Trailblazers- Student Driven EdMagazine

It’s official, the first edition of Trailblazers, a student driven magazine on the Education Transformation Movement, is here with young writers from around the world contributing!!!! My peers in the Innovation Diploma, Abigail Emerson and Kaylyn Winters, and I have been working at this project all year after some last minute edits over the summer, we now feel it is time to ship the idea and get it out into the world.

So please check out our first edition which includes:

A Letter From the Founders

Meet the Curators: Anya Smith-Roman, Kaylyn Winters, Abigail Emerson

The learner-centered movement: Q&A: Sparkhouse Conference

Creating Something New: Brady Vincent

Change is a Conversation: Neel Pujar

Free Ranged vs. Caged: Kim Mi Yeoh

Intelligence: Cali Ragland

Community Connections

Good Reads

 

Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible!! Can’t wait for issue 2!

Time for Random

Image result for crazy ideasOne of the things I love most about the summer is that people think of so many crazy ideas, and half of the time actually follow through with them because they have time!

Everyday I find myself reading texts from people with ideas about wanting to start a new club, or learning a new instrument, or writing their own music, or getting a group together to do all the parts of a Hamilton song, or trying to get a new skill in a sport, or wanting to take a day trip to some weird new place, and the list goes on and on! Summer is such a time of opportunity because besides a few books and math problems, time is all our own and we can use it however we choose.

It’s amazing how many interesting ideas come from when people have time to just sit and think. My friends can tell when I get a crazy idea because they’ll see me start staring off into space just pondering for a while; then I’ll shake out of it and start talking quickly for a long period of time about what ever I was thinking about.

I believe strongly that the less stressed we are the more ideas freely flow. When you are stressed you are too distracted by whatever’s stressing you to just think about random things in life, and yet random things are so much fun to discuss!

I never want to live a life where I’m stressed too often to have time to think about random things every now and then.

Share, Record, Network

imgres.jpgWith the amount that I talk to educators I’m often asked about why I started blogging and what advice I have on how to get other students to blog. So I thought tonight was a good night to finally put it in writing. First though I want to make something clear: The thing is, blogging is not for everyone and the key to why I blog is because I want to blog, so if you want your students to get all of the benefits of blogging, they have to want it as much as you want it for them.

I didn’t always want to blog. What few people know is that my blogging journey actually began as a freshman when I was required to write a blog post for every section of Hamlet that we read. The not so popular, asmithroman2017 site is where I first started blogging and I didn’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t care about it besides knowing I wanted to make a good post to get a good grade. There was one night where I had some fun because I wrote one of my entries entirely as a haiku for what my friends and I called “Haiku Monday” where we only communicated virtually in haikus. Even that night though I remember it being late and not having much desire to blog.

So when did the mind-shift happen? What made me enjoy blogging? Why did I even start a new blog?

Well it started with a game of bingo. At the end of my freshman year I was officially inaugurated into the first ever Innovation Diploma cohort, and for the summer we were all sent an “ID Bingo” document that had various ideas for things you could do over the summer to start thinking like an innovator. One square was about trying something for 100 days in a row and documenting your progress, and another was about starting a blog. I knew how to use wordpress due to my Hamlet assignments, and I couldn’t think of another thing to try for 100 days, so I thought “Why not mix the two squares and try them together?”

So in short, to be completely honest, I started blogging just because I’m the kind of person who likes a good challenge and a little competition and strives to accomplish goals I set for myself (even though I don’t remember even doing much with the bingo game after school started). I know I’m not really the average student though…

However, I know exactly why I continued to blog after achieving my goal, and I don’t think this was just because of my own personality. As I said in the post where I completed my challenge:

“Blogging everyday was definitely a challenge. There were days were I was not motivated at all to blog; I either had a bunch to do, or I was really tired, or I would have to use my phone to post within that day, or some other excuses I may have had. However, if I have learned anything from blogging, it is how I found that even when I couldn’t think of anything to write about, there was still something to write about, because there is always something to think about.

Blogging has helped encourage me to observe the world more closely, and I’ve really enjoyed the thoughts that have come from the observations. I’ve also enjoyed having a place to share my story. With all of the design thinking I’ve done, I’ve really become apparent of the importance of a story, but also the importance of sharing a story. If a story isn’t shared what can it really do?”

144,000 Minutes (100 days) Of Blogging; Challenge Accepted!!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t think there was a light switch “ah-ha” moment. At least I couldn’t pin point it to you. I just know that the more I blogged the more I felt myself clarifying my own thoughts, and the more comments, likes, and re-tweets/posts that I got, the more confident I got that my work was valued and maybe even needed in the community. I couldn’t stop, and I still couldn’t if I wanted to. I notice even after a few days that my mind starts spinning with things that I just need to get out of my head because there is only so much room in there.

However, as much as I love blogging, that’s just me. Like I said at the beginning, “blogging is not for everyone,” and I think part of the reason it was successful for me is because it wasn’t forced on me. I chose to blog. My blog was mine. While I love feedback on my blog, I was never blogging for a specific person or people during those 100 days that hooked me on blogging. I was blogging for myself, to sort through my ideas, and share my story. I feel an odd sense of comfort blogging and to be honest when I’m asked to blog about something specific I feel weird about it because it made that post feel like it wasn’t completely mine. It’s one of those weird psychological things that’s hard to explain and I don’t completely understand what I’m trying to say, but I notice a difference when I’m asked to blog about something rather than when it’s something I just decide I want to write about when I sit down at my computer that night. It actually bugs me a little when someone says “oh this is what you should blog about today.” Like I said, I don’t know why, and often times the person is right that it’s something worth me blogging about, but it’s different when it’s not my own observation that I should blog about something.

A blog should be a place of freedom for observations, rants, stories of success as well as failure, a place that you feel proud to call your own. That’s what hooks people from my observations. When people see that something purely from their brain is making other people stop, read, think, and share is when they feel most empowered to blog.

And by a blog being a place of freedom, I’m essentially saying that it can’t be forced. It doesn’t matter if you see all of the great advantages of blogging, because it’s something the blogger must discover in order for them to be a committed blogger.

And I repeat, “blogging is not for everyone.” I keep repeating this because I feel like everyone (and I say this loosely) is on this big blogging kick where everyone is trying to get their students to blog. But I believe the secret is to think about why is it that we want to blog? I believe a blog is a place to share, record, and network. And the great part is that a blog is not the only way to accomplish these goals. Really any form of social media can accomplish these goals, if used to your advantage.

I don’t think students need to be pushed to blog, but I believe 100% is pushing some form of social media, though it should be the form of the students choice. I personally hate Facebook after a few rough times in the past trying to use it and finding it not user friendly. I’m sure it may not still be this way and if I would try again maybe I’d love it, but I can be stubborn and that’s just not my choice tool. However, some people love Facebook and they have millions of post, photos and contacts which allow them to share, record, and network their own learning adventures. Twitter, Instagram, even Snapchat I bet could be used to accomplish these goals if you really take advantage of the tools.

I hate how so often in society, especially school, social media is looked at as a negative thing. How many times a day do you hear someone say, “get off of Snapchat”? I don’t even have one, but I hear it all of the time. What if rather than focusing on the negative we focused on the positive? I’ve written on this topic before, so I don’t want to dwell on it; however, I just wanted to make it clear that blogging isn’t The Answer, it’s just an answer on how to share, record, and network your learning.

So to answer the question as to my advice on how to get other students hooked on blogging here are my 5 big thoughts:

  1. Don’t force it!– blogging needs to be “safe” and “free”
  2. Make it fun: maybe it’s a competition, a challenge, a contest, whatever motivates your students
  3. Help grow their confidence by sharing their work so they expand their network; comments from new people is super motivating
  4. Help create the “time for blogging” sometimes it’s hard to think of something to say when you first start out, or you think you don’t have the time, so help set a time for students. Maybe the last 20 minutes of the last class of the week is “blog time” where you can write about anything, but you have to make a habit of it otherwise you’ll always have an excuse to not blog.
  5. Embrace the why over the how: If blogging isn’t the right form of social media, find another, even if it’s out of your social media comfort zone, let it be the student’s choice because they need to use what they are most comfortable with, and embrace how the “why” -share, record, network- can be achieved in different ways

The First Step to 21st Century Education

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I’ve had a a fantastic week at the beach with my friends on the lovely island of Sanibel. Even despite the tropical storm that came in, we had a lot of fun on the beach, in the pool, biking around, playing games, reading, and just hanging out and talking together.

I was reading Future Wise over this vacation and thus thinking more about the future of education– yes, even while on vacation these are the things I think about, I know I’m weird that way. I have realized that even though it is summer I find myself constantly thinking about school. I find myself not always being “productive” over the summer which is odd to me because I typically am very consumed with school work, self selected work, meetings, clubs, theater, acro, band, etc. What I’ve noticed is that I am very fond of school.

This isn’t really surprising to me because I’ve always rather enjoyed school. When I was younger I would say I love school without a second of hesitation. However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself more annoyed with school and always waiting for the next holiday break or even just the weekend during the school year. So really I guess what I miss isn’t quite school, but really I miss the company of fellow learners working, discussing, and creating new ideas together; I don’t miss all of school as I use to back in elementary school.

This made me wonder: “Why is it that as I’ve gotten older I’ve become less fond of school is so many ways?” My hypothesis is that I don’t like school as much as I use to because school is no longer just about the fun and wonder of learning, but now it has become a stressful climb for “success”- however we might define that.

Thinking like the designer I believe myself to be, I decided to test my hypothesis about how stressful school is to older students.

I send a text to 13 students currently in high school and 2 in college from a total of 7 different schools across 3 different states asking this question: “What are specific examples of things that make you stressed, and why do you think they make you stressed?” Then I waited to see if their answer would have something to do with school, even though I specifically did not ask, “What makes you stressed at school?”

I did not provide any explanation as to why I was asking the question until after they had answered, if they asked, because I did not want to influence their answers in any way. Though in honesty, I did not get responses from everyone (it is summer after all and people are concerned with other things as expected though I only missed a few), the results to my small test were overwhelmingly inline with my hypothesis.

Most students responded with something having to do with school being the cause of their stress. The results varied between stress when teachers all assign big things due on the same day causing students to loose sleep, and when core classes and extra curricular events battle for time priority, and having pressure intentionally or unintentionally placed on them to get certain grades, and a myriad of answers about the struggles of figuring out where to go to college (these responses in particular often had many layers to them with everything from researching, to financial problems, to parental influence, to feeling confused, to fears about the general future of their existence riding on this one major decision- you get the idea).

Now I will say that there were other things that came up in my conversations about stress. Not everyone mentioned school at first at least, but as soon as I explained my hypothesis about school stress, 100% of those students acknowledged that school stress is a major problem and gave ample examples to support the claim.

I know this was a small little test with not the most scientific report, but I’m confident that if I was to expand my pool of users, I would find that a majority of upper level students get overwhelmingly stressed about school.

This is a problem.

Why do we let stress overwhelm school students? How can we expect students to become life long learners when they associate learning, which is most closely associated with school, to their primary source of stress? How might we make learning fun again?

One of my good friends from Nerd Camp whom I asked this question to, discussed for a while with me about how much we both love learning and yet how school has taken away from that love a little more every year. When I asked her why she thinks that is she gave a response that I believe to be sadly accurate:

“Learning isn’t really encouraged in school, success is.”

However, as another one of my Nerd Camp friends pointed out,

“And a lot of the time you can succeed in school without learning anything.”

As we have grown older school has become about getting good grades, so we can get into a good college, so we can get a good job, so we can have a good life; the idea of going to school because we love to learn and explore and wonder and just have fun being curious has been lost.

I know that these feelings and goals are not in any school’s motto, learning plan, or mission statement, but if this is what students’ are feeling then does it really matter what’s written on paper or proclaimed to audiences?

In my opinion, any school’s true goal is to create life long learners by preparing them with “lifeworthy” and “lifeready” knowledge, skills, and wisdom. But what distinguishes a lifelong learner from just another student at a school, is that a lifelong learner continues to seek out new knowledge and skills and wisdom even after primary education is complete, because lifelong learners find unwavering joy in learning. 

Stress can easily shatter joy; if we wish to guide students to find joy in learning, then we must find ways to eliminate some of the stress found in school- no matter the school you attend. That is the first step that needs to be taken on the path to 21st century education.

 

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:

 

Senior Theater Project

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“Hey guys, so I’ve now talked to all of you about this idea to do a senior theater project next year where the 6 of us put on a show, and everyone seems to be on board! Between the various conversations I’ve had with you guys, it seems that everyone, to some level at least, is interested in the idea of us writing our own script.

Considering this is obviously going to take some time to put on, I figured it might be a good idea for us to all meet to at least start talking about how we want to go about all of this. Any chance we’re all available Monday during enrichment and lunch to start throwing out some ideas and figuring out how we’re going to make this happen?

-πnya Smith “
It was almost exactly 3 months ago that I first sent this email to my fellow soon to be senior thespians. It was in this moment that the Senior Theater Project of 2016-17 was born.
I had been talking here and there with the other thespians for at least a week about this crazy idea I had for just the 6 seniors to put on our own production, but this email signified the true begining of a what promises to be a great ride.
We have met and discussed a few times since this first meeting, but today was the first time we felt ready to start bringing in more people such as our theater director and head of fine arts to start figuring out next steps to make this idea a reality.
So far we’ve established roles and started coming up with some knows and need to knows. We know so far that we want to create our own one act show which we will work on in 3 segments: 1. Summer-gathering inspiration through interviews 2. Script- script table read by the end of first semester 3. Show- end of 2nd semester have the stage performance ready.
And most importantly we know that we want our show to be something that makes a statement. Theater is meant to be entertaining, but it is also meant to be so much more. Good theater entertains, but great theater entertains while challenging everything you know, and taking what you might try to ignore and sticking it in center stage for all to see in it’s full light. We know that we want to craft a piece that impacts an audience of all ages, and we know that we have a perspective different from most writers because we are students. Now we need to know how we get this show on the road to the stage.
Step 1- find the story.
So far the general theme we want to explore is the sense of identity because it’s something that anyone can relate to, but it is especially relevant to high schoolers. With social media we now have the ability to develop so many different identities for ourselves, and the dissonance between self-identity and perception is something we want to examine; we have a hunch that there’s a story there just waiting to be told.
We got much of this inspiration from a video one of our teachers sent us after overhearing one of our early brainstorms were we discussed identity. But I got further convinced that there is something to this hunch when I saw this quote from writer and star of Broadway’s hit musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda:
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Theater is a place where all stories are shared, and after years of performing on stage, I feel ready to do more than just share stories others believe need to be told- I want to have a hand in finding the stories. I do not want us to just create a script that plays to the strengths of those of us in the cast and has our “usual characters” in it- I want to create a script that shows the characters that an audience needs to hear from. This is why, like any true design project, we have chosen to start with empathy- to start our story by listening to the stories of others. We don’t have an outline, or a sketch, or even a narrowed down concept yet for this show, but we know our next step is to come up with a set of questions that relate to “identity” which we will use to interview as many people as we can to help us find the story that needs to be told. Then we will move from there.
Theater is sharing stories, and the Senior Theater Project is going to be a story to look out for.

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.