The Art of Amazing

I’m currently working with some amazing middle school teachers as we prepare for our Partnership for Powerful Learning Pilot Project, set to launch in January 2011. This ambitious project will allow all seventh grade students to bring their own computing device to school. While that, in and of itself, is huge, we’re also determined to change the way in which we view learning in the process.

Anyways, we’ve begun conversations about how to ready the students and parents for this substantial undertaking, and in fact, I led a discussion just this week to plan for our Student/Parent Bootcamp happening sometime in November. After a whole lot of really good conversation, we left the room with a date and time, as well as a schedule and a list of topics we felt were important to address that day:

1.) Productivity Tools
2.) Presentation Tools
3.) Digital Citizenship
4.) Social Tools
5.) Organizing Yourself
6.) Nuts and Bolts-Pilot Specific

The enthusiasm of the group was incredible; I think we all felt as though we were venturing into something really transformational. Later, however, I felt something niggling at my brain; something I just couldn’t shake. When that “something” finally revealed itself, well, it was one of those wonderful AHA moments when you just know something significant has shifted; the words, “walk the talk” echoed somewhere in the back of my mind. You see, I am a living, breathing billboard for all of us to re-envision teaching and learning in the 21st Century, and yet here I was, functioning in 20th Century mode. If the guiding vision behind our pilot project was to empower students and encourage them to own the learning, shouldn’t the bootcamps reflect that thinking? Shouldn’t we model that for our students? In fact, shouldn’t we all become co-learners?

And then, as serendipitous as life can be, I happened upon Will Richardson’s most recent post, where he includes this quote by Erica McWilliam:

“Rather than teachers delivering an information product to be ‘consumed’ and fed back by the student, co-creating value would see the teacher and student mutually involved in assembling and dissembling cultural products. As co-creators, both would add value to the capacity building work being done through the invitation to ‘meddle’ and to make errors. The teacher is in there experimenting and learning from the instructive complications of her errors alongside her students, rather than moving from desk to desk or chat room to chat room, watching over her flock.”

Wow. Perfect timing which causes me to rethink this day; what should it look like in a century markedly different from its predecessor? Here are some initial thoughts:

–Let’s not focus on the tools but what these tools can do to help us learn, which begs the question, how do we do that within the context of this bootcamp? How do we frame everything around the learning…not the tools?

–What if we gave everyone a toolkit several weeks in advance of the bootcamp filled with resources complimenting each of the categories and encouraged all to explore as many of the resources as possible?

–Upon entering the building, all of us…students, parents and teachers, would be co-learners in this learning experience. There would be no sage on the stage but rather a collaborative learning community intent upon discovering and gaining understanding of the potential that lies before us. I envision powerful conversations, lots and lots of AHAs and a watershed of enthusiasm. (That’s the “glass half-full” part of me talking.)

–I don’t know what the structure will look like because if we’re doing it right, it would look awfully messy; and yet, I would want it to be mannered chaos.

–How do we leverage the technology to broaden the learning from one single morning to a before, during and after occurrence? How do we connect these learners to learners outside our building? What would the “cultural product” look like, showing our learning from the day? How do we authentically evaluate the learning that takes place before, during and after?

Okay, that’s it…that’s the thinking going on in my head right now. One of the greatest joys for me right now is becoming more aware of MY learning process and the importance of listening to that little voice inside. So, what do you think? What ideas do you have to help us create a deeply engaging learning experience? What’s your contribution? Because, I know for sure that when you and I (and Bob and Pam and Judy and Marcos) think collectively, amazing things are going to happen.