Friday, March 28, 2014

To Dream the Impossible Dream...

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It has been one week since the start of #CUE14 and I am only now having the chance to start reflecting on my experience.  It was a fabulous 4 days of connecting, learning, reflecting, and dreaming (I stayed for the Google summit as well).

My top take-always would have to be (in no particular order)
- getting to connect with members of my far-flung #PLN in person is a priceless opportunity and great way to dive deep into some conversations normally limited to 140 characters
-attending with a small team from my site, meant more excitement as we shared and debriefed
- it was #CUE13 that started me on my journey of Twitter, presenting at conferences, becoming a better  educator, blogging, evangelizing to the "un-churched" about how school can and needs to be better if we would only try; what a difference a year makes!
- there is always something new to learn
-we all have skills, tips, tricks, ideas that can, should, and need to be shared

While the four days were long, while my brain was filled beyond my believed capacity, and while the connectivity was beyond abysmal, the experience was one that I would not trade.  In addition, I am so grateful that my colleagues who went with are as passionate as I...perhaps even more passionate.  That is a huge relief because I know that I don't have to be a lone nut at my site.  For those of you who are the lone nut, you know how frustrating that can be.  I wish you the benefit of at least one co-conspirator soon to help lighten your burden of improving the experiences for all of your students.

Over the four days I took copious notes.  My Evernote folder for the weekend is chock full of ideas, resources, and names.  In addition, there were all of the side conversations with friends and colleagues.  All of this got me thinking about my dream school.  I should add before launching into my description that shortly before #CUE14, I finished reading Daniel Pink's Drive and while at #CUE14 was (and still am) reading Eric Scheninger's Digital Leadership so realize that I was reflecting on many factors during the weekend!   While there are many obstacles to my dream, I want to chronicle the ideas here.  Because maybe, just maybe, there is a way to bring some of this into reality...

The school of my dreams is completely focused on preparing students for the here and now (thank you @davidtedu for opening my eyes to this need) as well as for their future needs.  To do this, every student would build their own digital portfolio to chronicle their learning while allowing them to reflect on their learning journey.  The days would start with an hour or so of core knowledge.  Elementary school could include some guided reading, basic math facts, simple science concepts.  Middle and high school would have some advanced math, book discussion groups, and again some core science concepts.  All of this core experience would provide students with the scaffolding students would need to then pursue the rest of their day.  Students, as they get older, would have more and more freedom to structure their days.  What would they do with these hours, you ask?  Simple: pursue learning in the way that makes sense to them.  Armed with something perhaps akin to an academic "passport", they would set learning goals to address driving questions developed by the departments and learning level teams.  They would have to answer them, demonstrating mastery before  moving to the next set of questions in a given content area or progress to the next grade level.  These driving questions would span social sciences, science, math, arts, english, and foreign languages.  Teachers would be available in (class)rooms to conduct small seminars, guide research, review and assess student work and provide feedback.  Students would be graded based on standards and their reflections on their iterations of learning.  No multiple choice.  Just authentic learning.

 Mixed in with this would be required physical activity.  Campuses would be equipped with gyms, perhaps a climbing wall, weight rooms, pools, outdoor areas and anything that makes sense for the community.  Old-school PE teachers would be recycled into or replaced by individuals more in line with personal trainers and nutrition consultants.  Students would set fitness goals just as they would set learning goals.

And finally, the best part (in my opinion) is that every student would be able to make 20% time part of the regular learning experience at any age.  This would be part of their learning goals.

They would be blogging, creating, collaborating, and learning in a very dynamic, exciting, and self-directed environment.  They work at their pace, design the learning that makes sense to them to master the material, and pursue their passions.  Imagine how this  model of learning would inspire the students and adults involved!  What could they accomplish every day, week, year?  

I know that this is a dream.  But as we were told last weekend, Google believes that you have to dream the  impossible to achieve change.  

So thank you #CUE14 (and #CUE13).  You have changed my approach to learning and leadership.  You have provided me with tools, introduced me to the amazing resource of Twitter, and allowed me to dream.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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