It’s Friday, the early morning edition! Heading to Grand Rapids to enjoy Art Prize with my oldest today, and grateful the rain looks like it will stay away.
In the meantime, let’s have a little fun.
Eventually, everything connects.
Quick quiz: What do the following two images have in common?
The first is the Eames Lounge chair, and the second is a popular game for your smartphone. The link between them is the quote above – “eventually, everything connects” – attributed to famed Hermann Miller designer Charles Eames and appropriated as a catchy tag line on the title screen of the Two Dots game.
The quote kept coming to my mind in the past few weeks as I would read various articles related to education innovations, because so often, everything DOES connect. Not just in the obvious sense of connections across the curriculum or how science is linked to art is linked to history, but at the heart of how we “do” school. Project-based learning doesn’t fit well in a 45 minutes class period. There’s no time for teachers to be advisors when they also teach a traditional load of classes in a traditional bell schedule. Each piece that you want to innovate on is connected to, affects, and is affected by some other piece. You have to look at the connections.
I’ll give you an example. This article from the Harvard Graduate School of Education discusses the growing need for interpersonal skills in the workplace, and in the conclusion offers takeaways for high schools to implement, such as group projects and “long-term project-based work, in which students work as a team, receive feedback, and revise together”. But the article starts out lamenting (as a humorous hook, I’m sure) the typical response of students when group work is assigned – the gripes, the groans, and in particular, the frustration with teammates: “He’s not doing his work!” What’s the missing piece between the value of group work in theory and the reality in schools? It’s the assessment. If the group work is assessed conventionally and for a traditional “grade” then that grade IS the students’ objective. Any inherent value in the work, any attempt at authenticity through, say, a final presentation, is lost to the game of ensuring the work maximizes the potential score. So, we can’t talk about project-based learning without talking about authentic assessments. “Eventually, everything connects.” The same is true for all the other elements of a school’s design.
Here’s the full quote:
That’s one reason why Imagine! West Michigan is different. We’re looking at the connections, and it’s those connections – how we organize time and space, how we conceive the role of teachers and staff, how standards are still met but in radically different ways, how students interact with one another, and how we set, achieve, and evaluate goals, and how all of these are related – it is these connections, even more so than the details of each element alone, that allow us to create a superior learning environment.
Here’s an article unpacking the difference between students who take ownership (“the work”), and those who are compliant (“the grade”). Which quality is more important for the 21st century?
We continue to press forward in exploring potential school buildings. Keep your fingers crossed! We still want to hear about any locations you might know of, so keep your ideas coming. Together, we can make this a reality. If you are interested in making a financial gift, please visit http://www.imaginewestmi.org/contact-us for our mailing address and tax information. Your help is truly appreciated.