Monday, September 21, 2015

Disrupting Traditional Courses with an EdCamp Model to be Life Ready

“Really, the only thing that makes sense is to strive for greater collective enlightenment." Elon Musk

Teachers and Students Change How Learning Happens!

8th Grade teachers and 8th Grade students collaborate to design a year long course experience!
  • An experience that is not your typical PowerPoint project in a few days.
  • An experience that will change daily/weekly all year long, and allows students to use the "rule of two feet."
  • An experience that generates pure excitement, where students run to sign up for a session.
  • An experience that intentionally disrupts traditional education "structures"

Yes, we are doing it EdCamp style in the 8th grade!

What started out as a possible major dilemma (Boring traditional learning structure) turned into an EPIC situation that had both students and staff raving about their collaborative sessions coming to life.

While roughly twenty grouped students would be in Kevin Jarrett’s Digital Shop, what were we to do with the other students? Were we to transform our Encore period (a period where core subjects rotated on a daily basis as an extension of the lesson due to room and staff limitations) into a study hall?  As the 8th grade team and I sat in a meeting, we discussed various ways to make something work.  Study hall, freedom to use Idea Street, extra help sessions, extra lunch period, etc... Yet, as this discussion was taking place, I looked over and saw Kevin Jarrett's shirt. Without hesitation, and sadly cutting a few people off in conversation, I said loudly, "How about we do an EdCamp period?"

What happened next was AWESOME!

The team looked at each other and then at me and said, "You're willing to give us and the students that much freedom?" “Yes I am, however make sure that all ideas are someway attached to our curriculum and standards.”  We seriously ended that meeting on a high note before heading to a long Labor Day weekend.  

When we convened back together the following week, the energy was still high, but you could sense many "What If" questions about to be asked.  Perhaps we had too much time off to think, or perhaps we over-complicated ourselves. It seemed as if we hit a possible "mental block." We were planning for something that had never existed before, and we were getting lost. We realized that we were missing something, something important.  Then, someone on the team stated, "We need to get the ideas from the students."  BOOM!!!  

We came up with a plan!

We had five days to work on this plan because on the 6th day, the next twenty students would rotate into the Digital Shop for their experience.  The first day during Encore, we would explain the overall process of what we were thinking, of giving them a voice in what they were learning. To do that, we needed to use design thinking as a team to make this an awesome educational experience. The other four days were to be used for brainstorming sessions, together as a team (teachers and students). Thanks to Kevin Jarrett for suggesting we set up a Google Doc to share their session ideas, the creativity began take off!  

Carter's Post It- During this process, students were also asked to reflect in their journals in ELA as to what they thought about this new experience. At the conclusion of the day, Lisa Carlton, a teacher of ELA, went out of her way to find me.  From the moment she found me, I could tell she was glowing with enthusiasm. "You need to read this, and you need to read this now!"  

Then after sharing a yellow Post-It (she copied from his notebook) with me, I was at a complete loss for words for a moment and just smiled. "Wow, this is why we need to continue this path. This makes all of our design thinking/innovation and taking a leap outside tradition is worth it." Then Lisa stated, "The beauty of that Post-It, is that all the students and staff feel this way!"

Student Voice Matters


The final meeting: Together, we reunited as a team, and shared what took place over the 4 days of designing. You could feel the excitement, and it was evident when Lisa Carlton took a stand and said, "I just have to say, this is by far the best year so far in my educational career.  I love coming to work and smiling all the way." And then the rest of the team proudly agreed. WOW, NEED I SAY MORE! (Or as Lisa would say, "drop the mic").

Day 1 Session Ideas: 1st round of sessions that made the Boards on Idea Street: Build It, Stock Market Game, Make an App, In the News, School Newsletter, Mix it Up.

When we put the sessions on the board, we told the students not to touch the board, until 2:50, which was their dismissal, and due to the fact that we weren't sure how it would go.  When our only bell rang, it only took 30 seconds for the magic to happen.

The session board experience -

30 seconds after the session board opened
Empowered learners = Passion to learn

When's the last time your students rushed to sign up for your course?

The aftermath- Success!
Day 1- Have you ever had students run to your class?  Have you ever had students so passionate about their sessions (class) that they lead, as the teachers stood to the side and helped them design? All focus, all hands on, and true authentic innovation in the making.

Where is Your Evidence/Documentation?- Nothing Stronger than Reflections!

Jenna, Student:
"This has been a completely new experience for both myself and everyone in the grade. I enjoy the freedoms I’ve been privileged, and I love the fact that I have the opportunity to choose what I learn and how I learn it. These privileges make me proud to be an NCS student."

Christopher, Student:
"This has been a great experience and I think it’s presented in a way to help everyone who learns differently.  I liked that all of our ideas were put on the board, and not one teacher disagreed. I also really liked how we could select what we were going to be learning instead of being told, take your textbooks out."

Mrs. Lisa Carlton, Game Changer/Teacher:
"A glimpse into the very near future of education has happened.  Kids empowered to take ownership of their education plus a safe environment in order to try something "outside of the box" equals education at its finest.  Thanks to our team of dedicated teachers and limitless support of our administration, we are able to provide our students with enriching opportunities where the lines of traditional education are blurred and amazing things are happening! I actually took a step back and embraced the creative chaos all around me and once again was reminded of how lucky I am to be a teacher."

Ms. Kathleen O'Connor, Game Changer/Teacher:
"It's eye-opening to see how engaged the students are in the activities when they have ownership in the process."

Mrs. Melissa Juhr, Game Changer/Teacher:
“This approach empowers students with their own education. Giving them not only a choice but a voice in how and what they learn while keeping them aligned with the common core.”

Mrs. Happie Gerber, Parent and School Employee:
"As a parent of an 8th grader, and an employee of the school, I just wanted to thank you and the entire Northfield community school staff.  This has always been a wonderful school, but this year is beyond that.  The amazing energy and positive vibe that is in and around the school is incredible.  I feel very fortunate that our daughter gets to learn in such an awesome environment.  Thank you for putting so much effort into the teachers and students to make this an incredible year."

Be sure to follow Gr8expectations to Become Life Ready, as they will share a collaborative educator and student journey towards new adventures. Also be sure to follow Mr. Jarrett's Digital Shop blog to see how our school integrates design thinking into our technology curriculum.

"Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved." --Mattie Stepanek