I often hear people talk about the drastic changes needed in education to prepare students for their future. However, I tend to believe that the right people to do the job are already in our schools. To respond to the needs of the 21st century student we need subtle shifts in thinking and pedagogy. These subtle shifts will lead to transformational results.
Just. Like. Skydiving.
I had the opportunity to go indoor skydiving with a couple friends in Chicago recently. Our experience in the immense wind-tunnel was a pure adrenaline rush. Although the skydiving took place indoors the speed and force of the air blasting upwards was very real.
Indoor skydiving wind-tunnels are capable of blasting air that reaches speeds of 175+ mph. I found the mechanics of this high octane sport fascinating. The air speeds are so intense that super slight adjustments to body position can lead to jolting movements.
When I was in the standard neutral belly position (chin up and arms out) a subtle adjustment of my hands could have propelled me into a 360 degree rotation. This subtle shift in my wrists would have been indiscernible to the casual onlooker, but it could have had me resembling a human helicopter blade!
Understanding the impact of subtle shifts is critical in skydiving; it’s critical in education too.
The proper subtle shifts can lead to a transformative experience. Be sure to watch the two minute video of our indoor skydiving adventure that’s embedded above. (The end of the video contains raw footage of our highly trained instructors applying the principle of ‘subtle shifts’ that led to a jaw-dropping aerial acrobatic show.)
What subtle shifts do YOU think our students deserve?
Share your thoughts in the comments section. I started with a few subtle shifts in thinking that will serve our students well:
- How can I enhance the frequency and depth of collaboration in my classroom or school?
- In what ways can I give up more control so that students truly own their learning?
- How might we tap into the transformational power of technology to move beyond the prevailing belief that an interactive whiteboard is the pinnacle of technology integration.
- Am I teaching a lesson or facilitating a lasting learning experience for students?
This year we introduced Mobile MakerSpaces at our school. A team of Greenwood teachers and I collaborated on the concept over the past year, and I earmarked some funding in our budget that we invested into the Mobile MakerSpace fleet and supplies. Our goal was to create an ethos of innovation and design-thinking. We wanted students to have the opportunity to create, build, tinker, fail, and think critically from any classroom or hallway in our school. At our summer teacher workshops we embedded the “welcome back” content into a MakerSpace approach to demonstrate how learning and sharing through creative construction was possible. Fast-forward to today…
Our Mobile MakerSpace fleet is one of the many things our students LOVE about school! Combined with the Genius Hour time that many teachers are doing…I sometimes catch myself wishing that I was an elementary student again! Students are creating mini-golf courses using coding and Spheros. They are knitting, building, drawing, constructing, collaborating, and communicating their way through the school day. Students have world-class opportunities and they are learning right alongside a dedicated team of teachers that continues to learn as well. We even had a group of students lead professional development for some teachers and their principal (me). The student-ownership was AWESOME!
We’ve also had some classrooms start their own MakerSpaces and MakerSpace challenges to continue providing students opportunities to unleash their passions and creativity throughout the day. During observations, I’ve observed firsthand how teachers are seamlessly integrating Mobile MakerSpaces into the student learning experience using clear learning targets and standards. The creative materials and opportunities for student design-thinking have taken student engagement to levels I had not previously observed while students were completing worksheets.
Students have responded with a tenacity for learning. One of our grade-levels schedules MakerSpace time 1st thing each morning, and our students can’t wait to get to school! You do NOT need fancy supplies or expensive carts to create an ethos of innovation in your school. (You can use everyday objects and miscellaneous supplies from home.) However, I am including a list of our Mobile MakerSpace fleet supplies in case you’d like to bring any of the opportunities to your classroom or school.
Cart 1: MakerBot 3D Printer
Cart 2: LEGO
Cart 3: LEGO
Cart 4: K’Nex
Cart 5: CircuitScribe (Writeable Circuits)
Cart 6: Knitting Looms and Yarn
Cart 7: Sphero Robotic Droids
Cart 8: Modular Robotics Educator Pack
Cart 9: Edison Robotics (compatible with LEGO)
Cart 10: Bee-Bots & Makey-Makey Kits
Cart 11: Makedo Guided Kits & Creative Construction Bundles
Please feel free to view the videos below showing our students in action. To see more of our students’ work, you can go to our school’s hashtag on Twitter #GWgreats.
When I reflect upon the important work our staff is doing I’m inspired. The commitment we’ve made to creativity is palpable, and we’re seeking new and innovative ways to put students in the center of their learning. I’m seeing our team amplify student voice while providing kids an authentic audience for their work. Some of the “learning work” our team is involved with includes:
- Genius Hour
- Passion-Based Learning
- 3D Printing
- Redesigning Learning Spaces
- Flipped Instruction
- Social Media as Learning Media
- Project-Based Learning (Cane’s Arcade, etc.)
- Augmented Reality
- Back-Channeling via “TodaysMeet”
Teachers are exploring new ways to help build students capacity to connect responsibly in a digital world. Best of all…we’ve kept a keen focus on the importance of relationships; our students are responding in amazing ways! Our staff has embraced meaningful technology integration as one of our three school priorities. We know that the work we are doing will help students develop skills for today will ultimately help them excel tomorrow.
Educators spend a significant amount of time reflecting on pedagogy to support an engaging student learning experience, and rightfully so. How much time do school leaders spend planning and preparing to support 21st century professional learning? How might we enhance the HOWs, WHATs, and WHYs for learning in this digitally connected age?
In the next month I’ll be sharing an interactive Digital Leadership Challenge designed to support HOW we learn. The Digital Leadership Challenge article will be titled “Driven to Collaborate.” It will feature creative mini-challenges submitted by ten connected educators across the country. The article and accompanying mini-challenges is being published by the Minnesota Elementary Principal Association (#MESPAmn) and shared electronically via multiple sources including this blog.
We’ll be using a tiered system to ensure that regardless of where you are at on your Digital Leadership journey there will be accessible entry-points to learn and grow. We’ve also created a cool point-system with electronic badges that will be awarded based on the challenges you complete. I’m really excited by the inspiring variety of learning opportunities that will be outlined in the article. Please encourage your colleagues to dial in to this unique, 21st century PD opportunity.
Watch for the article the 1st week in May. Special thanks to the amazing educators that collaborated on the Digital Leadership Challenge.
Curt Rees, Elementary Principal, WI
@CurtRees on Twitter
Patrick Glynn, Elementary Principal, MN
@GallyGopher on Twitter
Jessica Johnson, Elementary Principal, WI
@PrincipalJ on Twitter
Tony Sinanis, Elementary Lead Learner, NY
Joe Sanfelippo, District Superintendent, WI
@TonySinanis & @Joesanfelippofc on Twitter
Dwight Carter, HS Principal, OH
@Dwight_Carter on Twitter
Dave Zukor, Integration Specialist, MN
@DZukor on Twitter
Rafranz Davis, Instructional Technology Specialist, TX
@RafranzDavis on Twitter
Daisy Dyer Duerr, PreK – 12 Principal, AR
@DaisyDyerDuerr on Twitter
Terri Eichholz, Teacher of K – 5 Gifted Students, TX
@TerriEichholz on Twitter
Eric Sheninger, High School Principal, NJ
Back to the movie. As far as I’ve surmised, the magic of 3D lies in the glasses. Without the glasses you see a semi-fuzzy movie. And you get a headache. With the glasses…..ahhhh. Let me tell you! It is magical!! During the movie there were a few instances that I caught myself dodging out of the way. It felt like there was a pride of animated lions frolicking in front of the TV; and I’m not talking about my three little cherubs.
So what’s the point? The lens we bring to any situation is critical; it can reveal magic, potential, and creativity. Sometimes, forward-thinking occurs more readily when we are willing to release our grasp on the rear-view mirror. School and the very nature of learning is in a transformational time, and we’d do well to ensure we bring the right lenses to conversations about change and 21st century learning.
I’m a firm believer in the mantra that, “What you look for in life you often find.”
Whether you are a parent, teacher, school leader, or otherwise; begin (and continue!) to look for opportunities to support students in their learning of 21st century skills and fluencies. The work we all did as students was part of a different time, and less connected time. It remains important. And….there is new and different work to be done. The tools our students and teachers have available to them today offer limitless potential. As somebody who cares about education, I encourage you to carve out 10 minutes to reflect upon the contents of this website:
Watch a short video clip or two, and see if you can pair work your child is currently doing in our school to some of the concepts from the website. Amazing things are happening and school is changing. The role of the learner is taking center stage as we are moving towards a more personalized experience for each and every student we serve. Rigid rows of desks are being realigned. Collaborative clusters of kids are conferring on content that requires critical thinking and conversation. Relationships remain as vital as ever. Communication is key; and it is evolving too.
Our kids are counting on us to have updated lenses so that we can provide them a vision full of possibilities.
Originally posted March 25, 2013
Image Credit: FotoSearch.com