I have been reading many plans for summer projects from my Feedly list. Some great inquiries happening over the summer months. I love the self directed PD, and the time for personal inquiry. Like 20% time, or Genius Hour, or I-Time, but an entire summer of it.
As for me, I will be taking the opposite approach this summer. I will be disconnecting. No internet and no school. Not until August (well, I will occasionally check my email). After finishing my M.Ed (this friday), I need time away from personal inquiry and writing. I need to let it all sink in. The best way to do that, in my experience, is to put it out of mind. Sure, it will sneak in there every now and again. I will get ideas, and I will jot them down. But, I hope to have the strength to let them go, and to just enjoy the moment as they happen. If they are great ideas, they will return to me when I need them.
This summer I plan to:
Read nothing but fiction and poetry.
Write nothing but fictional stories and poems.
Watch and make films.
Trip to the park.
Climb a tree.
Hike and walk.
Enjoy each moment.
It is the last one that I am most hopeful for, and where I see the most potential for my practice. I hope to be able to learn to enjoy the moment, to live in the experience more deeply, with stronger connections. Zen would be the word I am looking for, whatever that means.
As summer approaches, this will probably wander from the minds of most (myself included, my canoe calls me) so I will try to summarize. This is the plan to date from the input of many, and it is completely open so please make suggestions. I am positive it will change as we work out the bugs and try and find something that works for most.
#pypchat europe will be fortnightly on Thursday evenings, at 9pm (Central European Time)
It will start on September 5th or 12th
It will be on the same week as #pypchat asia/oceania
It will use the same wiki, the same topics, and the same questions
Moderators will be from the European region (thanks to all those who have volunteered, and if you want to volunteer, please contact me)
Why does writing fiction slowly start to disappear in schools? It starts out like wildfire in the early years, and then it starts to fade around middle school. The creative act of writing, the contours and swerves of storytelling, are replaced with a linear, rigid model of logic. State your hypothesis, introduce your main points, back up with....
The rational scientific style of writing wins out in the end. Why? Perhaps because that is what we assess, and that is what test-markers are looking for. Perhaps because our curriculum is structured to push students into academia, as that is seen as the holy grail of education (it is not). Perhaps because we see fiction as something that only professional authors do, and you're not going to be a professional author, so lets teach you something more useful.
Here are some statements that have no scientific backing, but I know to be true in my heart:
- writing fiction makes your non-fiction writing more engaging, easier to follow, and quite frankly, more interesting
- writing fiction is good for creative problem solving, as you need to write your way out of trouble
- writing fiction provides a different lens to view the world, seeing beauty in the simple acts of life, like pouring water into a glass and watching the it toss and crash against the side of the cup
- writing fiction reduces stress
- writing fiction opens a space for imaginative day-dreaming, which leads to innovation
- writing fiction is fun
- writing fiction encourages risk taking and resilience
- writing fiction leads to a deeper appreciation of books, both fiction and non-fiction
John is sitting at his table and working on a fractions problem. He is trying to determine how to cut a submarine sandwich fairly so everybody gets an equal piece. He gets stumped on how to cut a ⅓ piece into fourths. Does he multiply ⅓ by ¼, or does he divide? Puzzled, John asks his neighbor. The neighbor isn’t sure either. One person at the table thinks it might be multiplication, but they are not sure. The question is posed to a different table. This table is also unsure, so the question travels in two directions; left to yet another table, and right to the final table. Quickly, only a couple of seconds have elapsed since John made his question audible, the entire class, all four tables, are thinking about the problem. There are several theories, but nobody knows the answer. I happen to be listening at the time, and I am able to orient the classes attention and ask questions that will challenge their theories and lead us closer to the desired answer.
This type of situation happens all the time in a classroom. Information spreads along informal pathways, until it reaches the entire collective. The very act of John posing this question forces every student’s attention onto this problem. It is impossible to not think about it. Our imagination is a cognitive mechanism that happens whether we want it to or not.
A couple of things are very interesting about this scenario. First, John asked the neighbor. He did not put his hand up and ask the teacher first. This is because he knows the teacher will prompt him to ask his neighbor. This is deliberate design. I am attempting to create a decentralized, or distributed network of intelligence in the classroom.
One of the purposes of teaching, as I see it, is to help kids learn to orient themselves in knowledge networks. Networks are not a strange concept for children nowadays. They get it. The technology they grow up with embodies this concept in its interface and functionality. This generation interacts with decentralized networks everywhere they go, but school still clings to the centralized way.
Ironically, nobody in the decentralized network of my class knew the answer, so the entire class then turned to the centralized hub. Me. When I said earlier that I did not want a centralized environment in my class, I was not suggesting that a centralized network is evil. On the contrary, it is incredibly useful, and teachers should use it when it is appropriate. When is a hard question to answer. I am still figuring that bit out. When to be centralized and when to be decentralized?
What I do not want, is the centralized hub to be the default network. As a teacher, I can now challenge and perturb and help the class figure out how this problem works. This is me, standing at the front, maybe in front of a whiteboard with a marker, asking questions and prompting them in the right direction.
I can also orient attention to the fact that the classroom collective tried to help, but now the class is falling back to the more robust node in the network. I can help them be aware of networks. This is another instantiation of teaching as consciousness of the class. I didn't set up the scenario to come to me, that is just how it worked out, and I reacted to it. Not only orienting attention to the content that is being discussed, but orienting attention to how the collective is learning and operating.