Chapter 1: Arc-of-Life Learning: Chapter 1 of this book lays the groundwork for the the new culture of learning by demonstrating that learning has changed drastically as the world has changed, and a new culture is already emerging. Several stories that demonstrate how learning has changed are shared, and they demonstrate how arc-of-life learning, which is made up of all of the interconnected activities that make up the learning and growing in our daily lives, is a much more fluid way to embrace learning than the isolated-content-in-classrooms model.
Quote: "Each of these stories is about a bridge between two worlds- one that is largely public and information based . . . and another that is intensely personal and structured." (Location 291) This quote captured the concept for me. It shows how that bridge IS the learning. People tap into their curiosity and imagination to pull these two worlds together and create something of personal meaning.
Question: How can traditional educational forums be re-imagined and re-shaped to facilitate this arc-of-life learning, knowing that much of what is learned now is learned outside of these traditional educational forums? How can we keep schools relevant?
Connection: The very structure of EDL630 demonstrates arc-of-life learning. I think I have learned more from this class about how to be an effective educator, than all my years of college in preparation to become a teacher and all my years as an educator combined. This course doesn't separate us out from our lives and compartmentalize our learning. We are plunked into the middle of our teaching lives and asked to learn from there. I am bridging the information from the new informational side and my personal world and constructing meaning that is absolutely useful and eye-opening for myself, my students, and the school where I teach. It is interconnected learning that feels refreshingly natural as a way to learn.
Epiphany: The epiphany for this chapter is that when authentic learning takes place, the learner can see and feel the difference between learning and being taught.(Location 306) Learning involves being curious enough to weave together resources from various areas of our lives until meaning is constructed. That meaning is the learning and is made up of discovery of the purpose, relevancy, and application of new knowledge. When we learn we ask ourselves, "How can I apply this? Where does this fit?"
Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Cultures:
Quote: "When individuals become part of a new culture, they are generally the ones who are transformed." (Location 355)
Question: How can educators create boundaries within the learning environments of schools that act as "catalysts for innovation" that help am organic culture of authentic learning emerge, rather than traditional constraints that limit innovation?
Connection: The philosophies we are embracing and exploring in EDL630, and the types of boundaries enlisted, are absolutely contributing to the emergence of a dynamic learning culture within our cohort. If the student in EDL630 is engaged in the experience of this course, he or she is, without a doubt, being transformed by this new culture that is emerging. I know I am. The learning is different here because our learning is taking place within the world. We are not sitting in the EDL630 classroom listening to our instructor tell us all about wonderful ways to engage with students. Instead, we are in our everyday environments of teaching, and those environments are being augmented with ideas, philosophies, and methods that we are able to interact with and apply immediately within our environments instead of just applying them to the quiz paper on our desks in the EDL630 classroom.
Epiphany: Seeing learning as an environment is a big, wonderful shift for me. Not schools where learning takes place within the walls of the classroom only. Learning is seen as an environment where the focus is on growing a culture where the learning emerges from interaction within the world, and not learning in a classroom about the world.
Chapter 3: Embracing Change:
Quote: "The challenge is to find a way to marry structure and freedom to create something altogether new." (Location 575)
Question: How can educators create schools as learning environments that strike the balance between the structure schools provide and the freedom that today's media of unlimited resources provides? And how can educators help reshape school's in doing this large-scale without losing all sense of purpose and direction?
Connection: The model we are embracing in EDL630 is doing exactly that, in my opinion. I sense structure for sure. I feel the boundaries of school and the class. But the freedom to personalize my learning experience and to express my learning authentically is also there- and it is priceless. My learning here is rich, layered, interconnected, absolutely relevant, and transformational. My learning is all that, and the school (institution) has not lost its purpose and direction. In my eyes, this school (or EDL630 specifically) is achieving the goal of marrying structure and freedom- it is succeeding in reshaping the learning environment in a way that makes our learning relevant in today's (right now) world. We have crossed over into A New Culture of Learning.
Epiphany: There were many epiphanies in this chapter, but one is the idea of our using play and imagination (much like children do) to make sense of our world that is rapidly and constantly changing. We can't wait to be trained and taught about every new change that occurs, because it is changing too rapidly for that to occur. We have to just jump in and play with it. We can activate our imaginations for how to use the rapid influx of new knowledge- play with it to see how it fits into our lives and why it is important. In schools today that is one of the biggest complaints I hear from teachers- that "they want us to use all of this new technology, but they don't give us any training." I tell people all the time: "Just get in there and play with it. Click around on the technology. You aren't going to break it- and you just might figure it out."
In The Global Achievement Gap Tony Wagner achieved laser precision with naming and explaining the seven vital skills today's students need in order succeed and live a rich, interconnected life. He devoted years of his life to the research and practice that led to his distilled seven skills. As I pondered his list and was charged by my own professor with deciding on seven survival skills that I fully embrace (either Wagner's, my own, or a mashup of both), I could not get rid of any of Wagner's seven skills. From what I read, what I perceive of the world now, what I see in my students, and what I am constantly learning from my own children, Wagner is spot on with his list of seven vital survival skills:
As for my added eighth skill of Empathy, it is vital because we live in a diverse and interconnected world where, in addition to being able to communicate effectively to solve problems, and to adapt to the ever-changing conditions, one needs to be able to empathize with conditions, problems, emotions, structures, that arise in the world in order to even begin to collaborate in solving issues. One needs to be able to tap into that sense of putting him or herself into other people's shoes, especially when the issue at hand is a foreign or unfamiliar one. Empathy involves opening up one's inner space so as to try to understand the person or the situation, not from only an analytical perspective wholly or necessarily, but from a human perspective, with the purpose of trying to see the situation at hand through the eyes of the people affected by the situation. This is a complicated skill to teach, especially since many situations demand empathy from many different angles- but it is vital. Empathy leads to understanding of big picture and small picture together. True empathy reduces fragmentation and invites comprehensive understanding. Empathy reminds us that our problems are HUMAN problems. Modeling and teaching empathy is as vital as teaching any other skill if we are to prepare students to, not only survive in this world, but to live a rich life and to contribute to the world in a way that helps others to do the same.
Tony Wagner's book is a gem: honest, direct, transparent, researched, and valid. These seven- make that eight- skills are ingrained in me as my directive: Go forth and make sure students are able to add these skills to their tool belts! Every lesson I create will address these skills. What is really cool is that since I have read this book and begun this program of study, some of my old lessons and units don't sit right with me anymore, and I realize it is because the skills those particular lessons focus on are not on my list of Eight Life Skills. Those lessons don't sit right with me anymore because I no longer find value in them when viewed through the lens of my eight skills. When this happens (and it happens regularly now), I have one of two reactions:
The experience of simultaneously reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner, building my PLN on Twitter, engaging with my principal and colleagues at Vista Visions Academy in a complete redesign of our school, being dropped into a 3D Gamelab experience for EDL 621 (which turned me into a highly engaged quest monster), and recycling stacks (and I mean stacks!!) of ridiculous worksheets that my 2nd grader brings home daily, has created in me the absolute, undeniable opinion that we need to #schooldifferently. I don't have the answers as exactly how to do that yet, but I can feel the ideas percolating. I've decided that I am in the Incubation stage of the creative process, which is actually a fairly uncomfortable stage, as many times it means one has passion and energy, but the ideas are still abstract and disconnected. But that only means that soon I will emerge into the Illumination phase, and that is a glorious phase of EUREKA! and the smooth ride of FLOW. So I'm hanging out in my discomfort for now, knowing it will be the catalyst for change.
Chapters 3 and 4 of The Global Achievement Gap focused on the important topics of testing and how to reinvent the teaching profession. These are important chapters because they are interconnected. As educators, we have to now redesign the teaching profession because of testing and the ridiculous emphasis that was placed on it in the last decade especially. Actually, standardized testing redesigned the teaching profession when NCLB dominated the profession. Now we just need to remember what our goals are and remember how to teach.
In chapter three Wagner refers to the work of David Conley who lists the core "habits of mind" that are needed for students to be successful in college: "intellectual openness; inquisitiveness; analysis, reasoning, argumentation and proof, interpretation; precision and accuracy; and problem solving." Unfortunately the high school experience for most students doesn't target and teach these skills. Instead, much of high school curriculum consists of decontextualized content taught in isolation, and the links to those skills and "habits of mind" that Conley wrote about are not made. The teaching to the test has created a method of teaching that doesn't help students make connections or help them dig deeper into ideas to practice honing those important habits of mind. Instead, teaching to the test has isolated concepts from the large interconnected world for students- isolated the concepts to the four walls of individual classrooms in individual disciplines. Clearly this needs to be changed if students are going to acquire the skills necessary in our interconnected world.
Chapter 4 focuses on how the profession of teaching needs to be redesigned, as well as how teachers are trained for the profession. It is pointed out that teachers are trained in much the same way high school students experience high school: by taking a bunch of classes with little connection with each other. That kind of training does not a connected teacher make. Wagner reiterates in chapter four that the most important skill today's students need is the ability to ask the right questions. Teachers need to be taught how to model that and teach students how to do that. Teachers need to be taught how to teach the important competencies and skills, rather than just the content- because much of the detail of the content can be easily looked up online. Facts are at our fingertips nowadays. Many times the facts become secondary to the ideas, questions, connections, problems, and solutions in the real world that surround those facts. In order for education to right itself, teachers, new and veteran, need to learn how to become leaders of change and how to look past the specific details of their content momentarily in order to refocus on the larger picture- the competencies and skills that students need to be successful in the world and lead a meaningful life. Then teachers can return their gaze to their content, but this time through the lens of the competencies, the content should appear differently. It will require a different approach and focus to teach when looking through the lens of competencies. It is time for a different approach. It is time to school differently.