Asynchronous Class

I had no classes today which was kind of great. Usually, I have one class, which is my English class, but today we had an “asynchronous class” instead. Basically, this is a fancy way of saying, instead of going to a specific room for an hour and ten minutes of “class” we just had an assignment posted (it wasn’t like a live video lecture or anything, just a normal homework assignment on the shorter side) that we need to have finished by midnight tomorrow.

I find the name “asynchronous class” a bit superfluous, but I very much appreciate the concept. Our professor when looking at her schedule for the semester knew that this was going to be a big week for us with three chapters of Shakespear reading, watching our next Disney movie, and finishing our first paper by Friday; therefore, she scheduled this asynchronous class as a way for us to be able to take ownership of managing our time. We could get our work done where ever and whenever we wanted to today. It was great!

Because of this schedule, it allowed me much more flexibility today and I didn’t have to waste time moving to and from a classroom, which was especially nice since I have a psych test I’ve also been studying for today. I’m glad that we have at least one other asynchronous class baked into the semester schedule because I’m sure it will also be at a much needed time. I applaud my professor for her forward thinking and teaching philosophy behind this.

I think more teachers should adopt the concept of an asynchronous class every now and then. It’s a good way to build student ownership into the class work when there is a busy week happening.


Math and Science Applications


It is National Robotics Week currently, so today Georgia Tech had an open house event where they held tours of their robotics lab. Some of my friends successfully pulled together a some what last minute field trip so that we could go check out this event today and it was really fun!

It was a small group of sophomores that went, 10 including our teacher but it was a nice size to be able to engage more with our tour guide and fit into smaller labs.

Most of us on the trip, myself include, are wanting to go into some sort of engineering degree so it was nice to be able to get a glimpse at some of the work college students are doing. I don’t know if computer science is really my calling, but since I love design thinking I see myself working with lots of different kinds of engineers in the future in order to create innovative solutions to human centered problems.

All of us that went on the trip couldn’t help but think about why we don’t go on more field trips in high school. It is a great way to experience real world learning and get out of your standard environment of a single classroom. Plus a lot of us were “missing” science and math class which is exactly what we were talking about while away so is it really “missing”? We may have missed a lesson (actually we missed doing a lab with ice melting and then boiling and a math test for me), but we got to see applications for what we will be able to do with our math and science with further lessons, especially with more calculous work.

There was someone using eye sensing technology to improve human engagement with robots. Someone working on a robot to help people find the best exit in an emergency. Someone helping a man that can only move his head and left thumb do everyday tasks with the use of robots, and many other cool projects.

It was a fun day, and the GT labs looked like a fun place to work in with their big open spaces for testing prototypes. I can’t wait for the day when MVPS gets a makers space at the high school!!! #thefuture

The Importance of Time to Reboot


It’s been a busy week. I can’t even remember everything that happened this week specifically, but I remember it being really busy and tiring, but also exciting and fun a lot of the time.

I’ve been feeling myself getting more and more exhausted as the week has progressed, and that can often effect your work.

I use to have an unsaid rule with myself on Fridays, “No homework day.” The reason I had myself do no homework on Fridays was because I was always tired after a full week and used that late afternoon and night to just kind of hang around, typically at the gym.

At some point I think I stopped living by this rule do to the amount I was working on, but I’m realizing again how I might want to readopt this old habit. People need time to rest and regroup after lots of work. I mean isn’t that why we have a weekend- to have a break from school to digest?

It’s important for people to stop and reboot so we can digest everything that is happening around and with us without getting too tired to give things 100%. From researching about Finland schools I’ve learned a ton about how they give 15 minutes of “play time/free time” after every 45 minutes session, which allows them to come back to class more attentive. Seems to me like the Fins are on to something, and rest/play time may be just as important as work time.

It’s going to be a busy weekend for me and I’ll spend a good chunk of that time at school painting and rehearsing for drama. In fact I’ll be there from 9-5 tomorrow and 10-2 Sunday. I know I still have 2 hard quizzes Monday, my prefect application to type, ventures I could be working on, projects I could be getting further ahead in, and lines to be memorizing, but none the less I took Friday night off.

I finally got to play the flute for the first time in a month!!! It has been so depressing to look at my flute everyday when I get home and have to know that I couldn’t play it. We had 2 weeks off, then I had the NHS induction, then a Consultivation, which are all things I loved, but it meant I couldn’t go to band with the middle schoolers Thursday mornings. I think it may have even been longer because I don’t think I went the week before break either.

I really enjoyed getting to spend a few hours playing the flute and relaxing rather than thinking about all of the stuff I have to do.

I needed the time to relax, and now I need the time to sleep and reboot for a full weekend and another full week. The iStudio is happening!!!!!!

What Will Happen?


So I know I only lived in New York until I was 3, but I still go up to the North all of the time and my family lives there, so I’ve heard my share of bad snow stories. Atlanta’s 2 inches don’t compare.

I understand that the city just isn’t prepared for it, and the ice freezing the roads is the bigger problem, but this has happened every year for the past several years where a little snow shuts down the city. You would think we would have learned. Apparently not though since everyone is already freaking out about what may or may not happen tonight/tomorrow with the weather.

Now while I think Atlanta over reacts a little, I still don’t particularly want to go to school in freezing weather. I wouldn’t mind an extra day at home. I kind of love those days when everyone is forced to stay at the house which is one of the reasons I love going to the North for winter time.

What I really don’t like is when we are given busy work because we are missing school. As of now I still have school tomorrow, but it is a delayed start. However, last year when we had a week off we were given a bunch of work to do while we weren’t at school. I don’t mind work, but I do mind meaningless busy work which was a good portion of what we were given. Teachers were told they had to give us work so we were getting assignments from teachers that they typically never would have given us, but they had to come up with some work for us to do.

Then we had google hangouts with some teachers, and yet there were several students having problems because they had teachers giving them at the same time. Some teachers even gave them early in the morning still so we didn’t really get to sleep in while not going to school.

My friends and I joke (but kind of seriously) that the only thing we remember learning over the snow week that was actually useful was learning how to use google hangouts. (Which we then started to use a lot after the snow week.)

I wish we could have been given more meaningful work, or at least less work so we could have enjoyed our time away from school. I hated that week because it was cold, still had to wake up early, had a ton of work I didn’t enjoy or find meaningful, and didn’t get to play in the snow at all.

I’d like to think we as a school have grown since then and wouldn’t do that again (that way at least), but thinking of the possibilities of what could happen when it snows in Atlanta makes me recall these annoying times and makes me not particularly want to miss school.

While most people today keep getting mad at me for saying this: missing tomorrow entirely would really mess stuff up for Thursday (due to no school Wednesday for conferences), so I’m hesitant to say I don’t want school tomorrow. There are really only 3 reasons I want to go to school: 2nd, 7th, and theater.

Our show Welcome to Nightvale opens in a week, and we need all of the rehearsal time we can get, so missing a day the week before is a huge problem.

For 7th (ID) we are suppose to be doing our practice pitch internal Thursday, and since we don’t have school Wednesday for conferences, we really need as much time as we can get to finish the physical prototype and everything else for the pitch.

For 2nd there is a double reason:
1. Mathematical battles start this week and I’m really looking forward to them, and missing a day of math this week would mean that the battles wouldn’t really work; after the amount of times I’ve suggested this idea (I originally played at Nerd Camp) I don’t want them to not work the one time it finally is happened.

2. While I can’t go to band, the rest of the high school band would really benefit from having more practice time before the concert Thursday, so I want them to be able to have their 2nd period.

Who knows what will happen this time around with the weather? I just hope everyone stays safe; the rest will work itself out eventually.

Ok, disclaimer time from the day after: 
I reread post a few days later occasionally, and I realized this one sounded a little more “ranty” then I meant it to be.

I get why we did the work that we did last year during the storm. It was a chaotic time and we had to make quick decisions and didn’t want to get too behind on school work. I didn’t particularly enjoy our first solution, but hey “fail-up”. What I didn’t focus on as much as I was originally trying to was the fact that a lot has happened in one year. When I said “I’d like to think we as a school have grown since then”, I meant that knowing MVPS, I know that we learn from what does and doesn’t work and improve on it for the future. I know I’m not the only one that was a little frustrated during that week last, and teachers were too, and I guess all of the chaos people kept having on social media last night was making me a little annoyed. But when I think about it, it wasn’t like teachers had any time to prepare what they were going to give us to do really. I mean the storm came, we reacted. Cause and effect.

I actually was rather pleased with just having a late start this time because it meant I still got that little “break” and it gave room in case there was ice, but I was also able to be at school for those things that really had to be done today, and now we won’t be seriously behind in anything (hopefully, we did take out two classes today)!

In fact today was really fun! Mathematical battles started and we got to work on some challenging proofs. The coVenture team made awesome progress on the prototype and the room design is just about completely modeled physically!!!! Drama made great strides on the production. And I helped with an interview for new ID applicants and they all seemed pretty great! So I was glad we had school today after all. 🙂

My New Struggle with School

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Today in ID we talked about how Phase II of our start-up is going to look. We are trying to really start focusing on what is important enough to us that we really want to dive DEEP (haha, MVPS deign thinking pun for our DT method), and make something happen with it.

We talked about today what we call our “rocks”; the big things that are important to us. The three rocks we have our:

  • Connect with an authentic audience and purpose.
  •  Be present. Fully engage.
  •  Control your own learning.

We each took moments to write about what these meant to us, and then we shared in our table groups.

Ms. Cureton then further explained what she thought about each of them, and then we reflected on these ideas through these questions:

  • What does this “rock” mean to you?
  •  What questions do you have about this rock?
  •  What excites you about its possibilities?
  •  What makes you nervous?

Now for me personally, I’m excited to see how ID works through each of these rocks, but I won’t deny that I’m also nervous.

I’m nervous for what happens if not everyone is fully engaged and present. I’m nervous about if we will be able to cordinate as a team and plan our how to use our time wisely. I’m nervous about if I will be able to find my center focus.

Basically, I’m nervous about what happens when we actually get into the real world.

I realized today that I haven’t really been too stressed about school itself lately/yet. I feel like I’m still working as hard as before, but I have more trouble accepting why I do the work. We were trying to write out goals we have for this semester in AP World History, and I was having a really hard time. This isn’t because I don’t have goals, it is just that if I am going to take the time to articulate a goal, I feel like it should be more important than a number.

Of course I want to make an A, but really I would rather just understand the material, yet how can we make that a measurable goal other than using a number with our current system? Should knowledge be measurable this way? I have trouble making goals in classes because there are things that I will do because I feel like I should or am obligated to do it, but in reality, I don’t really feel like most of the work required to fulfill those goals is meaningful in the grand scheme of things, which bothers me.

The bigger problem than school stress that I’ve been having lately is that I know school doesn’t prepare students for the real world very well currently, which is what I want to fix, but having this understanding is also a curse. By knowing this, it just makes me more annoyed with what I still have to do everyday. It isn’t fun knowing and understanding problems and having to live with them still.

It then also makes me nervous for what will happen when I’m in the “real world” if I’m constantly doubting my actual readiness based on how I’ve been prepared through school.

It’s a weird thing to simultaneously care and not want to care about school work and grades; to want more, but feel nervous for when you actually get it. It is hard to feel prepared to go into the “real world” in order to make positive changes in a field so that how you were prepared is more preparing for others going into the “real world”. (If that sentence seems confusing, it is because that is exactly how I feel trying to even process that feeling.)

The “real world” is coming. ID has been preparing for it, and we’ve seen glimpses into this seemingly far away reality, but now this little void in between just leaves room for so many questions about preparedness and how we will respond.

Energized for School


Well school is back in session.

This year is really different from the start of second semester last year because I, along with 4 partners, wasn’t freaking out about doing an example of a pitch for the rest of the 9th and 10th grade without really knowing much about giving a pitch. We also aren’t having what we called “Unschool” where we spent the first week solely working on our transdisciplinary projects that we were working on all last year.

Instead, we jumped right into things this year.

One of the things that always bugs me about coming back is when we get talked to about the overall performance on exams, but we don’t typically get the exams back to see what we missed. I think it should be required for teachers to hand back out exams, because what is the point of an assessment if the only feedback is a number? Most of the teachers are willing to show you your exam if you ask during free time, but what about the people that really didn’t understand a lot of the material on the exam, but they won’t ask? Why isn’t it required?

As I mentioned last night, I was looking forward to ID today. I must say, I was taken back a little because we ended up playing Cranium for the entire “class” (we’re a startup not a class, but we still have to confine in the school “period blocks”) period.

Don’t get me wrong, I love playing games, but I was just surprised because I felt like there was so much we needed to talk about as far as what we are doing with our currently very sad looking design studio. I think it was probably wise though for us to not try to jump in with all of that quite yet because today, we just needed to see each other and get back into the grove of our cohort.

I actually wish more of the other classes started this way. I wish school was about a little more than just the learning. School is a social environment, and our classes are large groups of people that need to work together as a team, but we don’t typically spend time just getting to know our team and our goal before we start digging into work.

I could sense after ID, that several people were just like “why did we just do that?” Some may have even thought it was a waste of time. I think it served its purpose well: saying “hey guys we just all got together for the first time in a month, let’s just get that energy back from last semester so we are ready to work on stuff.”

I think the reason not everyone might have realized that is because school doesn’t typically work that way. We come back from break full of energy, but then school is just a struggle to stay awake and remember what it is that we are suppose to have learned from the first semester. We don’t take time to get people excited and having fun together.

I don’t think taking a day to get back together is going to effect ID negatively. Some of us talked later during enrichment about how we do have plans to do a 2 week design sprint with our room, so we will be getting to work on all of those unfinished things we want to finish. Jacob and I even had a great discussion inspired by the question, “What if we could plant trees in the ocean?” (I had this question after reading The Falconer when stuff about deforestation came up.)

The conversation ended up turning into an idea about creating technology that could be used in cities like China to help get rid of pollution by using biomimicry with how tress (and other plants) use photosynthesis to create glucose from carbon dioxide. This glucose could then be used to form energy, so by making the environment cleaner, you would also produce needed energy in a form other than natural gasses.

This idea hasn’t been developed a ton, but we had researched here and there along our brainstorming and found out that MIT has done some similar work.

While that was a little bit of a tangent, my point is that spending time building a solid team that is energized and engaged, is not time wasted because it is not taking place without learning.

How might we get all students energized to be back in school?

Learning Without Schooling


Tomorrow school starts again.

To be honest, I’m not really excited for it.

The other day (yesterday I think, but time is funny on breaks), I was reading Ms. Cureton’s blog post about Book Dipping and how she gets ready for school by going to the library and picking a bunch of books bases around one topic question and then reading them each for 10-20 minutes each.

At the end of her post she asks: How do you get ready to head back to school after a break?

I’ve been thinking about it and I even talked to my friends about it too, and most of us really don’t do much at all. To be honest, I feel like I experienced and learned so much over the break without school, that it is hard to want to go back to text books, notes, quizzes, test, and worst of all, grades.

Looking back these were some of the things that stood out to me that I did, learned, and further discovered:

  • How to do sound tech for a theater production 
  •  I practiced my movie making skills and reflected on my growth since 5th grade.
  • I realized how we need to be creating not just good leaders, but good followers too because they are important as well.
  • I learned about how gravity is actually 1 of 4 of the “fundamental forces” and is actually the weakest of them. And I further discovered how important it is to ask a good question.
  • I learned to play football (kind of) while on the beach.
  • I experienced the power of “what if” questions in my mini experiment with Margaret and questions Walt Disney.
  • I learned about the debate over if Pluto should be considered a planet again or not.
  • I learned a bunch about weather, natural disasters, sports, ancient mathematicians, and space while interacting at a museum.
    • Did you know that lightning can reach temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun?
    • Did you know Albert Einstin was born on Pi day (March 14th) and he will be turning 136 this year on Pi-A-Palooza (3-14-15)?
    • Did you know Plato founded the Academy in Athens, and this was one of the highest forms of learning in the ancient world?
  • I felt the success of reaching over 200 blog posts due to continuous effort and dedication and the while practicing my writing skills.
  • I experienced what it is like to try and debate with adults in a real world situation like an airport.
  • I went to the MoMath museum and string theory, and tested my self with strategy puzzles and learned tricks with magic squares.
  • I memorized some more digits of pi, and started planning in advanced for my Pi-A-Palooza party this year in March.
  • I saw innovation at it’s finest with Big Hero 6 and the nerdy bunch of teens that created technology to help save lives.
  • I learned about subjective and objective thinking.
  • I’ve been working on my communication skills trying to set up a date to chat with Grant Lichtman.
  • I learned more safety regulations for gymnastics, such as what to do if a girl falls in a foam pit wrong and injures herself. (same link above)
  • I further practiced playing the flute and also got to go in the pit at Wicked and experienced what it is like to be a professional Broadway musician. I also got tips on how to go about trying to buy a piccolo, if I decide that is what I want to do.
    • fun fact: Musicians first have to be there for like 20 shows in a row when they are hired, then they can get subs, and subs have to come in and play just like the person they are subbing for without ever playing with the rest of the orchestra before (for a new sub, often people will sub multiple times for a certain show). The musicians won’t even know exactly who will be there for the show until that night; even the conductor may change.
  • And all the while, I was discovering myself with how I spend my free time and what’s important to me.

I didn’t get grades. I didn’t have a set schedule every day that had activities ending with bells and not leaving one building until 3pm. I had many teachers and mentors, and even a student now and then. (Teaching my family about 21st century education, teaching younger kids about math at the museum.) Yet without this school structure,  I communicated with people in the real world, I learned, I discovered, I experienced, and I had fun while doing things I wanted to do. (And I didn’t have to call it “math, science, history, and English”)

So as far as tomorrow goes, I’m excited for ID, and seeing people again (teachers included), but when it comes to actual school, I don’t know how excited I am. I mean I learned a lot on break, and I’m sure if I was in Georgia longer I could of had some more experiences with people from school, so what else should I be looking forward to.

Putting on a Smile


I’ve started reading the next chapter in The Falconer, but I want to wait until I finish the chapter to give my reflection on it. (But I love this chapter because it is all about questioning!)

I didn’t finish the chapter today because we were doing family stuff. We went down to the pier today and did some shopping and just looking at all of the beach stores. Then we went down to the beach to take some pictures.

My brother has a really cheesy fake smile that makes taking family pictures take forever. However, when we goof around and start taking silly pictures, that’s when he gave the best smiles.

This reminded me of school. When you force students to “put on a smile” it isn’t going to be as good and “real” as it could be if they put it on for themselves. So how might we encourage smiles, but not force them?

Fly on the Wall


I have lots of thoughts and opinions, and I don’t usually hesitate to share them, so it is really hard for me to sit back and be a fly on the wall. We had the opportunity today to sit in on a meeting about Interim week (our big trip/unschool week at MVPS) discussing how the week will look for the students that stay on campus. This week ID will be going through a design thinking challenge based around creating and pitching our idea for how to structure this week, so this opportunity was meant to help us get a better idea of what we are being asked to help with.

I know there is a benefit to being just a fly on the wall versus actually engaging in the conversation, but we don’t get opportunities to sit in on teacher meetings very often, so I couldn’t stop myself from sharing another perspective to the conversation. The 3 of us students that were there sat pretty quite for the first 20 minutes at least, but besides righting down big ideas being talked about, I kept righting down “I want to speak,” “Why can’t students be more involved in these processes?” “HMW continue this conversation?” “Why not get more involved with the students that you are designing for?” Finally, I stopped thinking it, and I started talking.

We discussed what they are calling CORE. (They put it in all caps so it has to stand for something, but they haven’t figured out what yet, so my sister and mom came up with: Creative Opportunities Rounded in Education.) I got to say I am super pumped after that meeting! Some great ideas came out, but what was especially was interesting to me was the dynamics of the teachers at the meeting. Like any group you have some people more on the brainstorming, think of anything and everything side of the conversation and others that are good at bringing it back to the fact that there is a deadline, and we do have to keep in mind how the teachers could plan things, and we did need to kind of focus on one idea after a while. It’s always kind of cool and different to see teachers embracing their student side in these situation.

I really think our school needs an innovation prefect. The prefect system at MVPS is like a student government, but it is only offered for juniors and seniors and these students have a specific area that they are the student in charge of unlike our student counsel which has a president, vice president, and secretary for each grade. Current prefect positions include Head Prefect, Ambassador Prefect, Outreach Prefect, Student Life Prefect, Spiritual Life Prefect, Environmental Prefect, Communications Prefect, and Unity Prefect. Considering our school is so involved with innovation and design thinking, I don’t see why we don’t have an innovation prefect that gets to be a student representative that is more specifically involved with teacher meetings around the innovation of the school. I wish there was a student point person that could help explain what exciting things are being designed for us students for the future of our school.

The end of the meeting was a lot about how we need to decide on somethings so teachers can start planning, but how are the teachers going to have the time on top of everything else? My thought was: what if there was a student-teacher team working on designing the week? Why not take some pressure off of the teachers and have students help find external experts and figure out fun team building activities and planning the schedule outline? The students could check in occasionally for feedback with teachers, and then by the end there would be an awesome plan because of the combination of student and teacher ideas. Sometimes we will have meetings where students are invited to write on sticky notes about questions around ideas like this while a few teachers are flies on the wall just observing. Other times there are teacher meetings where a few students may occasionally get the opportunity to be a fly on the wall. What I can’t understand is why the groups never mix. Why can’t everyone participate in a meeting together?