1) OBSERVE – “What pleasant surprises did I discover this week?”
This was the second week of first grade students using Inventables’ Easel website to design “restaurant signs” for their bird feeders. I was very concerned about them being able to navigate their way around the web to the site, enter in the parameters required for the machine to properly carve the type/size of wooden board we were using, and to be able to then design a text-based sign – especially typing that now, it seems like a lot! I personally, had only worked with this group of student to navigate the web via some finger-pecking keyboarding, and how to click, drag, drop and double-click. Manipulating images and text was not what we’d done before, so I was unsure how long it would take these guys to get the hang of it. Turns out, the kids took to it very quickly. Resizing text, which Easel really treats as images, with the 8 handles that outline the selected object became very intuitive as they explored it themselves. And without the worry of making the images disproportionate, since they were basically creating WordArt, it became very easy for them to creatively express their ideas. Then when they found the 9th handle that rotates the object… a whole new level of design opened up!
It makes me wonder about the benefits of doing this with students earlier in the year – like designing name tags for the coat hooks in their new classrooms. The experience of working with computer image manipulations, the fine motor work, and a very powerful first lap of bits-to-atoms could be quite impactful!
2) REFLECT – “What lessons did my work teach me that I could build upon next week?”
I have the benefit of leading students through similar learning experiences week after week as part of our Lower School Connections rotation. So this reflection question is pretty straight forward in my teaching context.
The place that jumps out to me is with grade 3 and their LED badge designs. In a nutshell, students are designing wooden badges that will be cut and rastered on the laser cutter. For this week’s class, we focused a lot on the design capabilities of Google Slides, and waited until the end of the week before getting into the technical side of Google Drive. This proved to be a mistake on two levels.
- It was only a single lap that kids got moving/sharing both files and folders. So I don’t feel convinced that they’ve “got it” when it comes to this technical skill. I didn’t not design a second opportunity for them to perform this task which I could have used as an assessment tool.
- It created a real bottleneck on the production side of things. 15 files were transferred and ready to be cut all at once, which just can’t be done in one 60 minute block of time based on the design parameters that were initially created.
Students never got a solid chance to work with each other through how to do this transfer work – “Three before me” wasn’t needed because they all got the procedural info at the same time when it was needed. Going into next week, the technical side of things will not be reserved for “just in time learning,” but as the bigger set of skills that this project is meant to develop in students. Further, by cutting more than once, it gives students a chance to experience the iteration process of design more authentically.
The reflection question reminds me that MakerEd experiences aren’t just about the thing that we are making. It is also about the fundamental skills that are acquired along the way that enable students to apply them in new and different contexts, thus enabling them not just to do things better, but to do better things. #twobirdsonestone
3) FOCUS – “Are my short-term efforts and my long-term goals still aligned?”
One of my long term goals is to build the capacity of Juliette Minutaglio, the Media and Maker Manager at MVPS to be able to more fully integrate into the operations of Studio(i). This week showed how much I’ve neglected some of the I work I could have been doing to make that possible. Thus far, I’ve asked her to come in only when I needed coverage in the studio, which has been a lot this year. But much of that coverage has been around very low-tech learning experiences: marble runs tinkering, cardboard/Lego automata, LED circuits, etc. It hasn’t involved more sophisticated equipment like the laser cutter, vinyl cutter, CNC routers… or even Google Drive. As I was gone for nearly three days this week between the Lower School Leadership retreat and MVIFI fuse16 office hours, the types of projects that we had rolling would require her to be involved with some of those sophisticated items. We did some impromptu training as we reviewed the lesson plans for the week, and even scratched one project all together so that we could plan something together that she felt comfortable orchestrating. (This turned out to be a big highlight as a matter of fact because she really felt that her previous work experiences meant she had so much to contribute to the project for that week – visual/oral communication via presentations.)
If I am going to make myself available for needs outside of the studio, and build capacities for operating the studio’s equipment within the learning culture of a maker-centered classroom – beyond this just being the “Jim Tiffin Show” – I need to more regularly invite Juliette, and others, in to play and learn.
4) BE PRODUCTIVE – “What could I have spent more or less time doing?”
This one is not directly related to school for me this week… it is related to home.
Everyone knows about the need for a dynamic balance between work and home… just ask Ed Catmull about balance, or Greg Bamford about the purpose of weekends :-) This is related to doing more at home to keep things running at home.
This week, my loving wife was off on a mother/daughter cruise. She hasn’t returned yet, so for the past seven days, and the next two, I am a single parent. It is incredibly eye opening to realize exactly how much support she gives towards allowing me to do what I need to do for work and home. Without her around, you can’t help but see how much the work she does for our family is vital to all of us (ie the kids, myself, and her)to be able to do what we do. And I’m not just talking about transporting kids, or helping with homework, or cooking meals – I do my fair share of all of that. But things like, checking account balances, setting up playdates and doctors appointments, shopping for groceries and supplies, keeping the house from being buried under the “debris of living” that comes from a family of six (and a mangy mutt) – that’s a lot! And I can’t help but feel disappointment with myself for reacting with anger to her requests for help with things. My rebuttal is always around being there for the kids and giving them experiences that they’ll learn from growing up. But raising the family isn’t the same as running a household. They overlap for sure, but there’s certainly a difference. I need to find more balance in helping run the household because it isn’t fair that I’m upsetting my wife’s balance. I need to contribute more to my household roles so that ultimately, I can be more productive in all my life’s roles.
5) HAVE COURAGE – “How did fear and uncertainty affect what I did and didn’t do?”
This has been one that’s been building for a while, and “analysis paralysis” has cost me dearly. My website’s theme creator, MySiteMyWay, had regrettable gone under some time ago. (It wasn’t announced by anyone at the company. The lack of support request replies led clients to this out-of-business conclusion, which in turn lit up the forums!) I’ve know about this since around January. I only casually looked around for new WordPress themes, but I didn’t really invest time into making a decision.
Well, in the weeks since my discovery, things stopped working on my site one at a time. First a slider went out. Then some animations failed in my portfolios. Then more and more little items stopped functioning. I ignored all of those, justifying it to myself that those features weren’t mission critical and were probably symptoms of a different problem (like a plugin or two) instead of the entire theme. Besides, traffic to my site was low right now, especially after the click rush that came from Sylvia Martinez linking to it had calmed down.
But then the homepage fell apart, and the entire Tales Not Yet Told gallery vanished from the site. And it all happened about a week before Bo proposed this experiment. What could have been simply migration fix with lots of time to repair any problems, suddenly became an all-out-must-get-it-done effort. I continually put off deciding what to do because I didn’t want to make the wrong decision about what to do. (Picking a theme might seem like an easy thing to do, but if you’ve ever tried to pick out furniture or colors for painting a room, you know how tough this can be. Back up in the process even further, because WordPress themes on wordpress.org – not wordpress.com – are more than just window dressing. Now a days, WordPress themes do more than just make the colors, fonts and headers. A theme actually determines how the site is structured, and how you will build that structure. So instead of just picking out paint for the room, you are actually building the entire house! And the appliances… and the plumbing… and the HVAC… and the electrical… etc.) If I’d been more decisive, I could have picked something long ago, and began the migration process long ago too. But since that ship has sailed, I had to make a game time decision.
Believeing that I am “pretty goo in the moment” as my improv skills might suggest… :-) I picked The7 theme. The boy scout in me (that always wants to be prepared) was very attracted to its “most customizable” tag line. And being a guy that loves modularity and tinkering, this could prove to be a match made in heaven.
6) CLEANSE – “What mental clutter can I clear?”
This is a hard question for me. To me, I interpret it as asking, “What’s done that you don’t have to think about anymore?” The spirit of the question, according to Marc and Angel, is that this is when you acknowledge the negatives of the week, and move on. I think I’ve already looked at those negatives in the context of answering the previous questions, so I’m gonna take a pass on this one this week and see if my reflection process evolves to take better advantage of it in future writings.
7) BEGIN ANEW – “What is the first logical step for next week?”
This may seem more fitting for question #3, and the “logical” part might escape some readers (and maybe myself), but it is related to this post and makes a nice tie-in back to my long term goals. It deals with storytelling.
I need to make more strides to improve my storytelling skills. As you could easily summarize from this extraordinarily long post, I need to shorten my tales. In my MVIFI tribe, we like to throw around the word “crisp”, and that certainly fits here. I believe my long windedness comes from three sources:
- My (perhaps false) assumption that the people I’m sharing stories with need the context in which the story I’m sharing is based, and that context must be rich and detailed.
- My excitement about what it is that I am sharing, and my desire to pass that excitement on to others in perfected, colorful and passionate glory.
- My lack of regular practice sharing ideas with others, either verbally or textually beyond 140 characters.
In some sense, each of these bullet points could be address through regularity – a habit if you will. But the obstacle is the inordinate amount of time that it takes me to complete a post, or share an idea with someone. I just have so much good stuff that I want to say! :-) The time could be decreased through “crispness practice”, and again regularity – especially since the shared context could then be achieved. However, reoccurring flareups of perfectionism threaten to knock me off the wagon. And conditioning from my career arc – going all the way back to my telecom days – has mostly been about working as an individual, hidden out of sight, in order to get the job done… no matter the cost in man hours or time. All that matter was that the impossible was achieved, and achieved beyond expectation.
This is what I’ve know, and this has been what has worked for me for a very long time. But my role and organization have changed now. My responsibilities to user groups small and large, far and wide, are vast and (perhaps) unachievable as an individual.
I could easily go into list of the reasons why teams and groups make the individual better – collaboration anyone? – but this isn’t the place for that listing. I know them, and I need to apply them. And I need to be logical about them. Which brings me back to the storytelling next steps.
I need to continue to try and find ways to tell my stories to others in concise, crisp ways, with a regularity that allows others to know those stories, and in turn share them with others. My first step is to relook at my time during the workday, to create more opportunities to interact with my audience. And then, test that time slot out for the purpose of quickly generating stories and artifacts – post-it notes for student projects, more Tales Not Yet Told, posts on MVIFI.org, etc. Can I do that in my timeframe, or will it be a matter of nibbling away at it over the course of the week. And finally, I must monitor how crispy I can get, without getting burnt. #didyouseewhatIdidthere #makingfunnies #gottaendthispostnowbecauseImjustgettingsilly
The genesis of this reflective post comes from an experiment that Bo Adams invited a group of MVPS leaders to be a part of. His hypothesis in the experiment revolves around the idea that the process of regular reflection by learners, student or faculty, can produce remarkable positive learning results. That, in and of itself, is not a new belief.
— James Tiffin Jr. (@JimTiffinJr) August 4, 2015
Where the twist comes in is making it a regular occurrence, as opposed to just after a major event – or in a student’s case, when a project, test or unit of study is completed.
Essentially, what if regular reflection was an “assignment”, or some other form of home learning? How might this practice of reflection become habitual and motivated by intrinsic value? By doing this as lead learners, what empathetic insights might we gain to better enable us ask others to take on this practice? Or might we discover that we shouldn’t ask them?
To guide our reflections, Bo shared with us these seven questions shown to the right.
They are based on a post written by Mark Chernoff on their site Hack Life. I highly recommend reading the post to help unpack the thoughts and motivations behind these seven questions.
Well, consider this post my way of getting my homework done so I can participate in the class discussions to follow. :-)
Images in this post, but not shown in the Image Credits section, are my own.