Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Edutechmusings Has Moved

 If you are here looking to see if I've written anything lately, I can tell you "Yes, I have." But you won't find it on this site. After nearly 8 years I've decided to join the big boys and shift over to Wordpress. 

  My new website, Chrisfancher.com, is where you will find out about any books I have finished or are working on, as well as my blog posts. 

  I look forward to seeing you over there. Thank you for coming. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Anatomy of an Interdisciplinary Project

From http://messiahnetwork.org/2015/04/01/puppet-show-on-sunday-april-19/ 

December 16, 2016. That's the date on this draft post I was thinking about writing. It is another of my 10 "draft" posts I have on my blog. I'm about to shift this blog over to Wordpress and away from Blogger. I have 276 blog posts altogether. Most were written over a 4 year period when I was actively writing (2011 through 2015). 

There are many things to consider if you are thinking about doing an interdisciplinary project. The following project was created for 7th grade students at a K-12 charter school in Round Rock Texas. The project included the subjects of Theater Arts, Language (French and Spanish), and IB Design.

The most obvious thing to say about the project design process, with multiple subjects, is that there has to be an initial conversation between 2 or 3 (or more) teachers who want to work together. At this school that conversation happened between the theater teacher and the design teacher a few months prior to project launch.

The theater teacher wanted to do a puppet show "towards the end of the year." That initial discussion concentrated on how the design students would be involved. Could they build scenery, or props, or puppets for the show?  The decision was made to have the design students build the puppets. During this discussion came the idea that, maybe, the language classes could be involved. All of the 7th grade students, at this school, take either French or Spanish (and it is nearly a 50/50 split). The language teachers were approached with the project idea and they were excited to be a part of it.

In one day the theater and design teachers had gone from a simple conversation to a commitment by 5 teachers. The next step was to create a rough calendar. To properly do backward design the teachers had to start with the furthest item out. Scheduling the puppet show would drive the other dates. The puppet show date led to establishing when the puppets would have to be completed. Since the students would be reading stories in their language classes and the stories, in turn, would become the basis for a script, when to start reading the stories had to be entered into the equation.

Those first steps were items that each teacher had to negotiate so that the overall project was successful. Individually, the teachers had to plan their classes so that their part of the process was completed on time with success. For example, the Design teacher wanted time to build empathy and time to start the inquiry process. It was decided that the project entry event would happen in the design class. The design teacher created a problem statement and specific product do-dates for the building of the puppets.

The theater and design teachers decided that the students would all create the same type of puppet so that they could help each other. An interesting and common (for interdisciplinary projects) issue came to light at this stage: The students who were together in design were not all together in their theater classes. And, the language classes were different from design or theater. This was important because the groups in theater class, who were presenting a specific story, all took the same language. But that didn't mean they were in the same language class period. And when it came time for building puppets none of them might be in the same design class period. It must be said that this was not a deal killer - a minor headache? Yes A stop the presses moment? Definitely not.

So, how do you drive a project that kicks off in a design class; forces students to ask their language teachers for story or poem suggestions that they can read; and ends up with scripts being written in theater so that a puppet show can happen? The answer is actually pretty simple. Once teachers have due dates on the calendar you can let the students dictate the course of the project.

In this project students arrived in their design class and were given the task of building puppets for a puppet show in their theater class. In theater class they were told that they were going to be having a puppet show where they would be writing scripts based upon either French or Spanish children's stories that they would read in their language classes. And, finally, the students were told by their language teachers that they would be selecting children's stories to read that would be used for a puppet show in theater. The time it took for all students to get an understanding of the overall scheme of the project took less than a week.

As far as deep understanding this project worked well for sustainable inquiry. Many of the students were with a group of students creating a puppet show in their theater class, but never were in class with their group members again during the day. But puppets representing each character had to be built. Scripts had to be written based upon a story that each group member was reading and, since they weren't in the same language class, they had to trust that their group members were all at a point where they understood the story well enough to have input for the script they were writing.

Students rose to the occasion. They learned about puppetry from areas all over the globe. They read for understanding in their language classes and discussed the nuances of the characters in their stories. They wrote scripts and made puppets that truly reflected the character they were in their story. And, in the end, had a fun time performing puppet shows. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Connecting Live With Educators


December 15, 2015. That's the date on this draft post I was thinking about writing. It is the second of my 10 "draft" posts I have on my blog. I'm about to shift this blog over to Wordpress and away from Blogger. I have 276 blog posts altogether. Most were written over a 4 year period when I was actively writing (2011 through 2015). Additional Note: This is written from the distant past when classes happened in a school builiding - do you remember those days? 

Here comes another Tweet about "A Live Webinar....about to happen! Join Us!" -or- "Join us Tuesday at 2 PM PST for the next .... "  Who are they addressing this to and how are those people able to attend this event?

I get so frustrated and angry with these "incredible opportunities" to meet/talk/listen to incredible brains in the education world, when that "incredible opportunity" is during my school day. Even when I was an instructional coach and my hours were much more flexible, it was hard to make most  of these times.

I'm convinced that once teachers leave the classroom and become "experts" they forget that not everyone is able to hang out for an hour during a week day. When was the last time a teacher had an hour for lunch? And, should it occur during a conference period, how many teachers are willing and/or free to give up that time for something else besides grading papers/talking with parents/ or meeting with other teachers or administrators?

I'm not sure what else to do. I suggest via tweets that there should be a different time. I comment on this issue whenever I can. But, still, most of the great live stuff happens between the hours of 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM EST during week days.

People say, "there are always the taped and archived videos available to watch." Sure, and if you wanted to interact with anyone about a statement or question, how would you do that?  With connectivity better than at any time in my 58 years, there has to be a way to make these events available for ALL teachers in the US. I realize that there are awesome things going on in Australasia and in Europe and the Middle East. I can't expect those things to line up with my work day.

When I get up on a Wednesday morning and head off to school, I should be able to look forward to an event that is happening that day. To realize this it would have to happen sometime between 6 PM and 10 PM EST that night. If I have a personal conflict or a school event that is scheduled for the same time, then I won't be able to make it.  But if I am free I'll be able to be there - live.

Here are three possible solutions: (1) Have a webinar or GHO once a month that replaces a weekly Twitter chat. Why couldn't we have a #PBLCHAT, for example, once a month where people could see each other and there could be presentations to watch and interact with? The Twitter stream could still be utilized for a back channel. (I understand that some chats, like #edchat, are probably too big to do this).  (2) have a monthly webinar or GHO at set times and days (such as the third Tuesday of each month) with a web page outlining the agenda, days or even weeks, in advance. (3) Have more "live" podcasts that are streamed. There are some good ones now. Let's increase these.

There is a solution. And there are multiple ways to get it done. But to start we need those folks who insist on having mid-day live events to have a mind shift. Start thinking of the dozens (hundreds?) of educators who miss really great stuff because they are - gasp - in their classroom teaching!

2020 update - In our current state of online learning, educators have found ways to connect in new and different ways. Zoom is the most common tool being used. And, I am seeing so many more webinars and "conferences" being conducted this way. Maybe this will force us to understand the importance of being able to reach educators when they are actually available.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Creating a Culture of Wonder

Photo by Samet Kurtkus on Unsplash

January 26, 2014. That's the date on the draft post I was thinking about writing. It is one of about 10 "draft" posts I have on my blog. I'm about to shift this blog over to Wordpress and away from Blogger. I have 276 blog posts altogether. Most were written over a 4 year period when I was actively writing (2011 through 2015).

So today I am cleaning up the pile of posts and I will start finishing some of the draft posts - starting with this one.

The idea for this post was brought about after attending an Educon conference. Educon conferences are one of the best conferences an educator can attend. I would recommend that you all put that on your educator bucket list.

I attended a session on "Wonder, By Design." The beauty of an Educon is that the room creates what the attendees get out of the session. In this case we were instructed to come up with a table manifesto.

I know from my notes that all of the people at my table I knew from Twitter. And, most of them I am still in contact with via Twitter 6 years later.

"Wonder By Design." 
I loved the initial brainstorming around that statement:
     Learning is an opportunity -- not a location.
     Curiosity builds on curiosity and questions lead to questions.
     Wonder and curiosity go hand in hand -- one builds on the other.
     Wonder evokes open-endedness.
     There is no limit to imagination.
     Schools should be built around wonder.
     Schools should be built around wonder and ideas of everyone.
     Wonder invites joy.
     No one has the right to steal someone else's wonder.
     Wonder is essential to learning.

You can see that we were ready to take the concepts of wonder, imagination, and curiosity and find a way to create a manifesto that could be applied to all of education. So what the heck is a manifesto? Well, it just happens to be "a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group." Therefore, we needed to take these statements and put them together for our manifesto.

What we found as we started working with these statements was that we were heading down a path that led to the idea of wonder flowing through a school. This moved us into various water analogies. Fountains of wonder. Waterfalls of wonder. Streams of wonder. Someone even brought up Herodotus and a quote of his about water (I told you these were some pretty smart educators at this conference).

And so our first group of ideas became
(1) We believe that wonder and curiosity work together -- you cannot have one without the other and each spurs new ideas, new possibilities, and new creativity.
(2) Wonder is essential to learning and can be reflected in our spaces, our practices, our mindset.

These were great on their own but we felt that they weren't manifesto-y enough. So that led to these two statements:
(1) Schools should be built around wonder.
and, (2) Schools must be streams of wonder that are constantlly in motion - carving new paths - which you can dip into again and again.

My take on these two give you the following as my education manifesto:


How can you build streams of wonder in your school? How do you allow students to dip into their creativity and imagination as a matter of routine? We all need to pause and consider those questions for our own classroom, building, or district.

NOTE: If you like this post feel free to look through the archives (on the right side of the page). Most are about PBL and/or Math. And, stay tuned for the shift over to ChrisFancher.com. The webpage is already there but the posts need to be shifted over. Coming Spring/Summer 2020.