Learning Through Making

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This summer I have dedicated some of my personal professional learning toward learning about Makerspaces.  While I am far from an expert, I am excited about the path forward.  This year I will be joined in developing more opportunities to learn through creation by another teacher.  This is exciting because I have another teacher that believes in the value of teaching science and math through creating.

There are many reasons for teaching through creation. Giving kids something to accomplish gives the learning focus.  It also creates an opportunity to learn more from mistakes.  When I see what my mistake means for my creation, I can learn not only how to fix it, but how to improve in other areas as well.  Most importantly however, creating content and generating ideas will be increasingly valuable.

Reading science fiction is something I truly enjoy, but not just for a break from reality, but because the best authors take theoretical science and create a new reality.  In our world today, many of the theoretical ideas that are being developed have roots in these alternate realities.  As I think about the amazing advancements in areas like 3D Printing, computing, and robotics, I am not only excited, I am in awe.

Now I find myself with the opportunity to provide learning opportunities for my own students that include these seemingly miraculous developments.  Giving them the opportunity to learn and develop into leaders in the future starts with access to opportunity today.  I can only hope the space we are trying to create inspires our students to develop a passion and love for creating new and incredible things.

I hope to write a lot more about our developing Makerspace and the children that will make it an incredible place as the year continues, as well as share their many brilliant ideas.

Is There a Way to Get More Educated Connected?

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For the better part of a year, I have strongly believed that we should endeavor to get as many teachers connected(in some way) as possible.  Doing this is important, and here is why:

To me, being connected means we share, collaborate, learn, and reflect through the relationships we have built.  We take all of the wonderful support and resources that are readily at our disposal and we find ways to transform them into better learning opportunities for our kids.  By engaging in and developing those relationships, we make ourselves both better educators and better people.  Being connected is this incredible revelation for myself and many others which I have at times compared to being unplugged from the Matrix.

So many of education’s thought leaders are readily available for us to question, learn with, and grow alongside.  Why is it, that the average teacher/administrator  is not a part of this?  What keeps them from being connected?

When I first became a connected educator I found myself relentlessly eager to spread the word.  I had seen the light and soon I would help save others!  I have learned much since those days.  I recently shared that story and my reflections on what I see as a divisive attempt to push connectedness with CUE.  What I was left with at the end of my musings was an important question:

How do we expand the pockets of connected educators?  How do we reach those that have not “seen the light”?  

The truth is, I am not sure.  I am hoping to draw on the wealth of knowledge from intelligent, creative people.  I am looking for answers, and not the kind that come from the stockpile.  The reality is, we are very much the minority in education.

We are the few, making decisions and setting trends for the many.  I want the voices of the many, and I want new ways to engage them.  I am no longer content to be a candle, burning brightly in the dark (admitting I stole that phrase from a favorite Sci-Fi novel: Spinward Fringe).

This week Justin Schleider has been kind enough to lend me his platform of #SlowChatPE to discuss this important topic.  Please be prepared to come up with your best ideas, even if they are only ideas.  Those of you that have been in chats I have moderated know I will not take a canned answer.  Be ready to expand, to think, to have me push back the way many often do.  Here are this week’s questions.  Please take time to think and share.  Finding ways to get more educators to share, collaborate, learn, and grow should be of paramount importance to education leaders everywhere.

Monday: Q1- How did you find the right way for you to be connected?

Tuesday: Q2- How does being connected translate into better teaching and learning in your classroom/school?  Give specific examples.

Wednesday: Q3- “Show them” is ALWAYS the answer: How have you used being connected to help someone else improve their classroom?

Thursday: Q4- How can being a connected educator have negative effects on your teaching?

Friday: Q5- What can we gain from being connected to people outside education?

A Beautiful Moment

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I spend my summer nights working in a restaurant by the beach. Each night I get paid to bring people food and drinks and take care of their needs.  It is in some ways similar to education, but mostly, it is a stark change from my typical day in the classroom. Sadly a busy restaurant does not typically bring out the best in the people around me.  Tonight however, I found myself looking on in awe of several teenagers with whom I work.

There is a lot said about the generation that is coming through high school now.  Most of what I hear is filled with negativity.  In the restaurant where I work there are many people working that are a part of that generation.  If you believe what many of us “old folks” say, they are lazy, self-centered, and generally clueless about the world.  It never ceases to amaze me how often I hear criticism of teenagers, although I suppose it has always been this way.

Tonight, while I was waiting for business to pick up, I saw something that was beautiful, amazing, and truly made me happy.  Standing next to the hostess desk in the front of our restaurant was an adult girl.  She was different, clearly had some special needs, but she was friendly and inquisitive.  She stood there for at least a minute while our staff was busy taking care of people.  Then, they each turned to her and she shook their hand.  They were talking.

I casually walked by to find out more.  These teenage girls were amazing.  They were not pretending to be nice to her, they were not annoyed by having to “deal” with her.  They were genuinely happy to talk to her, ask her questions about what she was doing, and show her what they were doing.

This didn’t stop at a small talk conversation, instead they embraced having this girl with them and even had her help them with their duties.  All the time they were talking with her, making her feel comfortable.  After she ate dinner, the young woman returned to help the hostesses and sit with her new friends.  She was smiling seemed like she fit right in.  I walked over and introduced myself to her.  We talked for a short while before I had to get back to work, but I felt lucky to get to meet her.

She spoke slowly, but clearly.  She was one of the nicest, happiest people I have met in a long time.  After I had to return to my work, I watched as she hugged each of the girls goodbye. I was touched by this moment.  Here, in a place that doesn’t always bring out the best in people, I saw one of the most beautiful moments of humanity that I have seen in a long time.  Teenagers, the same ones who people call selfish and oblivious to the world, were so naturally good.

Young people will always surprise you when you forget their potential to be incredible.  These four teenagers made someone else’s life better, if only for a short time.  They did it so effortlessly, without thinking anything of it.  I hope to remember this beautiful moment the next time I hear someone criticize the next generation.

Appropriate Cliche for Returning…

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It has been over a month since I have posted any writing.  In some ways this little blog vacation has been a welcome break, in others it has created a void in my life personally.  Writing has been my own personal processing unit that has allowed me to sound off on passionate topics, sort through things I have learned, and express my thoughts.  While taking a break from regular writing, I have missed many opportunities to share and get feedback from the handful of awesome people who actually read my writing.

At first I felt like perhaps I had said all I could possibly say.  Writing nearly 400 posts in under a year between here and another blog, I did feel that the well was a little dry.  After a month away, I realized that I definitely had plenty to share.  In this time I have separated from my blog, I have also retracted quite a bit from social media.  I have a lot to give, and so much more to get from the amazing people with which I connect.

That break stops now.  While I am not committing to writing every day, I will be committing to writing and posting twice a week starting tomorrow.  I hope to share many new and exciting journey’s with you all, an I hope for significant feedback from any and all who take the time to read.