Individuality

images-1.jpgBeing a leader is hard. I’m the founder of Kemps Khaos Club at MVPS last year, though we were an un-offical club 2 years ago as well, and each year we’ve tried to improve our student-faculty card game tournament.

This year we set up the “Kemps Kouncil”  to help deal and organize all game times. However, trying to organize the Kouncil to make sure they organize the games is a whole other challenge. It’s been challenging mainly because usually I’m that kind of leader who, when something isn’t being done, I just do it myself to make sure it’s done. However, with Kemps, I’ve really been trying to let my team mates take that responsibility and just give them reminders to make sure it gets done. The hard part is when I get questions from teachers about when they are going to play their next game and all I can say is, “I don’t know, your dealer should be sending you an email soon…”

A lot of times when I’m on a team I end up in a leadership role. It’s just my personality and nature I guess, even in a letter I have from my preschool teachers it says, “When playing in a group setting, Anya prefers to be the leader but will allow other children to take over that role as well.”

In fact a lot of that letter is a surprisingly accurate description of how I still am today, which seems so weird considering I was 3 at the time this was written. I wonder how old we are when our fundamental personality traits start showing. How much do we really change over time? What traits start showing themselves earlier than others? What personality traits are more likely to change over time versus staying consistent through out a person’s life? What shapes our personality?

I feel like in high school one of the most common faced problems is someone feeling the need to be like someone else, rather than feeling comfortable with embracing who they are.  Everyone is an individual person with different personality traits. Some that are praised, and others which show our weaknesses, but they all make us, us. Our differences are what make us unique, special, noticed amongst the crowd.  At a wedding the bride is the one in a different dress. When trying to get someone’s attention you stand up to be spotted in the sitting crowd. In a sea of yellow flowers, it’s easy to spot the one that’s a radiant, ruby red.

For the amount of stress teenagers go through with trying to figure out “who am I?” I wonder what it would be like if schools placed more time and energy into helping students embrace their individuality. It’s a skill that will truly last a life time and be invaluable to success.

Individuality is important to me, and it’s something I see people struggle with all the time which makes me sad, frustrated, and oddly ignited. HMW help people feel comfortable being themselves? It’s a question that’s been asked by people for centuries, so why does it seem that not much has changed- I mean if the question is still being asked, clearly the problem hasn’t been solved. Why not? Are we asking the right question? Are we tackling the problem the right way? Are we communicating and working with the right people?

I feel the designer inside of me burning with questions and a sense of agency to take action in some way or form yet I simply don’t know where to start, so I’m starting with these questions. Hopefully something will come from them.

all-yellow-tulips-one-red-22488602.jpg

Stories Come From the Heart

images-5.jpg

My head is spinning right now. Today was a pretty good day, nothing particularly amazing happened, but it was pretty relaxed with a couple of great conversations. These great conversations have all connected for me in the great circle of life, so yes, this post is long, but that is because there is simply lots that I must say.

For starters, today Kat and I unpacked our interview that we had with Grant Lichtman yesterday, and the amount of ideas currently in my head our insane!

For the past year-ish (actually looking back at blog posts has allowed me to learn it was actually the beginning of November 2014 that we officially announced our coVenture), Kat and I have been interested in education redesign and student voice. But we’ve come a long way since first making our twitter accounts on the very day of that particular blog post.

Since last year, we have had a number of opportunities to lead design thinking challenges; Kat went to Europe with EF Tours and lead a design thinking session; I gave a MoVe talk at the DT conference FUSE15; we have written a collective of over 365 blog posts; we have a total of over 200 followers on twitter and actively have conversations with education leaders (teachers and some student groups) from around the world; we have created the first ever (to our knowledge) student designed AP class.

Point being: We’ve been wedging our way into education redesign conversations, and now I’d say we are starting to have a decent presence and heard voice in the conversations. Plus being students gives us a unique perspective compared to many educators in these conversations, which definitely helps us stand out a little.

Through all of the discovery and empathy work we’ve been doing over the past year, Kat and I have really started to develop a lot of thoughts around education redesign. For the past few months, especially since the creation of our AP Lang course, we’ve been thinking about actually putting our thoughts into a book to publish. Imagine a book written about education design from students’ perspectives! That would be something different, and hopefully game changing!

During our interview with Mr. Lichtman we really wanted to focus on questions related to the writing process and the journey he went on to create his 2 books (The Falconer and #EdJourney). His support and enthusiasm with our idea was motivating, and his insight invaluable!

Today while unpacking, Kat and I tried to focus on these essential questions that Mr. Lichtman asked us:

  • What are you writing?
  • Why are you writing it?
  • Who are you writing it for?
  • What else is already out there that may be like it?
  • Why should you be the ones writing it?

These questions may sound almost obvious to ask when trying to write something, but sometimes questions become more powerful and helpful when someone else asks you them.

When I say Kat and I focused on these questions, I mean we actually tried to start brainstorming some answers, but obviously we are still vary early in this process. The important thing is: we are in this process.

Our talk today clarified some of our thoughts, and we know we want to do this because we have things we need to say and we have things we want to learn more about to help others find their way on this journey to education redesign. Design thinking is human centered problem solving. In human centered problem solving we work with users to solve the problems. In schools the largest population of users is the student population. Therefore, it only makes sense that student voices are involved in the education redesign process.

It is due to my extremely strong belief in this that my personal how might we that drives my learning and actions at this point in my life is, “How might we make student voice at the forefront of education redesign?”

I’ve only recently been able to even clearly identify what my how might we is, part of what helped was when Alex Emmanuele asked me during an interview, “What’s your how might we?” Again, a seemingly simple question, but when you’re forced to answer publicly to someone else,  it slowly becomes more articulate and takes more shape than before.

The cool thing is that since articulating my HMW, I’ve slowly been seeing it take root even more in my everyday activities and school work. Having conversations with educators around the world to learn and be inspired, discussing how our writing can be meaningful to discussions outside of school, trying to uncover big questions like “what makes a good student?” and planning to interview with 50 stand out students to develop an answer- this stuff is exactly what I want to be working on.

I see my iVenture seeping into the work I’m doing in AP Lang class in a way that makes complete sense and motivates me to learn and work like no other class does. Plus I feel confident that we are also meeting the goals of what students are suppose to take away from an AP Lang class. Mr. Lichtman even said at one point, “You guys have the capacity to really synthesize and find new insights,” when talking about how he thinks us writing a book is an achievable goal. Well, a synthesis essay is one of the essays we have to write for AP Lang, and we just got feedback from an author that we know how to synthesis; that was pretty powerful feedback for us.

Writing a book is no small task. It takes months of constant writing and editing. Mr. Lichtman talked about how he probably wrote over 150,000 words even though #EdJourney only ended up being 90,000 and the target was 40,000. One of the biggest questions we are wrestling with is “how can high schoolers write a book while still keeping up with high school work?” Is it possible? We don’t know. Will we try despite the uncertainty and assumed constraints? Don’t doubt it for a second. How will we do it? Stay tuned as we continue on our journey to find out.

Through out the conversation the biggest piece of advise we got from Mr. Lichtman was, “Know what you want to say. Then continue to ask yourself ‘Is this exactly what I want to say?” We haven’t clearly defined what it is “we want to say” quite yet, but the thoughts are developing. For me the important thing is that I know I’m all in, because I feel that this is where my heart is, and stories come from the heart.

In fact this conversation we had today has made me deeply ponder about where my heart is calling me.

Ever since I can remember I’ve always been decently well known as “the math girl.” I mean even my nickname is “Pi-nya” because I sign my name with a pi symbol instead of an A. I’ve gone to Nerd Camp the past 4 years and taken advanced, college level math courses and absolutely loved them!

Due to my love of math and love of design thinking, I’ve been saying for the past year that I want to major in engineering because that seemed logical enough. I mean from what I’ve heard, engineering seems to be the major that most obviously relates to design thinking principles.

Related to engineering, in innovation diploma time I’ve been working on a product design coVenture focusing on “How might we make sustainability a part of the DNA at MVPS?” I’ve expressed before how I am not super attached to this coVenture; however, I feel like I’m missing experiences in my design thinking tool box that come with finishing a project all the way through.Thus I’ve felt the need to carry this out all the way, and I feel a certain dedication to my team as well to do so.

The thing is, the more we work, the more I’m starting to realize my strengths and weaknesses as a designer. I am not the best at using CAD programs. In fact I’m only okay at best. Also, electronic knowledge goes right over my head most of the time. I’ve also found, that I think I (like many classroom attempts at design thinking) have a problem with spending too much time in discovery mode before leaping into empathy and experimentation mode.

However, there are other things I am good at, like speaking up for a team. I think at this point most of ID knows that giving pitches is definitely one of my strengths. (Being an actress really comes in handy in the real world!) Even just today I was being filmed in a short interview for an MViFi video that is being created, because articulating ideas is a strength of mine. I’m also typically that person to help keep everyone up to date on things that need to be done and checks to make sure we all have the same understanding of what’s going on.

Back in the beginning of last year when we took the Gallup Strength Finder test my 5 strengths were recognized as “learner, individualization, restorative, achiever, and responsibility.” It isn’t until this year though that I’m starting to realize that maybe I should be spending more time focusing on how I can use the strengths I have and improve those rather than trying so hard to get good at a bunch of different things. A team is made of multiple people with different strengths.

I’ve also been questioning if engineering is really the path I want to go down. I mean I know my heart is more into my iVenture/AP Lang work compared to my product design work. I don’t necessarily want to stop my product design work because I truly do think it’s valuable to see a project come to life in some shape or form and learn to wrestle with the real world problems of bringing an idea to life. However, is product design really what I want to be doing later in life? And my iVenture is definitely design thinking, but it isn’t really engineering in the traditional college major sense based on my understanding, so what does that mean?

I know I don’t need to decide at this very moment, but like Mr. Lichtman said, “you really have to know what you want to do.” In my opinion, you often are happier when doing what you want, or at least doing something you know will help you get what you want in the long run. And I think you know what you want to do based on what your heart is telling you.

Currently, I know what I want to do, because my heart is calling me in the direction of my iVenture: “How might we make student voice at the forefront of education redesign?” But when thinking about my future, which as a junior comes up a lot, how does my iVenture fit in when thinking about college and my life after high school? I’m starting to think that engineering isn’t quite alined with my personal passions, but then what is? I’m feeling an odd mixture of being greatly lost and yet incredibly metacognitive and aware at the same time right now.

Hands On With Experts

5966aad405ce3bc9419110727971aed9

It’s a lot of fun learning new skills. Today I learned how to make pictures show up in a slide show on my blog, how to build a robot hand, and more tips and tricks for speaking with different accents (specifically British, Scottish, and German for our winter show The 39 Steps).

I find it interesting how skills like this are often best learned and taught if you just have a teacher start doing it and you try to mimic what they’re doing as they provide feedback and work along side of you.

Sure I could have read tens of pages on rules and tendencies that are associated with other accents, but no one says “I can speak in a Scottish accent” after just reading some rules or even after listening to videos. You have to practice the accent and have someone else help tell you how you are doing by providing you with feedback along the way.

And with the robotic hand (which I’m going to be honest, I had to leave before we finished it), I could have been given the instructions and told to figure it out. If this was the case though, I don’t think I ever would have gotten far past step one due to confusion. Especially since the instructions were only pictures… However, this wasn’t the case, and instead I was working with one of my mentors to put this hand together and he was able to help show and tell me what to do, and I think if I was given the same tools now, I could probably replicate the process we went through.

On the flip side, not actually working hands on with a mentor can often make it really challenging to learn new skills. If you aren’t introduced to something, how can you be expected to try using that skill?

I think this fact exposes a struggle in education. Teachers are always trying to encourage their students to present information in new and creative ways, but people tend to stick to what they know. If they aren’t exposed a little to different forms of presentations, it would be hard to make one on their own.

So what if teachers actually co-created creative presentations. What if a teacher worked with students to write a spoken word piece about how we need to protect the rainforest? What if teachers and students worked together to make a documentary about the life of an artist. What if teachers and students worked together to design an art piece that represents the human rights? What if teachers and students worked together to write a letter about how members of their school community feel about the use of social media in education? What if teachers and students worked together to design an advertisement campaign for why it’s important to have proper safety equipment in science labs?

These would all be such cool presentations of ideas, but, while I think it is great to give students freedom, choice, and the ability to wonder and explore, I also think students still need guidance. As humans we naturally copy what we’ve been exposed to and seen other people do. That’s how we learn to walk, and talk, and write our names. We watch. We try. We fail. We repeat. We do. We explore. We teach. We repeat.

Learning is constant– It’s the learning cycle.

So if education wants students to be more creative with presentations, then students need to have more hands on work side by side with experts who can expose them to creative ways to do presentations. Then once they watch, try, fail, and repeat a few times, then eventually they will learn and be able to explore techniques further, and eventually be able to teach and lead others as well.  (And presentations aren’t the only things that this mindset can be applied to.)

Non-artificial Storytelling Practice

images-1

So tonight we had a college panel at school that I attended. There was a bunch talked about, some which was helpful, other bits which were parents being confused.

What I always find interesting is how whenever college comes up, in my experience, there is always something about “your story” that is mentioned. As in “you need to find your story and share it with colleges.”

Now I think focusing on stories is great, but I don’t understand why this has to be associated only with college. What if developing your story was just a part of all education? What if we focused on developing our story for more than just college, but actually shared it with the “real world”? What if there was a future where students didn’t have a stressful time writing college essays, because their stories were already being captured long before it was time to apply to colleges, making it easy to find essay topics?

Personally, I feel like my blog has helped me with all of these things. I constantly am developing and clarifying even to myself, exactly what my story is. I share this story to lots of people, not just to colleges. While I haven’t actually started the official process of creating college essays, I predict that it will be relatively easy for me to come up with ideas because I have been capturing them all on my blog; I think I’m more likely to get into a situation where I’m not sure what chunk of story to pick over another.

There is value to keeping a blog and sharing your story, but often times when classes try to get students to keep a blog, they end up growing to dislike blogging and find that they don’t know what to write about and are scared to experiment due to their blogs still being graded. (I speak from experience here because this was semi similar to my first experience with blogging and I have friends who have expressed similar feelings in the past.)

I think storytelling is a necessary skill to learn for more than the purpose of more than just a college essay (while it would prove helpful with those as well), but how might we create situations for more students to be able to get this practice and skill development of storytelling without it feeling too pushed, limiting, and artificial?

I wonder if the key comes to starting the conversations on storytelling and developing earlier, with kids capturing their curiosities and observations about the world at a younger age than high school at all even.

The Limit Should Not Exist

IMG_4681 IMG_4682

Today in ID, to do a dry run for when council members do this same activity at COI on Friday, we had a very interesting discussion around Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic article, “Curiosity is as Important as Intelligence” from the Harvard Business Review.  I think the discussion was particularly interesting because we were all able to notice how much our discussion skills have improved since day on this year in ID. There were no long pauses, few facilitator “let’s get back on track” comments needed, more people referring directly to the text, a larger diversity in who was speaking (while I must say myself and a few others could still work at being better at knowing when not to talk to let others have a chance; a skill which I’ve been trying to purposefully work on), people were looking around at the entire group when they spoke, and in general there were a lot of good questions brought up.

I don’t want to try and recap the entire conversation because I don’t think that would be practical. I have included some pictures of the notes  Boa (Mr. Adams/Bo Adams depending who you are) was taking during our discussion, and some members of the cohort have also been continuing the conversation via blogs as well if you would like to know more about the thoughts of the day.

However, as I personally have gone through today, this idea of “How might we create meaningful learning measurement systems?” kept coming to mind. (This maybe is not the best way to phrase the question, but it’s the one I just came up with). Now the assumption I make with this question is that measurement systems are helpful and desired. However, the assumption I do not want to make is that measurement systems need to be measured by a number.

Throughout the conversation today IDers, including myself, kept being riffled by how the author did not give many concrete details as to how Intelligence Quotient, Emotional Quotient, and Curiosity Quotient are actually measured. We all agreed though, that measuring these quotients by numbers doesn’t mean much and seems very rigid of a structure for such abstract ideas. We even talked about other forms like color systems, or systems like our ID rubrics based on skills. Still though, we weren’t/aren’t satisfied with these other forms of feedback, but we do believe that it is helpful to have some sort of measurement system so that you can have goals and continue to improve while understanding what you need to do to take your skills to the next level.

The thing is that with IQ, EQ, and CQ you need to be constantly working those muscles in order to improve them, and there is always room to grow. However, if you make a measurement system where there is a clear and defined “top”, then what do you do when someone reaches that top? –and someone always does. How can you continue to improve your skills once you have reached the highest level? It seems that in theory the more advanced you become, the more important it is for you to have high goals to strive for, because otherwise you will fall back on your “training” and you skills will either go unchanging, or you will fall back.

Our facilitators gave an internal a few days ago on badging, and one of their current ventures involves trying to create a system of badges that is inspired by the periodic table. (Keep in mind, I’m likely not giving the best description of how they would define their venture, but I haven’t read or discussed anything by/with them on it, so I’m basing this off assumptions I made from their internal session.) The reason the periodic table is so intriguing is because elements are organized in many different ways by the natural observed properties that each element posses, and when you look at the visual, it is relatively easy for someone to understand after a little guidance. Furthermore, and this is the key, the periodic table is able to predict new elements that we have not yet discovered through trends displayed on the table itself.

After our discussion today in Innovation Diploma, I am even more hooked and loving this idea! Imagine a system for measuring learning that had no highest point and instead the system was constantly producing new goals and levels to reach and strive for. Just like how in the 21st century education systems are having to change due to knowledge being so readily available in today’s world of technology, history tells us that there will be a time in the future where yet another change will be necessary in order for education to keep up with our growing and changing world. Imagine if this system didn’t have to keep changing and instead it just kept growing. Imagine if rather than a single tool for measuring student achievement, there was an entire system crafted to adapt to different times.

Measurements and goals help us strive for greatness beyond what we may thing is truly feasible, and this strive in the end tends to be far more achievable then we believed. If we put a limit to our measurement systems weather that be “100%, 2400, Green zone, 5, the fourth section of feedback, etc.” we are being hypocritical to the idea that learning can continuously grow and get better by saying that there is no higher achievement.

Measurements and rubrics can be helpful for feedback; I am finally starting to come to terms with the idea of there being different forms of rubrics rather than just a number rubric, and these rubrics do help provide feedback and further learning. However, I’ve also discovered that I will not truly be satisfied with any rubric until we create a limitless learning measurement system that encourages life long learning by not marking a set “end destination” that must be the same and only standard for everyone to be compared to.

No Constraints

edjourney2-199x300

It’s been weird and great to have time this weekend without homework! Today, after coaching at an event for foster children, I actually had some time to read for a while (before I fell asleep with sticky-notes on me at the gym…).

I’ve really just started #EdJourney by Grant Lichtman, but I’ve gotten about 30 pages in and read the 15sh page intro, so I’ve finally reached that point where I’ve started thinking a bunch about it. (Oh by the way, this was also the book we hand choose to read for AP Lang because we were that curious and engaged after reading his first book The Falconer which was amazing!)

The book tells the journey of Mr. Lichtman from when he spent 89 days traveling the country and visiting various school to ask students, teachers, faculty members, and parents this list of questions:

  • What does innovation mean to yo? 
  • How has your school changed to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world? 
  • Is your school organized more for the benefit of the children or the adults?
  • What do we really need to teach and learn in schools, and how are you doing this? 
  • What does that look like?
  • What has worked?
  • What has not? 

Trying to get at the heart of what 21st century education looks like, Mr. Lichtman identifies the major road blocks and obstacles to education reform and provides ample examples of ways that schools around the country are solving for these problems.

While reading about all of the cool things that school around the country have set up in their programs, it’s made me wonder about what my ideal school experience would look like if there were no constraints. Like non at all! No worrying about what colleges would think, money isn’t an issue, there is no issue of hiring the staff I’d like, the community can be made up, anything is possible!

I haven’t yet really started to answer this question, but I predict that this will be the big question I’m trying to answer as I continue to read.

Some of the underlying questions to this big question being: How I would structure time and scheduling? How would students and teachers interact? What types of teachers would work at the school? How big would the school be? What would the layout of the building be like? What types of equipment and resources would there be? How would assessment work? What types of course work would be offered? How would the curriculum be structured? What type of community would the school be in location wise? What would the founding values, principles, and mission be of the school?

And I’m sure many more questions will be encountered during my reading, and life. I wonder also what this imaginary school would like if there was a time constraint on the brainstorming time. I also wonder how my individual image could potentially change if I was working on a team to answer this question, and therefore everyone would have different opinions and ideas we’d have to manage. I’d be interested in how sub teams of ID peeps would answer this question actually. Hum… How might we…