Learning Grounds Ep. 005: In which Daniel discusses policy, microecon and education as a public good

In this episode of Learning Grounds, Education Policy and Management student Daniel explains what he’s learning in the education policy realm and how that might shape his ideas as he heads back into the classroom as an elementary teacher. Also, Zac challenges Scott and Daniel to convince him education is a public good.

Learning Grounds Episode 003: In which Vanessa discusses Universal Design, Open Source and Zeega

Zac and Vanessa talk about their experience at the presentation of Zeega.org and its alpha release. Scott challenges the scalability of Universal Design for Learning, and we talk about the landscape of open source textbooks.

Learning Grounds Episode 001: In which Megan discusses her learning, inclusion, and professional collaboration

For the first episode of the podcast we spent a cup of coffee with Harvard Graduate School of Education student Megan. Over the course of a grandé, we discussed Megan’s drive to implement a truer inclusion program for special needs students as well as the difficulties of professional collaboration when new teachers meet existing systems.

Things I Know 299 of 365: I had a great conversation with Dean

A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’ve been reading, watching, and listening as Dean Shareski has been documenting the Learning Project he’s been completing with his students. The idea was inspired by the 100 Hour Challenge from Ewan McIntosh complete with these rules:

  1. Learn a skill, concept or idea you know very little or nothing about but that you’re interested in learning
  2. Document the learning. Write about it, video tape, audio record, whatever.
  3. Consider all the sources you use to learn. Collect those resources.
  4. Take a early baseline snapshot of your understand at the beginning and another one at the end. Compare and analyze.

If you haven’t been watching it unfold, you should.

The idea of asking students what they were interested in learning and then giving them space to learn and reflect is pretty tremendous.

So, I set up some time to talk to Dean. I was curious to hear his thoughts on his learning as a practitioner going through this project and try to figure out how it meshed with my experiences from the semester. While I don’t deserve many of the kind things he said in the opening to it, Dean’s posted a podcast of our conversation here.

I love talking to Dean. He thinks. He asks questions. He gives space to think.

The problem is, we generally don’t get a chance to really talk unless we meet up at EduCon or ISTE. As I processed the conversation after we’d hung up last night, it occurred to me that I don’t do enough of this. As often as I read something and say, “I wish I could talk to her about what she wrote,” I don’t actually do that. I’m talking more than comments or posting replies here.

I’m about as connected as I can stand, and those last few inches of picking up the Skype and saying, “Let’s synchronize the conversation and see what happens” still seem too far to travel.

As strong as the weak ties can be, as networked as the world gets and as global as our passports turn out, we’ll always have to work to have the next conversation.

Things I Know 196 of 365: I made something

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.

– Carl Jung

I didn’t figure this would make me as excited as it has. I mean, I’m the guy who goes on an on about having students do authentic things in class, ask them to create real and meaningful stuff as part as their learning.

That’s me.

That’s something I believe.

Still, when it came time for me to create something, to then connect that creation to various channels of public consumption, I didn’t figure on my excitement about the process and its results.

In projects past, I’ve worked alongside my students to experience as many of the steps as possible with them so that I might have an understanding of what I’m asking them to do and what that might entail.

Still, being the teacher has gotten in the way in those processes. Turns out, when the temptation is to say, “I can’t help you right now, I’m building my own,” I tend to favor actually putting down what I’m doing and helping students find solutions for themselves.

The closest to creating I’d done as a classroom teacher was unit, project and lesson plans. Again, those were not the ends. They were the means to helping others create.

While all creation is in some ways a means to helping others create, the creations of a teacher planning teaching take on a different tint of inspirational tone than the artist whose work is destined for the gallery, museum or mantle.

And so, I created.

Where before there was story reliant on transmission by word-of-mouth alone, I made something more readily consumable and polished.

As part of my work at The Freedom Writers Foundation this summer, part of my duties are to support and leverage the network of more than 200 teachers from every state, several Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Taiwan.

I realize I don’t write about it much, but these are remarkable teachers with whom I am proud to be associated. They teach in private, public, and parochial schools. They work with students behind bars, after school and on any number of non-traditional paths. They range from the novice to the recently-retired.

For my money, they represent one of the richest mosaics of American education you’re likely to find.

As part of my time here, I wanted to work to find a way to help communicate the stories and identities of these teachers to one another and to the outside world.

I’ve long said one of the reasons it’s so easy and popular to beat up on the teaching profession came from the almost complete and utter failure on the part of teachers to tell their individual stories.

A few weeks ago, I set out to find a sustainable way to capture the stories from around North America and then share them with the world.

Yes, writing them out is fine, but I also wanted to something more personal, more intimate.

And so, last week, I set to work creating the Freedom Writer TeacherCast as a regular way to record and share the wonderfully diverse array of experiences of these teachers from all walks of life.

Once I’d begun, the lessons I attempted to impart to students setting out on similar projects came flooding back. Get more material than you need. Find the human story. Story, reflection, story, reflection and so on. Edit forever. When you think you’re done, edit some more.

Episode 1 launched Tuesday. We became subscribable on iTunes today.

It’s no Moth or This American Life. Still, I’m proud of it. It reminded me of what I can do and gave me a laundry list of all the things I want to do better next time.

If there’s room in your summer and you can fit it in between relaxing and family vacations, take some time to create something new that could not have existed without you. I was most fulfilled with the project in those moments toward the end when I could see what I wanted it to become, but was faced with a million tiny adjustments that stood between me and that ideal.

Go, create something. When you’re done, I’d love to see it.