Friday, February 27, 2009

Reinventing PBL Flickr Group Reaches 100 Contributors!

Midnight Chickadee at Kang Chaio Bilingual School, Taipei (hat tip to Terry Smith)

I posted a query to Classroom 2.0 two weeks ago about computing environments and Greg Tracy contributed several helpful ideas. Several days later I announced that the Reinventing PBL Flickr Group was one member shy of 100. Greg was paying attention and now I'd like to give a hearty welcome to Mr. 100, Greg Tracy!
If you want to see and show others what PBL looks like in action, take advantage of this Group.
What ways can it be useful?
  • Look for projects to emulate or join.
  • Talk to contributing teachers about their projects.
  • Ask kids: What three photos would best tell the world what we're about?
  • Think about the stories projects tell, and how documenting them on the Web transmits their power to others.
  • Start a discussion with other pbl-minded folks in the group forum.
  • Set the pool pictures on "slideshow" and project the images as participants gather at your next staff meeting or workshop.
In what other ways can pictures of PBL inform, persuade and celebrate? I'm all ears. Please join the Reinventing PBL Flickr Group!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Art of Community Change

In "Passing Empowerment Down through the Arts," in the current issue of Edutopia, Bill Strickland tells me about the journey he began 40 years ago when an art teacher changed his life. He's been changing lives ever since, first in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa., and now in other communities across the country (and beyond). His unique vision combines arts and mentoring to keep young people engaged in learning, plus high-powered job training so adults can lift their families out of poverty. It's a potent formula for creating hope in the neighborhoods that need it most. Strickland also tells his story in this remarkable TED presentation, where jazz legend Herbie Hancock accompanies the artful storyteller. And if you want more details on how this all unfolded, check out Strickland's recent autobiography, Make the Impossible Possible.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Learning with Care

I came away from the recent Educon2.1 conference in Philadelphia with a kaleidoscope of impressions that make me hopeful about where education is heading (and I’ll be sharing some highlights in an upcoming Spiral Notebook post). But as I’ve been reflecting on what I saw and heard during those three days at the Science Leadership Academy, I find myself yearning for an update.

So, Principal Lehmann, what’s up with the prom bear?

This takes a little explaining. When colleague Jane Krauss and I arrived at SLA, we were greeted by two student tour guides. We couldn’t have asked for better narrators than Freda and Brett. They were drawn to this magnet school by the promise of challenging academics, energetic teachers, pervasive technology, and a world of possibilities. Both had the chance to travel to Liverpool, England, last year as part of a student exchange.

In this hothouse environment, SLA students expect to work hard. But their academic life is not just an exercise or simulation. Real-world projects get them accustomed to investigating their environment, thinking critically, and addressing perceived wrongs.

So when Freda noticed that a fundraiser for the school prom involved selling small stuffed bears, she got curious. Turns out the bears were manufactured in China. Knowledgeable about fair trade, she questioned whether a bear that might have come from a sweatshop was a good mascot for her school to be promoting.

And here’s where the prom story gets really interesting. Freda told us she fully intends to start a fair-trade initiative at SLA. But she decided to wait a few weeks to get started because she didn’t want to raise a ruckus on the eve of Educon2.1. “I think it might have stressed out our principal,” she said. Learning is serious business at SLA, but so is caring.

A couple days later, Jane and I led an Educon conversation about meaningful projects, the kind that prepare students to make a real difference in their communities. (Video and materials from the session are posted here.) That’s what SLA seems to be doing every day, across the curriculum—and beyond.