TGIF! Feb 2 2018

TGIF!

Stay healthy, everyone.  My oldest child is home with the stomach virus, and my youngest two get a long weekend since their school will be closed for illness Monday.  Tails you win, heads I lose?

Facility update

We are still waiting on the final answer to our fire inspection application on our primary potential location.  We did turn up an inkling of possibility on a second site which we are investigating.  We fully understand that it’s now February and as a board we will be making decisions about our Fall opening timeline very soon.  We will keep you posted.

Learning Links

Who wouldn’t want responsible students? They listen in class, take notes, and complete their homework on time without nagging. They are easy to teach… But responsibility comes with a price.  A price paid in engagement, personal goals and expectations. Responsible students have taken ownership of their teachers’ and parents’ agenda – to get good grades and be a “good student… Responsible students are easy to teach, but they are like a two-dimensional cut-out of their true potential. Agenic students [students with agency] are not only easy to work with, but a joy, and have ownership of reaching the potential inside them. Perhaps it is time to stop seeing responsible students as a blessing and start recognizing them as a problem of a different kind.

Read more here: The Problem With Responsible Students

Listening to Nicole’s impassioned and detailed presentation on the Puerto Rican debt crisis and its impact on the island’s healthcare system, it was easy to forget a high school senior was addressing a group of 100 students and teachers.

Nicole’s story was a personal one. She has family members on the island who deliver and receive health services, and she described her cousin’s personal struggle as a doctor who could have gone to the mainland United States to practice medicine but strongly desired to stay in his native homeland despite the economic difficulties. Nicole’s engagement and mastery of the subject matter was evident to everyone in the room as she skillfully wove together her personal story with facts, policy issues and a vivid picture of the political and economic environment of the island.

How does a school engage a senior and the entire learning community, especially in late April when seniors are close to exams and all students are grappling with spring fever and the not-too-distant target of summer?

Read more here: How Senior Capstone Projects Let Students Research—and Present—Their Passions

In closing….

You’ve probably heard by now that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow.  But TIME reports that ol’ Puxsy Phil has just a 39% accuracy rating.  Here Are 8 Other Groundhogs That Predicted Spring.  Here’s hoping!!!

Kim

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TGIF! Jan 26 2018

TGIF!

Playing with a little bit different format this week – one good short story and a conversation starter.  We may not do every issue this way but I hope you enjoy today!

Extending School Far Beyond the Classroom Walls

James Lawrence planned to open his own welding business after his 2017 graduation from the Robert W. Traip Academy in Kittery, Maine. Last year he spent part of his school days at the local technical center, learning welding, preparing to make his vision for his future a reality. He didn’t have time for an art class in his schedule, but the credit was required for graduation.

So James, a duck hunter interested in learning to carve wooden duck decoys, took advantage of his school’s expanded learning opportunities program and got the art credit outside of the classroom. With the help of a family friend who was an experienced duck decoy carver, James worked on the project after school and on weekends, ultimately convincing his school’s art teacher to count it toward his graduation requirements.

Read more here: The Hechinger Report Future of Learning series.

2018-01-26
James Lawrence, a 2017 graduate of the Traip Academy in Kittery, Maine, holds wooden duck decoys he made for an art credit his senior year.

Conversation starters

  • Should it matter where or how a student learns, as long as they can demonstrate their learning?
  • If school is supposed to open up opportunities for students, why are “schedule conflict” stories like James’ so common?
  • Should these opportunities be limited to only students with scheduling conflicts?  What if a student wanted to pursue an unique interest during the school day?

In closing….

I’ll post this to our Facebook page as well, feel free to share your replies to these conversation starters there!

Kim

TGIF! Dec 8 2017

TGIF!

Welcome, winter!

High School Update

We are proceeding with State inspections for a potential site in Ferrysburg.  This is super-exciting, but also not a slam dunk: while we are hopeful that the space in question will be deemed suitable for a high school, we also know bureaucracy can be fickle – so we kind of hold our breath and wait for now.  Bureaucracy is also SLOW (hmm, maybe we should reconsider holding our breath!) – so if it seems like we don’t have a lot of news to share here in the next few weeks, it’s because we are waiting, waiting, waiting.  Keep those fingers and toes crossed for now!

Learning Links

Personalized learning all over the blogosphere this week!

From the 74, on personalized learning and technology (and equity and a few other themes too!):

I visited a school — I was in England, south of London, a school there that had been a failing school. What they had done was unbelievable. They had completely transformed the school using a personalized learning model, and all of a sudden, all their graduation rates were up, they had students that were engaged. It was just one of these unbelievable stories.

I was talking to the teachers, and they sort of looked like zombies. They were all falling asleep, they were all yawning. They showed me this room, and after school every day — it was all on paper, sitting there with paper and pencil — they would literally redesign and adapt the learning experience for the kids for the next day. So they were there until 8:00, 9:00 at night doing this very difficult manual process. And I was like, “Why do you keep doing this to yourselves? This is crazy.” And they were like, “We are watching this transform the lives of these kids, how could we possibly stop?” And I said, “Yes, I take that point, but there are also some ways that you could enable this.”

I share that story because when people say, “Do you need technology to personalize learning?” No, but if you want to get some sleep at night, then yeah, you actually do need some tech to help take it to scale.

From a Medium post on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative:

From settings as various as inner-city Chicago to the decks of naval ships, comes increasing evidence that when education is truly “personalized” — when it is genuinely tailored to the needs of the student — the shift can be profound, blowing away the expected “bell curve” that dictates a handful of failure, a bit of excellence, and a bunch of mediocrity in between.

In each of these cases, the not-so-secret ingredients included:

  • an intense focus on the individual strengths, aspirations and needs of each student
  • a willingness to redesign the learning environment and experience to meet those needs
  • a deep understanding of the strategies and practices that would be most effective
  • a belief that dramatic outcomes were possible.

That, in short, is a description of the education all children deserve, but few are privileged enough to receive. And that is what we are seeking to change: to take the kind of focus on individual needs and support that define privilege and make it available to all — to make equal opportunity real.

In that effort, we strive to hold two ideals in tension: boldness and humility. It will take boldness to reimagine what’s possible for students, radically elevating beliefs about their potential. Yet it also takes humility to recognize that what we describe as personalized learning is an extension of what Maria Montessori was doing a century ago. And while there are more questions to answer and new science to bring to bear, this work is not simply about invention — it’s also about listening to and engaging students and teachers in designing their own solutions while connecting effective practices that exist today in the classrooms of great teachers all over the world.

 

In closing….

Stay warm, enjoy the snowflakes, and have a joyous weekend.

 

Kim

TGIF! Nov 17 2017

TGIF!

In six days, we’ll sit down for turkey, feasting, and thanks-giving.  I am truly grateful to you for your continued support.  2 ½ years ago, Imagine! was just a crazy idea I just couldn’t bat aside.  But today, when I look at the names of our future ninth graders, or when I drive by the place I hope we’ll call home next year, it’s already so much more.  And it’s each of you that has made that possible – if you didn’t want (need!) this school, it would have remained just an idea.  A good friend said the other day, “It’s no longer ‘build it and they will come’ – they’re coming, and you’ve got to build it.”  Mission accepted.

Enrollment interest

Speaking of that list of future ninth graders – if you have a son our daughter considering Imagine! for next year (as a 9th or 10th grader only), and you haven’t filled out our enrollment interest form, please go to http://bit.ly/IWM-enroll to make sure we have you on our list.

#Sparkhouse

Education Reimagined kicked off their annual conference for learner-centered education, SparkHouse, yesterday in Washington, DC.  Lots of Big Picture Learning students representing!  Checkout the tweetstorm that ensued on the question of “what makes an environment learner-centered?”  Adults have so many filters, so many models they (over)use to try and define these things.  The kids’ answers were pure.

What if I like structure?

Here was another great question mentioned during this event’s Facebook Live recap – “What if a kid sees school-centered education as the way they enjoy learning? What if they like the structure and the subject-by-subject nature of it?”  I hear this often, too, from parents – but the beauty of a learner-centered environment is the inherent choice: you have a choice to learn in the way that works for you.  If you like a lot of structure, you’ll learn to set up a structure for yourself. If you like more traditional learning methods, you’ll learn how to figure out where to access them. But learning to take ownership of your own learning is a skill that will be yours for the rest of your life.

Learning Links

Why wait to learn and do? (video clip): https://vimeo.com/user42292867/what-makes-lc-possible#t=81s

On communicating better with your teenager – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/well/family/why-your-grumpy-teenager-doesnt-want-to-talk-to-you.html?

 

In closing….

No TGIF next week.  Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving Day with friends and family, and a restful long weekend.

Kim

TGIF! Nov 10 2017

TGIF!

If you park outside at night (like I do), I’m sure you ran your windshield wipers a time or two this morning to clear off that first little accumulation of snow we’ve had this fall.  You can thank a Birmingham, Alabama woman named Mary Anderson – not for the snow, but for patenting the first “window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles to remove snow, ice or sleet from the window”, on this day in 1903.  (Unfortunately, her patent expired before the idea caught on, and she never made any money from her invention.)

Different viewpoints, same conclusions.

As you’ve probably realized, I pull in articles and insights from everywhere.  Of course, every author writes from their own experience, but it’s uncanny sometimes how people with vastly different perspectives on education come to similar conclusions.  This article was a case in point – while it was written from a homeschooling parent’s perspective, I was quite literally able to post it to our Facebook page with just a single edit to better explain a key belief that we hold here at Imagine!, namely, that high school should be an opportunity to begin living life, and not merely preparing for it.

“There is simply life”

The story was about a 10 year old girl, and the question adults love to ask all kids (I think they just don’t know how else to make conversation) – “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Her daughter’s answer was brilliant: “A baker, but I already am one.”  Is this just the naiveté of a child who has helped in the kitchen a few times, or is it an accurate answer? Kerry writes:

Baking brings my daughter daily joy and fulfillment while also helping to nourish her family and friends. She writes a baking blog, sharing her recipe adaptations and advice. She reads cookbooks, watches cooking shows (The Great British Baking Show is a favorite), talks to other bakers–both adults and kids–to get ideas and tips. She learned this all on her own, following her own interests, and quickly outgrowing the library children’s room cookbook section to the adult aisles.

She has unlimited access to the kitchen. She has abundant opportunities to visit the library and explore the Internet for real and digital information to help her in her craft. Her work is also incredibly valuable. I have never made a pie from scratch but she makes them all the time, bringing them as frequent desserts to gatherings and special events. The market price for her delicious, seasonal pies would be steep.

A [traditionally] schooled child, who might bake just as much after school or on weekends, likely wouldn’t answer in the same way.  Most children have accepted that “‘real life’ starts after. It starts after all the tedium, all of the memorizing and regurgitating, all of the command and control.”  While we can certainly have future goals and ambitions that we work towards – such as scaling up a talent for baking to become the means of earning one’s living – the young baker’s reply rejects the artificial separation between “preparing for life” and “living” that we have baked (!) into our educational mindset.

What if instead of focusing on after, we focus on now?  What if living, and learning, were synonymous?  What if instead of segregating kids from the real world during school, we actively encouraged opportunities that meaningfully include them in it?  What if “our job is not to prepare our children for who they will become, but to help them be who they already are”?

My daughter is a baker because she bakes. She is also many other things. To ask what a child wants to be when she grows up is to dismiss what she already is, what she already knows, what she already does. Will she always be a baker? It’s hard to say. Will I always be a writer? I think so, but who knows? Will any of us always be who we are now?

 

In closing….

Thanks for reading.  Do you know someone who might be interested in Imagine!, especially for 9th grade next year?  Please ask them to fill out our Enrollment Interest Form!

Kim

TGIF! Aug 25 2017

TGIF!

It’s feeling like fall!  Are you eager or anxious for the return of school days?

Did you enjoy Teacher Tom’s musings last week?

Another of his quotes to get you thinking:

Education “reformers” have it backwards. They look at middle schools and high schools and see children struggling, hating school, so they are seeking to make our preschools and elementary schools more like middle school and high school to get the children “ready.” It should be the other way around: we should be trying to make the middle school and high school experience more like what we find in early years. It’s not our job to make kids school ready, it’s our job to make schools ready for kids.

Examples from the spectrum of personalized learning

How do you view personalized learning?  Is it about moving at your own speed? Meet each learner’s needs in terms of supports? Is it about choice in when, where, and with whom to learn? How much does it include personalizing what to learn?  Check out this chart from Getting Smart: http://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/08/content-centered-to-student-centered-a-taxonomy-of-personalized-learning/

3 axis of learning design

We’ve been having a little informal poll on Facebook today around this image:

2017-08-25.png

The question was, which word is most important?  The full article I clipped this from is here, and I’ll reveal my answer to this (kind of a trick) question:  I think the most important word is EACH.  Yup, in the little thought bubble.  While the graph is a great visual of understanding the progression along each dimension, I think the most important thing to remember is that it’s about understanding where each unique student is.

In closing….

Thanks for reading, friends.  Enjoy the last full week of summer vacation!

Kim

TGIF! Aug 11 2017

TGIF!

Last week was quite a long post. We’ll keep it shorter today by just sharing a few links from our Facebook feed over the past couple of weeks.

If you prefer not to use social networking, but are curious about the articles we share and post on our page, you can view all our posts publicly without having a Facebook account.  Just browse on over to www.facebook.com/imaginewestmichigan/.

College application insanity

“High schools need to realize that, while students amassing millions of dollars in scholarships and hundreds of college acceptance letters seems like an accomplishment, the outcome for many students is the total opposite. Too many students end up not going to a school that is the best fit for them, taking on piles of debt, and dropping out with no workforce experience. The goal should be that each high school student will graduate having a grasp on their career path (and experience in that field), scholarships to the school of their choice (full rides or little to no debt), and be confident in where they will be spending the next four to six years of their life.” https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/07/18/my-high-school-told-me-to-apply-to-100-colleges-and-i-almost-lost-myself-in-the-process/

Work-based learning for credit in Vermont

“I just thought it was really awesome to have the chance to explore your interests in ways outside the classroom setting and gain skills that may actually be useful in the workplace,” Eurich said. “Because it’s really hard to gauge that just by taking classes similar to a career.” http://hechingerreport.org/one-state-students-ditching-classrooms-jobs/

A lesson from preschools – how to prepare kids for an AI economy

“A big challenge — and one he said is essential to preparing children for a labor market in which routine and individualized tasks are being automated — is making sure this style of education is not lost in higher grades, when teachers turn to lecturing and standardized curriculums… learning to work in groups and be creative – and that this problem you’re facing today looks like a problem you faced in a different context a year ago – is a process that is very hard for artificial intelligence to replicate.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/upshot/how-to-prepare-preschoolers-for-an-automated-economy.html

In closing….

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Kim