In our PLC, (Professional Learning Community) we are working in a new cycle of inquiry.
Our question is:
How can we better support students to document their growth over time?
We are finding that some students just DO NOT like to write reflection pieces, or planning documents, or documents that show what they are learning. We believe there are several factors at play in these situations.
1) Students can have resistance to writing no matter what
2) Students just want to learn, but not document their learning.
3) Students feel that writing about their learning is just a thing that needs to be done to appease the teachers.
We have a theory that if we make documentation easier for those students who resist, that are percentage of participation with increase. We will be mining our data from the last two progress reports to see what percentage of participation we got for past reflections and documentation activities. We will then provide video blogging as an alternative to writing and compare percentages of participation again. This will be a 2-3 week research action cycle.
We are in our second year of blogging in order to document work, connect with community and teach others what we, ourselves have learned. Staff is beginning to understand how to use the blog as a means for students to document and reflect on their learning and my fellow colleague who teaches Chemistry went for it and had her students blog about a recent PBL project. She then shared one of the student blogs on her twitter account, which was then retweeted by a local Administrator at another High School, which was THEN picked up by another person in the Napa Valley School district. Within one day, this students reflection post was read by over 300 people on the internet.
This is just one of so many examples of how having a digital presence can be so wonderful. How powerful that experience was for the student who wrote the blog...and for the chemistry teacher....AND for our whole staff here at New Tech!
Here's the blog post. Feel free to leave a comment for the student directly on your website.
With this case study in mind, let's talk about how I view transformational leadership. I firmly believe that leadership through example is the best way to make real change happen. If we want to effect change, in any arena, it's a constant job of building value. Blogging and talking about the value of blogging, making that value visible to staff, students and teachers throughout my personal learning network, is a way to change the way we do things in the world of education.
Lead by Example
Before I came to the teaching profession, I built a high successful video production company by blogging on a regular basis. I built a name for myself as an expert in my field and opened doors that would normally be closed. This is my hope for blogging at New Tech and I know that if I, myself, want others to establish a digital presence, then I need to do so for myself first.
Bias Toward Action
I understand that we are just at the beginning of the portfolio transformation process, and that this is a process of experimentation, iteration and refinement, but we must start somewhere. Even in it's infancy stages, our school wide portfolio process is off to a great start. We do not know what the outcome will be, but we have jumped into the activity of blogging with both feet. We are willing to try, willing to experiment and willing to get feedback and continue in the iteration process.
Working as a team
One of the most critical pieces to transformational leadership, beyond the willingness to lead by example and the willingness to jump right in, is the ability to reach out to stakeholders and get buy in. Last year, we created a portfolio committee made up of two teachers and 8 students. We went through the design process in order to come up with the very best process, taking time to do empathy interviews with students and staff and getting feedback from future end users.
If there is one thing that I have gained in this process, it's the understanding that although the process took a lot longer than I would have liked, due to the design process, the results were that we had great buy-in, clear reasoning as to the choices we made as a group, and a clear vision for what is possible with blog portfolios. Often, the choices our committee made were choices I would have made on my own, but the true power came in arriving at those choices together.
Three Key Elements to Transformational Leadership
In summary, what I have learned is that transformational leadership is most powerful and full of ease, when it includes these elements.
A few days ago I taught a Professional Development session for PBL teachers in the Napa Valley Unified School District. The topic: The Startup Classroom: How to Rock Your Classroom Like a True CEO.
The theory behind the topic: If we are teaching project-based learning in the classroom, wouldn't it make sense to look toward industry leaders and how they do business on a daily basis? The skills used in current project management in the tech industry, where startup companies reign supreme, include:
Having an Expert in the Field Makes All the Difference
The teachers who came to the training were really excited to have this information! They were grateful to have some systems and protocols that can help teach students to manage their projects, their time a and their work.
At the training, we brought in a real Scrum Master/Program Manager from a High Tech startup company (Leap Motion), Art Weisen, who added a whole other dimension to the conversation. He served to share his views on what works and doesn't work in industry, as well as provide the background as to why and how certain systems have been created and put into place. Interestingly, the next class in my series is on helping teachers to bring Industry experts into the classroom. There is huge value in bridging the gap between the world of education and the "world out there," for students and teachers alike. If we want students to truly be prepared for the 21st Century, we need to forge these sort of relationships on a regular basis.
Considering for Next Time
This was the first time offering this sort of subject matter to teachers, as I have only started implementing these ideas in the classroom over the last two years. I would like to be clearer with participants that, although we do an overview of Design Thinking, this is not a class on Design Thinking.
For many teachers, it might be the first time they are seeing the stages of Design Thinking, but covering the entire topic might take an entire session all on it's own. If there is expressed interest in going more in depth on the subject, I can certainly develop a separate curriculum for PBL teachers. I did provide a basic worksheet from the D School that helps a teacher see what the process of Design Thinking entails. It is simple enough for teachers to follow with their students and to adapt as needed. D School also offers incredible training classes for those educators who wish to pursue further training.
"You should consider offering this as PD to other teachers!"
It's perfect to hear this from an attendee at our very first offering of this sort. It took everything I had to not say, "Well, duh! That's the plan!" ;)
We truly have something wonderful in this class. When PBL was first created and implemented at New Technology High School twenty years ago, professional work environments where very different than they are today. It's time to take our cues from current work practices and find ways to adapt those practices into the classroom.
We get over 2,000 visitors to our school every year. As one visitor to my classroom said:
“Talking to Lisa's high school students as they explained their projects, I saw such clear passion, confidence, and command of their projects and processes: I could have been speaking to adults. The skills they’ve learned – like design thinking, project management, and creative thinking – are skills we rely on daily at Adobe. So I was incredibly impressed, and I’m thrilled thinking about what they’ll do next.”
– Tom Nguyen, Principal Product Manager, Adobe
This is the work I am most eager to continue in the world of education. These are just the first steps toward integrating startup company practices into PBL. As our work environments adapt, so too, our learning environments should be adapted so that we are best aligned with what students really need to know. PBL is innovative in and of itself, but must adapt as the world changes. I want to be a part of that adaptation.
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!