now please be quiet and pay attention to this part or you'll miss something"

Yuck. How many times have I said this? Even this year as I embrace more student autonomy in my classes, even at the elementary level, I find myself being self-conscience of how my class "looks". The general idea is that students who are talking while you are talking, or are busy on something else while you are trying to show them how to do a task are being disrespectful.

I don't believe that any more. If you herd 25 - 10 year old children in a small area, and put them in front of a computer with something new to do, they are going to investigate, and try, and then ask questions if they don't know how to do something. They are going to want to get up and show, talk, or lie on the floor because they are 10 and have a 5 second attention span. But the funny thing is, they have the "bank-roll" to pay attention to things for long periods of time. But, like something out of an economics lesson, they'll only want to pay attention to things WORTH their attention.

And that is where I believe I have it wrong. Instead of focusing on what students pay attention to, I have been too focused on students "owing attention". Traditionally, I think we've believed students OWE their attention to what we are doing.  There is often very little concern in a structured curriculum for what students are paying attention to. NOW - this isn't to say that teachers aren't getting to know their students and forming great relationships. They are! And they are doing well at that! But that is aside from working with students on the things THEY are interested in.  It is amazing what students have naturally found themselves interested in, and will figure out, and will try, and will want to share with others. With access to technology, the possibilities are wide open here.

For instance - this week in 4th grade keyboarding, we have been building Google Sites. Not because there is any mandate to, but because the kids wanted to do that in class. So we did. And I did what I've always done, planned a lesson with some tips to go through.  So I gave students choice and followed what they were interested but still felt the need to "control" it. And what happened? A lot of excited kids that I was trying to get less excited to tell them how to do something. This probably isn't always bad, but the time it took to get through it probably would have been equal to just letting them go and doing 1:1 instruction. I still have a long ways to go to really entrust learning to my students.

I'm just about finished thinking along the lines of "developmentally appropriate instruction", simply because if we listen, and watch, and follow our students, they will lead us right to the things that are interesting to them that they want to learn.  But that will require a dramatic transformation into what we do and how we think about teaching! At times, I am frustrated because I am "just" a Business ed teacher, who doesn't teach anything "core" and doesn't have to hold a classroom of students all year every day. But, in one way, I don't have the pressure that many other teachers feel when it comes to the Common Core, and two, I am in front of students every day, meaning I have the opportunity to help them find learning in whatever form it comes in. 

Being confident, being enthusiastic, and being interested to what my students are saying, trying, doing will help me reach them at their moment of peak interest. I'm tired of expecting them to owe me attention. They don't owe me anything. It is time I pay attention to them and we can all explore this thing called learning with a lot more fun and learn a lot more along the way.

By the way - I find my thinking heavily influenced recently by the following twitter people:  Jared Cosulich, Sisyphus, Andrew Carle, and Manan Shah.  They are constantly pushing me and stretching me to challenge everything I thought I knew about education. Follow them and challenge yourselves!