So much more than four walls...

I am into the last unit of the school year.  I will be leaving this classroom at the end of the year and heading off to a new adventure in Germany.  My family and I are incredibly excited.  And busy.  Those of you who teach in international schools know what I mean.  Boxes, forms, contracts, stuff, stuff, stuff....

I will miss this classroom.  I grew immensely as a teacher and a human being.  These kids have taught me so much about learning, playing, knowing, and being in the moment.  Our classroom is so much more than just four walls.   This space has changed a lot over the course of two years.  It feels like a home.  We are all comfortable here, we can share our feelings, celebrate our victories, and reflect on our defeats.

Looking at pictures, the class seems like a mess.  Truth, it is.  It is like a tangle of branches, wrapping itself around an abandoned building.  It is not neat, it is not clean, it is not organized.  To me, it represents the best of thinking in action.  At times manic, and at other times completely calm and focused.  I have cleaned up a lot of the clutter (it was hard to get rid of the tire, but it has found a new home in the garden) and I have organized most of the rest.  And it still looks like a rose brush with no owner.  Wild.

Even the furniture is mostly spur of the moment stuff.  I find an old sofa that is destined to be pitched, so I adopt it.  The chairs used to be up in storage, covered in dust.  We cleaned them off and got rid of those horrid wooden torture devices.  We use markers on the tables, and sometimes we make a mistake and use the permanent markers.  It gives the table a bit more character.  I got rid of my desk and put my computer on a shelf and stand all day.  The lack of desk opens up more space.  We find an old shoe cubby and fill it with art and math supplies, because we don't like the plastic drawers.  You can't see inside them, and when you can't see something you tend to forget about it.  

Stuff just finds its way in here.

I'll admit, sometimes the mess in here goes too far.  The picture above is AFTER a big cleaning.  It can be a bit of a mess at times.  We get involved in something and we tend to forget about how quickly the floor is filling up with little bits of paper or soil from the garden.  However, when it gets bad, we stop, take a break, and clean it up.  If it stresses anybody out, they are free to say so, then we ALL stop and clean.  We have a cleaner who comes once a week, but I like the kids to do it.  In Japanese public schools, the kids are responsible for cleaning the entire school, top to bottom.  Cleaning and organizing together creates a real sense of community.

My wife, who is a constant visitor to my class, commented that, "it looks the inside of a ten year olds brain".

"Thank you." I replied.  That is exactly what it is.  It embodies the values of the people who inhabit it.

I didn't plan it to look that way.  It just kind of emerged.  It kind of took on a personality of its own.  I think all classrooms do that.  I think all classrooms are beautiful in their own way.  I would love to see a book published of classrooms from around the world.

We try and design our living environments, or learning environments.  We try and customize them to be perfect.  Engineered.  Custom-fit.  What if we let the environment flow with the people in it?  What if the environment, instead of being this thing that was handed down to the group that inhabit it, were free to grow?  Start the year with an empty slate, and then be open to what emerges.  Is your classroom, the way it looks, a reflection of you as teacher, or is it a reflection of the group of learners that flow through?  

The Island of Ablai (pt. 14)

Pt. 1 Planning

Pt. 2 Creating the Environment

Pt. 3 Money Matters
Pt. 4 Negotiating the World
Pt. 5 Natural Resources and Manufacturing
Pt. 6 Profits and Expenses
Pt. 7 Setting the Price
Pt. 8 Profits and Growth
Pt. 9 Supply and Demand
Pt. 10 - The Role of the Buyer
Pt. 11 - Personal Inquiries - How does google make money?
Pt. 12 - Tying in all Together
Pt. 13 - Sharing your learning

Pt 14 - Summative Assessment

I will start by saying that I have issues with this term.  The word summative makes it seem that it is over, finished, the end.  How can learning have an end?  I understand the need to place a final assessment on a topic before moving on to a new one, but it seems like an artificial construct of school. A term that educators made up to fill some area of need.

I used to plan big, elaborate, complex, summative assessments.  We would have been working on a book, or a magazine, or movie, and that artifact would stand as the summative piece.  However, I found it hard to assess something with so many moving parts.  I found it hard to see where their thinking was at this place in time.  That is really what I want to know, and what I think the purpose of summative assessment should be; what are you thinking now, and how has your thinking changed?

Visible Thinking has some great strategies for this.  In the past I have used longer versions of I Used to Think.... But Now I Think..... Today I used a simple question, and asked them to write a thoughtful reply.

How do our economic choices affect the world?

I gave them a good chunk of time, alone, with an iPad in a comfortable space, and asked them to think deeply on this question.  We did a bit of group brainstorming before we started, but for the most part, it was an independent activity.

It was a very simple task, but from their writing and reflections, I know exactly where they currently are on this issue.  This unit, and all good inquiry units, are not things that can be summative.  They are ideas that evolve and change over time.  My own views on Economic Systems continue to evolve as I grow older.  They will never be static.  They will never stop changing.

I am glad that I have captured their views at this point in time.  I hope they go back to these artifacts they have created and reflect on what they used to think.  The important question of summative assessment is not, what did you learn? or what do you know?, but how do you think at this point in time?

My Own Summative Assessment

This was one of the best units of my professional teaching life.  The topic was fascinating for the kids, they had so many natural questions and curiosities about this.  Money is something they are surrounded by, but have no idea about it.  Their questions pushed the unit forward.  I was able to change everything and move with them, while keeping the focus on the skills and concepts.  What I had originally planned was not of much interest to them.  They were fascinated by stuff, and why things cost what they cost.  So, that is what we focused on.

It is interesting to look back on the first post in this series ad look at my original plan, and then to read the what occurred. Completely different!

As for the blogging of the entire unit, I find it a mixed bag. I liked it, it kept me focused on what was I was doing and forced me to self-reflect. There were moments however that it felt like more task that authentic reflection. I had so many other ideas for other blog posts that got pushed out to the side while I was working on these. I felt an obligation to something I started. Also, I don't work well with plans, goals, and schedules. I am more organic type of thinker, and I like to follow my interests and passions as they arise. Somebody asked what my hobby was, and I replied, "being curious". Having a schedule of blog posts got the edge of that curiosity for a while.  

Still, it is a great artifact of a great unit. I am divided, I can't tell you it was a great experience, but I can't say that it was all bad.

Click here to see all the posts in this series

The Island of Ablai (Pt 13)

Pt. 1 Planning

Pt. 2 Creating the Environment

Pt. 3 Money Matters
Pt. 4 Negotiating the World
Pt. 5 Natural Resources and Manufacturing
Pt. 6 Profits and Expenses
Pt. 7 Setting the Price
Pt. 8 Profits and Growth
Pt. 9 Supply and Demand
Pt. 10 - The Role of the Buyer
Pt. 11 - Personal Inquiries - How does google make money?
Pt. 12 - Tying in all Together

Pt. 13 - Sharing your learning

From the previous lesson, I asked them how they could share what they learned about responsible consumers and responsible business.  I gave them a blank slate.  Kind of.

Planning Day

The constraint was that there would only be an hour and fifteen minutes to complete the entire project.  But, they could take as much time as they wanted today to make plans and make sure that tomorrow they were ready.  I broke it down into checkpoints, and each group went through the points.  I must admit that this is not my favorite way of organizing things, but the structure helped them to get organized.  Ideally, I would like to eliminate the need for checkpoints, and have them create their own.  However, with only an hour and fifteen minutes, they needed to be very organized, so these checkpoints really did help.

Checkpoint #1 - What is the big idea of your project?  Create a one line central idea.
Checkpoint #2 - What medium will you use to express your idea?

At this point, each group chose making movies!  This class is in love with film-making, acting, and any kind of performance.  This meant I had to switch up the checkpoints.

Checkpoint #3 - Create an overview of your movie.  How many scenes?  What is the purpose of each scene?
Checkpoint #4 - Take notes on ideas for each scene
Checkpoint #5 - Decide on what roles everybody will do tomorrow
Checkpoint #6 - Make a list of the materials you will need
Checkpoint #7 - Switch with another group, share your idea, and take notes on their feedback

As you will notice, this movie will nto be scripted.  That was on purpose.  We have been doing improv all year, and I want them to make it up as they go.  They have an overview of the scene, a list of the characters, and a main idea.  The dialogue should take care of itself.

We will see....

Filming Day

I love the madness.  I love when I have no idea where a group students is.  I love when they mysteriously return with a fantastic piece of work in their hands.  For the better part of the alloted time, I was sitting alone in my class.  I ventured out a couple of times to look for groups, but I couldn't find them.  I found one group, helped a little, and then left.  For the most part, I was unnecessary.  They did it all themselves.

Just a random wondering; how does your school feel about kids walking around unsupervised doing work (play)?  I know not all schools would allow that.  I have never had a real problem with it here.  It is one of my favorite things to do.  Just let them go.  They also come back with gold.

These movies blew my mind.  The quality was so high.  They thought of angles.  They paid attention to ambient sound.  They planned background and foreground.  Their transitions were smoother.  They didn't cover up the microphone with their hands, or the camera with their thumbs.  Compared to the beginning of the year, it is just, clean.  Nice and clean.  Their skill as film-makers has grown so much.

Sorry, I have a policy not to show any of my students faces or names on this site, so I can't post a link to the films.  If you know me and would like to see it, please email.


Great Read Aloud: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Wow.  My students loved this book.

The plot is simple, easy to follow, and linear.  There is a big chunk of the book that is told via a narrated story (flashback), but other than that it unfolds sequentially.  Instead, of plotting the book, we decided that we would visualize the characters and their connections to each other.  The author went to great care to explain how everybody knew everybody else.

It was also great for making inferences.  There was a lot of intrigue in this book, and things left unsaid.  What is the Plan?  What does NIMH stand for?  What will happen to Mrs Frisby's house?  Who was Jonathan, and how did he die?  Who are these rats?  Where did they come from?  The author does a wonderful job of teasing you with pieces of the puzzle, one little piece at a time.  You may or may not find the answers to all of your questions.

I love reading a class a book that I have never read before, but I recognize that it can sometimes NOT work.  I have started books that I had not read before only to find they were boring, and the class was not into.  When I chose a book I have read, I usually know they will like it.

This was fun though.  Being on the edge with them, making inferences and charts, trying to guess what would happen next.

Resisting temptation to sneak a peak ahead....

The Island of Ablai (pt.12)

Pt. 1 Planning

Pt. 2 Creating the Environment

Pt. 3 Money Matters
Pt. 4 Negotiating the World
Pt. 5 Natural Resources and Manufacturing
Pt. 6 Profits and Expenses
Pt. 7 Setting the Price
Pt. 8 Profits and Growth
Pt. 9 Supply and Demand
Pt. 10 - The Role of the Buyer
Pt. 11 - Personal Inquiries - How does google make money?

Pt. 12 Tying it all Together

This week was about bringing ideas together and seeing where we are, and where we have come from.

A River Ran Wild
This is one of my favorite books by one of favorite authors. Lynne Cherry has written a ton of amazing books on ecology and the environment.  They are all picture books for kids.  This one is about environmental destruction and rebirth.  I didn't mention why I read it, just as a way to get us thinking, wondering if anybody would connect to it in the following activities.

Phrase Dissection
I have done this before with individual words, or two word phrases, but never with an entire sentence.  It was incredibly powerful.  The basic idea is this; take a sentence (in this case it was our Central Idea) and break it down piece by piece.  See what the individual elements mean on their own, and then how does that micro understanding make up the whole.

Once they brainstormed all the pieces, they started making connections between the different elements. They were very independent  I just walked around the room, strumming my guitar and occasionally saying interesting, or really?  It was interesting to see how they started making arrows from different words and connecting them together, bundling words into phrases and finding the entailments for the phrase.

Once we finished brainstorming, I asked each group to rewrite the central idea in a way that made sense to them.  Here is what they came up with:

- The business that we choose change how the society makes problems and solutions
- The choices we can can change our environment
- The business we choose changes how people interact, think, feel, do, imagine, and live

This zooming in and zooming out is a great metaphor for studying in general.  You can't understand a forest by studying a single tree, and you can't understand the forest without studying a tree.  We had a great discussion about this, and how this strategy helped them to understand the big picture.  One of our schools five stars is Responsibility, and as one boy said, "it all boils down to being responsible."

Very true.  But who should be responsible?

Sustainability Compass
This is the second time we have used this in this unit.  It is a nice way to get multiple perspectives, thinking about the concept of responsibility through the lens of Nature, Economy, Society, and Well-Being.  We did multiple layers on this.  First, the responsibility of companies.  Next, the responsibilities of consumers.

Some of these were hard for them.  Nature was easy, they get that.  But the other three are tangled up in each other.  It is hard, even for me, to tell the difference between something that is good for society and something that is good for individual well-being.  Health seemed to be one area we agree on.

Mission Statement/Pledge
A couple of weeks ago we group wrote a pledge to help the younger kids at recess.  We call it peace-builders.  Once I introduced the idea of writing a pledge for companies and consumers, they immediately connected it back to that and were off and running.

They really enjoyed doing these pledges aloud in front of the class.  Some flair involved!  It was a nice summation of the days activities.  The mission statements may seem basic and standard, but there was a lot of work that went into them.  A lot of thinking that ended at this point.

Hand it over to them
I had no idea where to take this.  My summative assessment (as always) will be a simple writing and reflecting activity.  

Before that, I will put it out to them to do something with this.  


The Island of Ablai (pt 11)

Pt. 1 Planning

Pt. 2 Creating the Environment
Pt. 3 Money Matters
Pt. 4 Negotiating the World
Pt. 5 Natural Resources and Manufacturing
Pt. 6 Profits and Expenses
Pt. 7 Setting the Price
Pt. 8 Profits and Growth
Pt. 9 Supply and Demand

Pt. 10 - The Role of the Buyer

Pt 11 Personal Inquiries - How does google make money?

We have been collecting some really great questions over the course of this unit.  With a couple days left in the 5th week of the unit, and the final weeks focus finally clear*, I thought it would be a good time to work on some personal inquiries and share what we have found.

To backtrack a little, this is something I have struggled with this year.  Half of the kids in my class need nothing more than a well phrased question and they are off.  They will research, synthesize, and present their findings in a creative way with little to no support.  The other half needs structure.  I feel that if I give too much structure, I shut down those that don't need the support, and I if I don't give enough, the other half is floating without a life jacket.

This time around, we spent some time on the carpet and helped everybody find their question.  We discussed what makes a good question, and what some of the pitfalls were with some of the suggestions.  Once we all had a good question, I explained what the goal was.  A Haiku Deck presentation.  I love Haiku Deck because the words are minimized, the images maximized and their discussion is what matters.  It forces them to be very aware of how they are presenting, and the words they are saying versus the words they are showing.

We got the iPads out and started researching.  It was clear that some of the students have grown tremendously in their search capacities.  They are learning to rephrase their search terms to get what they want (this is also related to the previous part of asking a good question).  The ones that never need support were off and running.

For the other half (and I am very fortunate to have a very small class size where I can do this) we all sat together on the carpet and just talked about what we were doing.  I asked them to narrate what they were doing and thinking.  I sat with them and modelled, and when they said something I could advice.

It sounded a bit like this, but with 5 voices layered on top of each other at the same time, and me having this same dialogue with 5 other people, all intermingled:

I am going to search google with the question "what is saving?".  The answers are mostly about saving lives, oh, here is one.  It is from the Wall Street Journal.
That might be too difficult to read, but give it a try.
Ok.  The first paragraph is way too hard, I'll try something else.
Maybe you could try a more specific Google search.
How about "How do I save money?"
For kids.

It was very beneficial for them to think out loud, though I admit it was hard for me to keep focused and listen to so many voices at once.  The great thing was, however, that as they were narrating, they solved many of their own problems.

Haiku Deck
Once they had their research done (they all have different styles, some write in point form, others in paragraph, others in words and pictures) we had to organize our slides.  Before they even open the app, I asked them to make a list of the slides they need, what each slide will say, and what picture they wanted for each.  I say wanted because often what is in your head and what you have to settle for are too completely different things, so an open disposition is required.

As for using the program, it is a snap, and they needed zero support.  Literally, zero.  Even the new student who has never used it before figured it out in minutes.  The Grade 1.2 class in our school used it recently and had little problems.  Very easy interface, very easy to learn, and the presentations do like beautiful.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Another key skill we targeted during this project was presenting with notes.  The students in my class have a tendency to just read their presentations, scripted.  I tried to offer some support by making little cue cards.  Each page for your presentation required one cue card.

Collective Assessment
While the presentations were going on, we had every audience member on an iPad, giving live feedback via the comments on their googlesite page.  This was so cool.  They were leaving really short, but powerful comments.  You didn't make eye contact with me, or, I like how you hardly looked at your notes.  When they finished their presentation, they had a chance to read through the comments and reflect on their performance.  The comments were very short, but with all of them taken in context, I think it was a powerful form of collective assessment.

GoogleDoc Vocabulary
As a final activity to finish this day off, they chose three new terms they learned in their research and put them up on shared key vocabulary googledoc.

This was a great day to end the week on.  They loved the topics they were looking into, and they tried really hard not to just read their presentations.  Huge growth from the beginning of the year.  In Asia, a good presentator is someone who reads their presentation very smoothly and clearly, and stays very still.  It is a different style to Western ways of engaging an audience.  I always try and be mindful of both ways, and point out to the kids that both ways are valid.  Today, however, we practiced this way.  Another day, we might practice another way.

Be aware of the road you are on, or you will find yourself lost.

*they are so curious about responsibility of companies, so we will focus on ethics, from the company and the consumer perspective; which is also a great way to recursively bring this back to our central idea


Fraction Flags

This is a great activity that I found in an academic article by Brent Davis.  It is very wide open, lets kids see different ways to represent and see fractions, and creates some great conversation.  The one thing I noticed, even though some groups were struggling, was how rich their mathematical language was.  The activity put them into a situation where they needed to use the language of fractions without even being aware of it.

1) Class work through
I put a flag on the board (picture the Italian flag but red on the sides and pink in the middle) to start the class and asked how much of the flag was red.  This was easy, they knew it was 2/3.  It was a visual experience that they understood simply.  I asked them if they could show me that answer mathematically.  We came up with 2 ways:

1 - 1/3 = 2/3
1/3 + 1/3 = 2/3

From this we gather that our whole (1) was the entire flag, and the pieces were the fractions.  It may seem like a small detail, but I would argue one of the major problems kids have with fractions is determining what the whole is.

Next, I mixed it up a little and put a green piece in the middle of one of the red sections.  Now, what fraction of the flag was red?

They got to work in groups.  Within a minute or so, somebody asked the key question, how big is the green piece?  I had left out this out because I wanted them to realize this piece of information was missing, and to ask for it.  Once they had this piece, a couple of groups came up with different solutions to the problem.

2/3 (red) - 1/8 (green) = 13/24 (or just over half)

1/3 - 1/8 = 5/24
5/24 + 1/3 = 13/24

A couple of the groups got caught in an assumption.  I see this so often with young kids and math.  They look at something, and it makes sense, so they keep going, never revisiting the assumption that everything else is based on.  One group saw the lime green piece and assumed that it was 1/3 of the red piece.  Therefore, there are 3 lime green pieces that could fit, so 3/8.  3/8 + 1/3 = 17/24.

The math was done right, but logic was sound, but the underlying assumption was incorrect.  The lime green piece is NOT 1/3 of the red.  1/9 would be.  Interesting how visuals can impact our assumption, because it does LOOK like 1/3.  The difference between 1/8 and 1/9 is small, but when you start calculating, it makes a big difference.

2) Solve your own
In groups, I gave them their own flag that I had constructed.

Their task was to show me what fraction each color was (including the pink in the background).  During this phase I heard some great conversation about fractions.  Some of them were hard.  They had difficulty with colors that were inside colors.  For example, not everybody realized that when finding the pink in the picture above, you don't need to subtract off the lime green or the purple inside, because those were inside the 1/3.

So, for the pink you are left with

1 - 1/3 - 2/12 = 1/2

An interesting representation of a half.

3) Make your own
The last step was to make your own.

However, you had to be able to solve it before you gave it to another group.  They came up with some interesting designs, but they stayed away from the hard bits, like when pieces are overlaid on top of each other.  One of the youngest students in the class came up with a way to lay a 1/4 piece on top of a 1/2 piece where 1/2 of the 1/4 was on the 1/2 and the other 1/2 was outside the 1/2.  Since 1/2 of 1/4 is 1/8, to find the blue section you would subtract 1/2 - 1/8, which means there is 3/8 left.  The other side would be the same, because 1/2 and 1/2 equal the whole.  Got it?  Without context that sentence is hard to understand, but when he explained it, in almost those exact terms, with the visual, it made complete sense.   Rich language.

One group got stuck on this:

How would you solve this?  If a 1/12 piece is laid over top of another 1/12 piece, how much is the total?  

They figured it out by measurement.  They measured the area of the whole piece of paper, then measured the area of the plus shape, then subtracted it off.  

I wonder if there is a way to do it through fractions?

In the original article, this activity was preceded by the kids making their own fraction kits with construction paper.  I wonder if this experience would have been embodied in them and helped them to understand the fractions more holistically?  The only reason they know that the purple pieces are 1/12 is that I told them.  Perhaps, if they had figured out how to get 1/12 from the original piece of paper, they would have had a better sense of the purple pieces 1/12ness?

Also, and I always struggle with this, did I do it backwards?  Should I have started with them constructing their own, and then built up to collective explanations?  I admit that I sometimes do it one way, and sometimes do it the other.  Start with the play and they turn it into the object.  Or start with the object and then play with it.  I don't know.

What would you have done differently?


The Roles and Principles of Creative Leadership

I have just finished Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson.  This is the third time I have read this book, but the first time I have read the second edition.  It is hard to consider this the same book as the first edition.  It was completely re-written and makes a much stronger case.

One of my favorite sections was the section in Chapter 9 on the Roles and Principles of Creative Leadership.  Though many of his ideas are directly taken from business and the corporate world, I see these principles as having great potential in schools.  They occasion a powerful environment for a culture of learning and personal growth.

Principle # 1 - Everyone has creative potential
A school should believe that every member of its community has the potential to be creative, and to contribute creative ideas to the whole.  Students, teachers, administrators  caretakers, parents, grandparents, coaches, etc.  Not only should they all feel that they have creative potential, they should be active participants in the generation of creative ideas.  They should all have a voice.

I really like the example given about switching roles within an organization.  What if a teacher was encouraged to be a caretaker for a day?  A secretary helped in the classroom?  A parent came in and answered phones?  Students ran the office?

Ideas that would cross pollinate and grow.  Empathy would build.  There would need to be a strong sense of trust and growth-mindedness among the community.

Principle # 2 - Innovation is the child of imagination
You can't be innovative if there is not a strong commitment to imagination.  A school should stoke the fire of everybody's imagination.  It should give a safe place for people to take chances and play with ideas.  There are no stupid right or wrong questions or answers.  Only potential.

Robinson talks about the Pixar University, a place where the employees can learn new skills.  A chef can take a course on film production.  What would this look like in schools?  Elementary teachers learning from high school teachers, and vice versa.  Everybody has their own interests, and they could share these interests with others.  It doesn't even have to be related to school (though isn't everything) just related to building a culture of learning and growth.

Principle # 3 - We can all learn to be more creative
Instead of taking a short term view of professional development that benefits the core subjects (reading skills, math workshops, ESL training), why not invest in courses in fostering creativity as a skill?  As Robinson argues, creativity is something we can better at with practice.  Creativity workshops, improv games, creative writing clubs among staff, these could all be used to help increase creative potential in a school, but also to value it.

Actively engaging staff (and students, parents, etc) in creative pursuits would benefit the entire community.  Wouldn't it great if the purpose of a meeting was to just build creativity?  Have a community improv evening, where all members of the school community get together and play improv games.  Why?  Because it values creativity and community.

Principle # 4 - Creativity thrives on diversity
Bringing together different people from different sections of the school would provide for a space that may allow creative ideas to emerge.  Brent Davis writes about a type of math PD called Concept Study.  In it, teachers from diverse backgrounds get together and deconstruct and construct their understanding of a mathematical concept, for example, multiplication.  This is done over a series of months, allowing time for ideas to grow, and be applied in the classrooms.  It is like a form of action research.  The strength of it lies in the diversity of the voices.  A kindergarden teacher may not teach multiplication, but they will see the seedlings of the concept being born.

Schools could easily create trans-disciplinary teams to look at a wide array of different concepts.  High school calculas teachers and grade 1 teachers doing a year long joint inquiry into assessment.  Parents, teachers and administrators meeting regularly to discuss the concept of student engagement.  Groups of older students and younger students getting together to inquire into learning spaces.  The possibilities are endless, and the potential limitless.

Principle # 5 - Creativity loves collaboration
"Cooperation only requires that the efforts of different people be synchronized in some way.  Collaboration involves people working together in a shared process in which their interaction affects the nature of the work and its outcomes."  A scientist and a artist are not collaborating to try and show the other person what their process is.  They are collaborating to find a new process that incorporates both of their methods into it.

For schools, it is about this new space.  What will happen if these groups of people get together and try and solve a task?  For true collaboration to happen, there needs to be an open space in which there is unknown, and in which something new will come out of it.  It the task is prescriptive, then you will get cooperation.  If the task is proscriptive, you will get emergence.  The team will operate more than the sum of its parts.

This is a hard one to give examples of.  It is built into the values of the community.  However, we can design our tasks better at schools to allow for new space.  Instead of asking a team to come up with a new form for field trips (a prescriptive task) have them create a document that will act as a philosophical guide to why field trips are beneficial (a proscriptive task).  Jobs and committees can focus on these open space tasks, while individuals or small groups can tackle the prescriptive tasks that don't require that new thinking.

Principle # 6 - Creativity takes time
Everybody knows about Googles 20% time.  Concept Study follows the same philosophy; it takes time to break down what we know and rebuild it.  Yet, time is one of those ideas that schools can have an iron grip on.  It is build into the language and structure of school.  Timetables.  Class schedules.  Lunch time.  Recess time.  Time to get to class.  We'll have time to do that later (no we won't).  It's time for music.  Meeting time.  Bathroom break time.  Bus time.  Home time.  How many times do you say the word time in a day?  (It would be interesting to count and report back here. I know I would have a high number....)

Of all the examples that Robinson gives in his book, and all the examples I have given here so far, the biggest argument against doing any of them is time.  The only response I have to this is; we give time to what we value, and we take time away from what we don't value.  What should a school value?

Principle # 7 - Creative Cultures are supple
I have had some of the greatest learning opportunities and profesional development from consultants who have come in from outside.  Truly transformative stuff.  But, how much do those one day workshops affect the culture of a school?  Are there systems in place to make sure that those ideas are being kept alive?  Is there constant sharing and reporting going on?  Does the professional development continue after the workshop leader leaves?

The goal is to make those ideas alive.  To have them live in the organization, and to continue to evolve and grow.  This may require a loosening of the hierarchy of schools.  Make a group of teachers in charge of Inquiry.  Have a group of students in charge of developing reading spaces in classrooms.  Train members of the community to communicate across the school.

Principle # 8 - Creative cultures are inquiring 
Never accept the status quo and always be curious about what is above the next horizon.  The world is changing so fast, and to continually think of how these changes affect the role of schooling is one of the key tasks to staying creative.  This principle speaks to me as the need to maintain an open and honest conversation.  To admit mistakes, and to not be afraid to go back and re-do something.  Admit what the school is doing poorly, and seek out advice and ideas on how to fix it.  This conversation should be going on on multiple levels; students, teachers, parents, administrators, all community members should be inquiring into the future, asking hard questions, and trying to figure out unknown answers.

Principle # 9 - Creative cultures need creative spaces
The physical environment says a lot about the philosophy of an organization.  Blur the boundaries between home, work, and play.  Make the classrooms comfortable.  The hallways inviting.  Have common areas where staff, students, and parents can just relax and talk.  Make the schedules more flexible and allow time for people to work when they are at their most creative (not the first thing in the morning).

Allow the students to personalize their spaces.  Yes, you can put contraints and rules.  It is ironic, but creativity needs rules.  It is within the rules and the structure that new forms emerge.  The constraints enable you to open new pathways.  Enabling constraints are about opening possibilities by limiting choices.Very simply put, too much choice is overwhelming. Too little choice is restrictive, squelching learning and creativity. 

It is nice metaphor for schools because you have to set the structure and thereby the culture.  But what happens within that space, you should let roam free, and have an open disposition towards new possibilities.