1) OBSERVE – “What pleasant surprises did I discover this week?”
I was incredibly impressed at how well students capitalized on their iteration opportunities this week.
In this final full week of school, we temporarily modified the Connections rotations to allow every student a final 1-hour trip through each class. While this meant a deep-dive into a rich, involved project couldn’t be taken on, it did offer an opportunity for a rich collaborative experience that every student could contribute to. Each class would come into the studio to help iterate on the work of others as we sought to meet the challenge of “HMW showcase the fun adventures we’ll have this summer?”
Each class started with a brief discussion on what iteration was. A very small group of students had heard the term before, but none could offer a definition of what it was. I certainly wasn’t going to define it for them! Instead, I shared examples of when they had iterated before. For some groups, I reminded them of the very first MakerEd project I did with them my first year as a member of MVPS – the flowers that we created for Senora Lopez that needed to stand up on the table on their own. For all groups, I shared with them the writing process that all of their teachers have them go through as they progress from rough draft to final copy. This powerful connection back to experiences that they regularly did in their classrooms helped them come up with a working (kid-friendly) definition of iteration – “Doing something again in order to make it better, by adding or subtracting ideas.”
With that definition in mind, we went to work!
— James Tiffin Jr. (@JimTiffinJr) May 19, 2016
The ideas expanded and grew with each passing class. The room floor, and even part of the ceiling, filled with prototypes all touched by the hands of multiple students in multiple grade levels. The sophistication and quality also grew with each rotation.
As a matter of fact, on Thursday during the last rotation of the day – a Kindergarten class – the resolution of these prototypes was brought to such a high quality, that these Kindergarteners no longer wanted to build upon the creations… they wanted to flat out play with them! It was no longer a stretch of the imagination to see the bowls of water with bent pipe cleaners and PVC connectors as an aquarium. To them it really WAS an aquarium! The moveable pipe cleaner people on the football and baseball fields had to be played with with to see who would win the game. The comfy chair in front of the computer programmed “TV” was to comfy to leave. The miniature golf course into Cinderella’s castle was screaming to them to try and make a hole-in-one!
It was incredible to see, and a testament to how powerful iteration can be – and how important it is for young innovators to experience it in a multitude of contexts.
To those not familiar with the project we were working on, Studio(i) looked like a disaster at the end of the week – me sweeping the raw materials back into a pile with a push broom probably didn’t help :-) But ask any student who was in there, and they’ll tell you how amazing the transformation of Studio(i) into Summer Vacation was!
2) REFLECT – “What lessons did my work teach me that I could build upon next week?”
It’s funny, but it wasn’t work that taught me this. Rather it was the lack of work that reminded me of this.
Having space and margin, the kind that comes from not needing to focus heavily on the next week’s lessons, material prepping and tool set up, admin work and meetings, has really given my creative capacity a boost. Just this morning, I went on a walk with my pup as part of my #MentalPaws get away. I didn’t take my phone as I’d neglected to charge it after going out with my wife Friday night. But that I think really helped me focus on bigger ideas, rather than in-the-weeds problems. Instead, I simply wandered along the trails letting my mind wander amongst the big things I want to tackle this summer as part of my administrative work: raising the innovation capabilities of staff and students; maximizing the potential of our LS schedule; identifying opportunities for play and choice by all learners, formally documenting the goals, learning structures and connectivity of MVPS’ maker-centered programs. And all the while, I’m thinking about these from a system-wide perspective. To do otherwise would disappoint my friend Grant Lichtman! (Look for his quote on the righthand page below)
So what is the lesson? No, it isn’t to forget my phone on my walks. It’s that realizing I am at my creative height when I am not consumed with so many other matters and can have a clear mind. Not at all a revolutionary idea that no one could possibly relate to by any means. But it is an important personal realization that productively chips away at the “I can do it all” complex that I have.
3) FOCUS – “Are my short-term efforts and my long-term goals still aligned?”
Yes. Part of my long term goal is to get the Studio set up for the work that has to be done this summer to get it set up the right way for next year. In order to do that, I have to remove a lot of stuff to make room for my construction projects. Some of that includes the boxes and boxes of reusable materials that parents and students have so generously brought in over the entire school year. We’ve used them all year long, and so have countless Kindergarten and grade 5 classes, but the warehousing of so many supplies was spilling into other work areas.
The short-term effort: create a project that gets students using ALL of the materials so they aren’t just disposed of in the recycling bin.
Did I write about the iteration project I had my students do this week? :-)
4) BE PRODUCTIVE – “What could I have spent more or less time doing?”
My website it up and running. I’ve spent a lot of time working on it in what turns out to be nearly a month of time. There were a massive amount of tweaks that needed to be made, and large sections of re-creation that had to be done. The learning I did has been invaluable, and will serve me very well as I contribute more to MVIFI’s site and my own.
I am happy to say that I will need to spend far less time “under the hood” now. There are still some posts that need upgrading, and landing page text that needs to be authored, but the majority of my time can now be spent creating content instead of the content blocks themselves.
That’s not to say I won’t get under the hood again – there has to be some systems in place to automate the backup processes and vital redundancies I am currently doing by hand, but it feels good knowing that I can take this puppy out for a real spin instead of just test drives!
5) HAVE COURAGE – “How did fear and uncertainty affect what I did and didn’t do?”
Nothing comes to mind for this question. Which continues to concern me.
I wonder if time should be spent doing a little informal data collection to monitor my behaviors, especially at a metacognitive level, for this question. Hmmm…
6) CLEANSE – “What mental clutter can I clear?”
I was part of a passionate meeting this week with a colleague around plans for next year. Though the end of the week is not the signal to cleanse this matter from my mind, it is a reminder that this issue needs to be addressed prior to summer vacation. Doing so is critical to ensure that the right frame of reference is in place for any summer planning is done. And more importantly, that the right relationships are in place as part of a stronger foundation for learning and collaboration.
7) BEGIN ANEW – “What is the first logical step for next week?”
Ensure that last meetings that take place next week are powerful celebrations of the work done this year, and also prioritize the need for folks to revitalize over the summer. I must think of a way to get the faculty to answer these two questions:
- What do you like to do for fun?
- How are you making time to do that (a lot) this summer?
Maybe it isn’t these two questions specifically, but ones with the same spirit. We spend a lot of time talking about preparing for next year with work, planning, learning, and meetings… but we must equally emphasize the time to rest and have fun. All work and no play isn’t good for students or teachers.
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.