It may sound trite, it may sound cliche, but the best way I can explain the passion and curiosity I bring to my work as an educator as well as the technologies I use is with the opening project I remixed for the blended learning program I helped create – The Curiosity Project. . By walking you through some of the highlights of this project, I hope to show you how I am re-imagining education and what I am passionate and curious about in education, schools, and students. Each highlight corresponds to a # on the screenshot I took of the project.
#1 – The title of this project reads “Curiosity Project”. It is the first project that every student has to do when they enter our program. It is a full-length, in-depth research project of the likes that many students haven’t ever seen or if they have gave up during the formal process. When I started to design curriculum for our new fledgling program I knew that I wanted students to do an actual formal independent research project, but this project is designed for students to conduct research on a project that they are curious and passionate about. First, because I knew that research and all the associated knowledge and skills with research are crucial for success in a blended personalized learning environment. Second because it starts the promotion of the idea that Thomas L. Friedman shares in his article “It’s the P.Q. and C.Q. as much as the I.Q.”, which is that students need to practice how to be lifelong learners. The at-risk students I worked with think, before they start this project, that school is completely divorced from their reality. They ARE passionate about learning, but they are NOT passionate about school. They see these as two completely separate spheres and I remixed this project to unite them both.
#2 – I opened the project with two quotations to show students that I understand where they are coming from. The first quote says, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” The second quote says, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education”. I wanted students to see that the learning process I was setting them up for. They should see from these that this isn’t a traditional school, nor is this a traditional assignment.
#3 – This information is from the original Curiosity Project which is an open-source Google Doc that was created for elementary students overseas. This highlight shows three technology resources that I have liberal use of in my position as curriculum coordinator. First, open-source materials. I think a strong message I have learned in my CEP classes is that remixing materials is a part of the new Maker environment. I am curious at how to remix materials, knowledge, and processes for students to personalize their education and demonstrate what they know and how they know it. I found this elementary open-source project on the internet and knew I could remix it to suit the purposes for my students. Second, Google Docs. Google Apps for Education have been a godsend to how we have developed our blended learning program. No longer do our students have to rely on one computer to access the proper word processing or project tools so that various instructors can review their work. They don’t have to carry around flash drives or CDs, instead they have a cloud they can use to access their materials. Third, the LMS that this project is contained on. I looked for a learning management system (LMS) that would give us the ability to assess the learning targets our students were demonstrating progress towards and allow them to submit work to multiple subjects for the same project. The LMS I recommended to my program director was the Haiku LMS and that was ultimately the one we chose and displays all of our projects.
#4 – This highlight displays the skills students will learn and experience by being active curious learners. I included this list, because it is also my list. It shows how and why I make the choices I do as a teacher leader. It also shows the process I use to make curricular decisions for the students in our program. It makes my thinking visible.
#5 – I wanted to show that students are asked to create a project journal. This journal can be handwritten or using an edtech tool. No student has to reflect using the same tool and that is my opinion regarding edtech tools. I am passionate about the creative use of technology in education, but our world is becoming more personalized along with schooling. People are choosing what works best for them and as Friedman wrote the tools you use “are being made obsolete faster”. I am constantly on a quest to expand my knowledge of edtech and how it can be used for my students & staff learning.
#6 – These types of reflective questions are typical of the questions I ask students to ponder throughout their Curiosity Project. I wanted them to really think about the definition of the term “curiosity” and why it is important. This is the initial start to the project so I didn’t want to throw a bunch of questions at them. It is the same way I approach delivering professional development and training to my staff. I start with asking them to reflect and think for themselves first, before applying their knowledge to a greater context.
#7 – In these highlights of the Curiosity Project, I asked students to look at others and study how curiosity and passion is used to learn new things. This is akin to Friedman’s charge that in the evolving world, we need to develop more “individual initiative”. That is how and why I have led the charge for the program development that I did. I was passionate that there needed to be better options for learners and I am constantly searching the globe through a plethora of helpful social media tech tools. There are too many to list, but just some that I consult regularly are blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, Google +, etc.) In this particular instance for students I am asking to use Youtube to share in the knowledge of curious learners reflecting on their journeys to develop and explore their passions.
#9 – This highlight shows the meat of this project unfolding. Hopefully you could tell from the other highlights that this project is designed to have students study what people do with curiosity and what it means to them. Now they move into designing a curiosity project considering what they are passionate about. This is similar to how I have developed my passions. I helped design my current role in my program and I continue to share about my passion for hybrid leadership roles for educators anywhere I can.
#10 – I am also equally passionate about the role of teacher leadership and how educators can connect with students. An important piece of this project is how much interaction it asks students to do with an advisor (a certified teacher). They have to have a discussion with an adult about their curiosities and passions and use that conversation to help them choose a topic they can develop. The technologies they have for communication are anywhere from Voxer to Twitter to Facebook or any Google tools if they are not face-to-face with that person. The sky is literally the limit! Since I introduced this project I have had students do topics as diverse as the history of rock ‘n roll, why mosquitoes bite, the effects of giant squid attacks, etc.
10b. After students select their topic they spend time pondering what they are curious about and exploring their topic in-depth. One of the ways I chose to have them do this was by using the concept maps from Instagrok. This web 2.0 tool creates words and concepts related to a keyword(s) students type in. I used to use other tools until I saw this one presented at a tech conference. Continually revising, changing, and exploring tech tools is another facet of my educational thought leadership. I am constantly seeking out new ways to improve student understanding and engagement and I do not hesitate to fail. Luckily I work with a collaborative team environment where failure and innovation are encouraged as they both benefit each other.
The last highlighted items #11 & #12 both show other elements of curiosity, passion, and leadership that I demonstrate. First, #11 is showing that in this project students will be self-directing their learning, personalizing how they acquire skills and knowledge of research and then sharing that work with an audience. This is exactly what I try to do with my development – show my journey and share that journey. Finally #12 shows that self-direction is prized with this project and a trait of a learner. Because my job is innovative, hybrid, and does not rely on the “system” telling me when to work and stop, people have asked if we take advantage. In fact, the opposite is true, because we have trust and systems of collaboration put in place we all depend and connect with each other to impact student learning and the development of our program. We all created it and we all own it. That trait is what I created this project to help develop. It is lengthy, but it is about the curiosity and passions of students and they have made fantastic work!
As Friedman argues, in the changing world we need intelligence, but we also need creativity and passion (Friedman, 2013, p.1). I hope that you see through the scope and sequence of this introductory pathway just how passionate and curious I am as both a learner and educator. I am always learning, searching, refining, and communicating in the hopes of creatively disrupting the traditional systems of schooling in the United States. I hope to continue to grow my leadership and create revolutionary systems of education using technology. The adventure has begun!
Friedman, T. L. (2013). It’s the P.Q. and C.Q. as much as the I.Q. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0