I’m No Editor

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 8.34.31 PM.pngAn article of mine went live today on the e-magazine Pioneering: Education Reimagined!!!! I posted an early draft of this article on my blog around mid-summer but I’m much happier with this final draft, and very happy to have one more thing off of my plate!

The most interesting thing about this experiance was having an editor. I don’t have very good grammar. I’ve accepted this fact long ago. In fact I spelled grammar wrong writing that last sentence the first time. However, apparently my thoughts that I write about are at least interesting and well written enough for people to want to read them.

In school though this typically doesn’t matter much. I never saw myself as a writer for years because I never made all that great of grades in English class due to my poor grammar. If I’ve learned anything from blogging, it’s that not all good writers are editors. Like wise, I know people who are good editors but not all that great at writing themselves. However, when good writers work with good editors, pretty epic stuff happens.

It was nice to be able to write something for a specific reason where I was more concerned with the ideas then the grammar for a change. Because I was able to work with other people who read over my work to help with grammar details, and it made my writing look better which was cool!

No one ever works entirely on their own. Even book authors. I wish in school we spent more time focusing on the different skills everyone has, and how people can work together to make something great. We don’t all need to be writers, or editors, or artists, or mathematicians, or historians, or scientists, etc, but we do need to know enough about different areas and about ourselves to know how our strengths can work with others to accomplish meaningful work.

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Taking Ownership

Today was the official last day of school for everyone at MVPS, which also means that we have officially finished a full year of the first ever student designed AP course!!! The Collab Course adventure has come to an end in some ways, but in other ways our adventure has only just begun. So for my final assignment I have created the MoVe Talk (Moment of Visible Empathy) below to capture a snapshot of what I have taken away from this experiance. I didn’t get feedback on this talk (which is a rare and nerve racking thing for me to do), because I just wanted to share my personal raw thoughts about the opportunity to own my learning in a way unlike any other. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy my reflection of this glimpse at the future of education:

 

We Did It!!!!

(I guess this didn’t post yesterday…)

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We did it! We did it! We did it, ya! Ya, we did it!

We completed a year in our Collab Course– ya we did it! We did it! We did it! Hurray!

We learned a lot as students and teachers both- ya we did it! We did it! We did it! Yay!

Though at times we felt lost, we always pushed through. Then we took the exam and now I can’t believe we’re threw! We did it!

We did it! We did it!

Ya we did it!

 

Today was the official last class of the school year for mine and Kat’s AP Lang Collab Course, and I honestly can’t even believe this bus is finally coming home to get ready for a new adventure. It’s been a great year with lots of learning, and even though our school time may be over, we still have work to do. Kat and I will be recording our end of the year MoVe Talks soon which will be a much greater reflection for us about our take aways from this course. Then we will both also be speaking at workshops with Grant Lichtman over the summer about our work.

So like I said, the bus may stop, but just to get gas to go on a new hero’s journey. But for now, I just want to thank everyone who has worked with us along the way to make this crazy idea into a reality. This course has changed my life for the better because this experiance of truly take control of our learning will be unforgettable. We did more than survive another year; we thrived.

We did it. We actually did it.

Climbing Down the Mountain

winning-story-wars-hero-journeyToday was the big day; it was AP Lang exam day. We finally took the real thing- the test that so many are going to use to judge if Kat and I successfully did something unheard of before by teaching our own AP course.

I’ve been conflicted lately. On the one hand I feel accomplished that we actually felt prepared and decent about taking the exam and hope we did well. But on the other hand, I don’t want to judge our success just based on a number after all the work we have done in order to not have to have grades and numbers in order to validate our learning.

Yes, I would like to do well on the exam, but there is also so much more we have accomplished this year even if we don’t do outstanding on the exam-we’ve sparked conversations questioning the fundamental nature of school courses; however, who knows how other people will view the success of the course if we don’t do well… And yet at the same time I can’t help but feel a bit of regret almost. Maybe this is how some teachers feel at the end of the year when they realize they haven’t covered all of the lessons they hoped to teach, and didn’t get to do all of the projects they would have liked to because there is only so much time in the year. I just feel like something is missing.

The year isn’t over just with the exam, and Kat and I still have our final MoVe Talks to wrap up the year, but there are only 3 official classes we have left and I don’t feel the sense of closure yet. I don’t know how I expected to end the year, but the entire course was based on “The Hero’s Journey” and at the end of the journey the hero is suppose to take the road back and return home with the “boon.” I wouldn’t call myself a hero, but I’m definitely a protagonist of this particular story, and I haven’t quite figured out what the boon is. I know it’s there and I’m probably just not thinking clear enough to realize what it is we’ve accomplished. I guess I just feel like there is so much more we could have done and so much more we dreamed to do that simply wasn’t possible at this point in time and yet we were too naive to realize that this time last year.

I’m still working on what to give my MoVe Talk about, but I hope whatever it is helps me find closure to this chapter of my story. I literally just realized that I’ve never really had to have a true project closure before. Between AP Lang and RISE, one thing I’ve been struggling with is the fact that we’ve actually taken ventures all the way to produce this year, and the hard part is figuring out when it’s time to say goodbye and pack up your newly found tools to move on to new mountains to climb. When do you need to make that extra push to reach an even higher point on the mountain, and when should you let others continue up and accept that you can’t climb every mountain in the world and this one isn’t meant for you to go further on.

Saying goodbye to a team is a true real world skill, that as of this moment in history, I’ve yet to learn in any sort of traditional school setting.

Crossing Subjects: Engages and Entertains

images-1.jpgI love it when “class” stops being defined by what subject you are talking about.

Today in AP Lang Kat and I made an interesting choice. Rather than spending the period looking up old AP essays and spending a class analyzing and outlining one of them, we instead decided to join the Latin 3 class going on during the same period. But don’t get me wrong, I feel that we were still preparing for our exam next week in a very productive way.

We joined the Latin class because we knew that today they were giving speeches to defend Verres in a law suit where the great orator Cicero was the prosecutor. When the trial originally took place, Cicero’s speech was so amazing  that Verres’ lawyer, Quintus Hortensius who was one of the greatest lawyers of his time, told him to pleed guilty because there was no way they could win the case against Cicero and the defense speech was never given. Therefore, the Latin assignment was to write the unread speech to defend Verres.

The problem is, that Verres really did do some pretty awful things like crucifying Romans and stealing from sacred buildings, so writing a good speech comes entirely down to your use of rhetorical devices. (It’s at this point that a light bulb may be going off saying, “Oh here’s the connection back to AP Lang!”)

Yes, indeed, rather than looking up essays online, Kat and I listened in on about 5 different speeches and outlines/took notes on each of them as if we were going to write a rhetorical analysis essay about how the speaker used rhetorical devices to support their argument.

It was so much fun!!! We got to listen to some hysterical speeches while learning a little Latin and history, while participating in discussions with a larger group, while all the while practicing our rhetorical analysis skills. (Because like I said the case wasn’t one you’re meant to win, you are just meant to throw some crazy arguments together and try to make them sound good.)

Kat and I were even given a refresher on some devices that we had forgotten about because we hadn’t seen them used in a while. Plus I think joining the Latin class helped make us outline at a rapid fire pace because new people kept presenting, so I bet we had far more essay analysis done by the end then we would have otherwise; it’s just so easy to waste a little time here and there looking and deciding what to read or thinking about other big things coming up.

Overall today’s Latin-AP Lang mash up just reminded me how powerful learning can be when you cross disciplines and add a little layer of entertainment to your work.

External Mentors Make Things Real

I love getting feedback from new people. I’m glad I get to work in an environment where we are all constantly giving each other feedback (by this I mean Innovation Diploma), but it’s always nice to hear from someone you don’t talk to everyday just as a reassurance that you all aren’t just crazy (well we are but for good reasons). Plus so many great ideas can come out of conversations between people with different and new perspectives compared to the people you normally talk to.

Today felt like a great day of feedback for me. I got to spend my morning and lunch/enrichment people talking with teachers from the Watershed School in Colorado. As the MVIFI Fellow, I spent my morning talking with the Watershed team about my current iVenture work and getting feedback on new ideas I’ve been cooking up. Then over lunch a few of us in ID met with them to have more of a general discussion where they were asking us some questions about MVPS to get the student perspective on topics. 

Later, in AP Lang today, Kat and I recorded the spoken word pieces we’ve been working on around the “American Dream” to send it to people asking for feedback, including Mike Young, a professional spoken word artist who’s been mentoring us. Kat and I talked a lot about how ID has trained us so much about the value of prototyping and really preparing even early drafts of presentations. We’ve been muddling over different words and phrases for a few weeks and today was our due date (which we assigned ourselves) to have them finished so we could record them. However, “finished” in this sense doesn’t mean “time to turn it in for a grade,” but instead means that we’ve given ourselves and each other lots of feedback and now we are ready to start sharing them with others so that we can eventually perform the best spoken word piece to our current capabilities. We are hoping to have this performance next week though the details are still fuzzy as of now.

I’ve really enjoyed this project because we’ve gotten to not just focus on words, but how we can use words to literally say something in a hopefully powerful way. We’ve been having to not just work on grammar and  word choice, but also the rhetoric involved with saying something out loud and getting feedback on our delivery of the language. It’s been fun and I’m excited to hear what feedback we get because I’ve become really invested in this project and want it to be something more than just another piece of writing I’ve done.

With both of my big feedback moments today, I’ve been reminded of just how much I find working with external mentors beneficial to learning. Working with an external mentor reminds me that someone else is kind of expecting me to follow through, and they are also interested in the work I’m doing, even at school. This inspires me to really work hard because this isn’t just about some number, it is about me putting myself out there in the “real world”, and that to me is meaningful work.

Feedback, even cold feedback, always seems to make me happy because it means you’re doing something others care enough about to comment on and try to help you make it into your best.

 

 

Unrelated, but also exciting news for today: The paint finally settled so I got to use my whiteboard wall and desk today that I painted on Monday!!!!!!

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Global Book Club

412AlkyPZZL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgLast semester in AP Lang, Kat and I received a few pieces of feedback which we’ve used to shape assignments for this semester: “How might you speak with larger audiences to get a wider variety of perspectives involved in discussions?” “How might you go outside your comfort zone when picking reading material?” “How might you read more longer pieces?”

One way we applied this feedback was by hosting our Make Your Mark event a few weeks ago where we brought together teachers and students to have a conversation (and do some tinkering) about the “American Dream.” This event was very successful because we obtained lots of valuable insights from the conversation, and everyone seemed to have fun and many even asked when we could do something similar again.

Now Kat and I have a new plan for a project in AP Lang that was inspired by some of this feedback: The Global Book Club.

Who’s to say when you read a book you can only discuss with the people in your class? Who’s to say teachers and students can’t find the same books interesting? Who’s to say where you’re located on the Earth has to determine who is a part of your learning community, and dare I say “classroom”?

The Global Book Club will address all of these questions.

The plan is for me and Kat to read a one act play by Margaret Edson called Wit. Our aim is to have others from around the world join us. We would like you to join us.

Along the way, if you come across a discussion question you’re curious about, tweet it out using the hashtags #IDHacksAP and #IDgbc so we can keep a running list of discussion ideas. Then, join us on April 15th from 2:15-4pm EST on a Google Hangout where we will read through the play as a group and have a discussion around some of the ideas.

We’ve started the play and so far it is really interesting! We purposefully chose a play as they are meant to be performed and not just read, and we are currently studying about how some words can be even more powerful when said out loud. We also chose this play because it has a central theme around life and death, which is something that everyone can relate to no matter who you are or where you live. The New York Times critic Peter Marks describes it as, “A brutally human and beautifully layered new play . . . You will feel both enlightened and, in a strange way, enormously comforted.”

If you choose to join the Global Book Club, contact me and/or Kat via twitter (@Kat_A_Jones and @Pinyabananas) or by commenting on this blog (or if you have any other way to message us so that we know to include you in the conversation). And remember, even if you can’t make it to the full virtually live discussion, you can still join the conversation on Twitter!

We hope you join the club!

Times Are Changing


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(Disclaimer: this is a 20/20 and the first one in a while, where Kat and I read an article over the weekend then discuss for 20 minutes and write for the next 20 minutes.)

Kat and I read an article entitled “What Happens When Millennials Run the Workplace?” It talked about a lot of stereotypes about millennial’s and how they are “lazy, narcissistic, entitled, addicted to social media, and frank.” There was also a lot of talk about how the environment in the work force has changed into a more playful environment and how old traditions of how to properly act have changed. Over all I felt like the article reported a very negative view on Millennials; however, whether anyone likes it or not, the next generation is taking over and Millennials currently make up over 50% of the workforce.

Society is changing- that is irrefutable- but I don’t think it is a negative change unlike how it is presented in this article. Times are changing and therefore rules are changing too. Seniority no longer determines “rankings,” in fact companies  are now starting to do away with rankings and look at everyone on a team as an equal contributor of ideas; you are given more responsibility based on your demonstration of work, not just the amount of time you’ve spent with a company. This is a relatively new notion that Generation X seems to not be as comfortable with.

Generation X also seems mystified by the amount of time Millennials spend on social media sites. The article seems to make this seem negative, but I challenge that social media can and is used as a good thing. It is a way to make connections with people across the world, and a way to gain support for work your company is doing. Furthermore, social media can be used as a tool to help keep work together and go back and reflect upon how much has changed over time. Sure social media has a time and a place and shouldn’t be used all of the time, but again, the world is changing and if social media is the tool of the future then companies better get on board or the next generation will move on without them.

I also feel a tad disgruntled with the fact that Millennials are always seen as lazy, entitled, and narcissistic because I think this is a gross generalization. There are a lot of millennials changing the world in huge ways right now and doing things completely different from years passed. Lazy people don’t travel across the world to help solve problems like trying to decrease the number of deaths of babies around the world. And entitled, narcissistic people aren’t helpful on design teams making these incredible feats happen. Team and empathy work  need people that are dedicated to working with others and understanding how different people live in order to design for a changing world.

Millennials are the generation blurring boundaries and changing the status quo. We live in a changing world, and when the boundaries change then we change the game and the rules along with it. I don’t even know if I actually am a Millennial because every site seems to have a different age rang, but I do know that I’m living in a time of change and am often associated with a generation that has similar habits to those described above. Our generation isn’t perfect, but neither is any generation, and every generation always believes the next generation is doing radical things that shouldn’t be accepted in society. I just feel that Millennials are often bad mouthed in the way of the workforce, and yet there is a lot of good to come from this generation that often gets overlooked. Times are changing, people are changing, and change isn’t always bad.

 

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A Fire Rekindled

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Once upon a time I blogged every single day. Then it became almost every day. Now it’s been like once a week. I know I don’t have to blog everyday, and many great writers don’t; however, today I got some inspiration back to push myself to write everyday again.

For AP Lang Kat and I have been doing a lot of analyzing about the American Dream lately. We read The Great Gatsby, we did dialectal journals on various media forms, we hosted an event for students and teachers to share their thoughts on the topic, and recently we did a timed synthesis essay on the topic that we are currently in the process of editing. With all of this work we have done on the topic, we wanted to share our discoveries and thoughts is some sort of cumulative way.

One of the things we’ve been particularly inspired by throughout this process, is the art form of spoken word poetry. We watched several videos by spoken word artists and thought they were all really powerful and required a lot of control over rhetoric, so we’ve decided that we want to write our own! However, we’ve never actually written a spoken word piece before, so we have been trying to learn for ourselves.

We watched a bunch of videos, and then, today we actually talked with Mike Young a spoken word artist who is friends with one of our facilitators. While we had some tech problems with Google Hangout in the beginning, I think the conversation went really well and I’m so glad we got to talk to him!

It was times like today that I am especially grateful for what ID has taught me. I believe it is because of ID that I have the drive to want to make things bigger, the understanding of how working with external mentors/experts can really help with learning a new skill, the confidence to reach out to people in the community to seek their guidance, and the commitment to make things happen. Knowing that someone from the community takes intreats in what you’re working on motivates me to want to make things the best that they can be (more than any grade ever has…) and it makes me feel like what I’m doing is really important and valuable to try.

The whole conversation today with Mr. Young was really helpful for us to get some insight on how to write a spoken word piece, and it was interesting to here about his journey to discovering the art as well. I really loved hearing about the freedom to the art: “The beauty is, there are no rules.” He was saying how he doesn’t necessarily think specifically about a time limit or using certain rhetorical devices most of the time, but he just focuses on what he wants to communicate to an audience and then thinks about the best way to say it; which often includes repetition, alliteration, using homophones, etc. He really encouraged us to focus on all of the elements we can control with giving a performance, like the tone and speed at which they hear specific words, and to practice the piece a lot before performing it to an audience, which as an actress, makes total sense to me.

However, out of all of this, the thing he said that effected me personally the most was, “If you want to be a good writer, you have to write everyday and be disciplined about it.” He went on to talk about how he often jots down thoughts every now and then in a notebook or app on his phone, but then he always has to dedicate a specific amount of time to just write and bring things together, and that’s when his best work often happens. There has to be a certain balance between engaging and disengaging to allow open space for pieces of inspiration you wouldn’t expect to find. 

When he was talking it just reminded me of how much I enjoyed writing everyday, and how my writing improved over time because of it. The constant habit made me observe the most random things and then talk about them simply because I needed to find inspiration from somewhere. Lately my passion for writing has dwindled, but today it was rekindled because I was reminded of the benefits of having a constant time to stop and reflect daily.

I hope to get back to my habit of daily blogging, and now I have the motivation to really put in the dedication in order to commit to this challenge once again.

So thank you Mr. Young for all of your help today.

 

Make Your Mark Event

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Don’t you just love it when something you’ve been working really hard on for a long time goes well?!

First a short backstory:

Last year after mine and Kat’s first semester AP Lang showcase, we got a good amount of feedback from others as well as each other about trying to brainstorm more ways that we could have larger conversations with people. Rather than just the digital conversations we have, we have been trying to find ways to have discussions face-to-face because it often brings another layer to the dialogue.

Then over winter break Kat and I read The Great Gatsby which sent us on a path of curiosity about the ideology behind the “American Dream” and dreams, success, and achievement in general. After analyzing a number of videos, articles, poems, pictures, short stories, and even a few songs, Kat and I managed to pick 6 that we wanted to write dialectical journal entries on. (You can see more about the assignment here.) By the end of that week we had a big discussion with each other about things that became clearer, patterns we’ve observed, and questions that came up from our research.

What we realized is that the American Dream is such a controversial topic with a lot of interesting perspectives and other elements that can come up.

This leads me to today where we had our very first (of many I suspect) “Make Your Mark Event”. (The name is in prototype mode still so that may change, but for now it’s sticking with me.)

We started with an email and a question: “Dreams: What do you want your mark to be?” We sent this email out to the entire high school (faculty included), with a sign up genius attached. On it was room for 10 students and 6 faculty members to select themselves to join this non required event; you have no idea how happy we were when all 16 spots were full. (And we had close to that many end up coming in the end- though not all were originally signed up.)

Now on the one hand we obviously wanted to just be able to have a discussion with more people, but being the ambitious people that we are, we had a few other goals in mind as well. We purposefully  invited both students and teachers to this event because we wanted to challenge the norm that kids are always the students and adults are always the teachers. We brought students and faculty members into the same room because we wanted to hear perspectives from multiple different people, but either way, we the “students” were going to be leading this conversation.

Another goal of ours was to challenge the norms on what a discussion can look like. We wanted to get people up on their feet, talking in small and large groups, brainstorming their own questions so they would take ownership of the conversation, and we wanted their to be some physical take away.

So this is a snap shot of our flow: We started with the pizza and some light conversation;t hen played a John Green video to get people thinking; then broke into groups to brainstorm questions; rotated groups to chose some of our favorite questions; had about a 15 minute discussion; then we even added a bit of a makers challenge at the end where we made our own stamps that represented what we want “our mark” to be.

And I think everything went rather well. Everyone seemed engaged and enjoying themselves. I know we got a good bit of feedback specifically about how people really liked the stamp activity as a take away; they said there was a clear connection to the topic, though the transition could have been smoother, and it was something they weren’t expecting but had fun with!

However, I do think for the future we could improve it by spending more time in the discussion portion. A lot of people liked the conversation, and they wished we would have more time so that we could go even deeper into some of the questions.

 One of my big take aways in terms of the conversation itself is this idea of how the American Dream has changed over time and while it seems that “The American Dream” has typically been more based on a capitalistic market where the goal is to have a lot of money. However, the dream is changing and now people are less concerned with trying to attain this one dream and instead want to focus more on their individual uniqueness and achieve recognition in their field of interest despite having or not having money. Money does not mean success or happiness necessarily. Then the question becomes how does society help people achieve success now that the dream has changed? The overall consensus seemed to be that society as a whole, and education as a whole, does not yet provide this support; however, even some students mentioned things about MVPS, like iProject and ID that do seem to really support the new dream for students to have freedom to explore their personal dreams which are often not the same as their neighbors.

What made me most happy about today though, was that several people asked about doing it again! Someone even said, “What if every Friday we just had deep conversations about life while eating pizza?!” I’m so excited that people enjoyed today, and I think Kat and I have both agreed that we want to do another so I’m excited to see how we tweak things to make the next one even better!