May 16, 2018
Last week, I had the privilege of keynoting the first annual Inspired Learning Convention in Mendon-Upton, MA. Whereas many schools and districts talk about the need for innovation, educators in Mendon-Upton use the concept of inspired learning. As I wrote in a post on EdTech Researcher, I like this definition as it places the focus on the learner and not the teachers, the environment, or the technology.
In inspired learning classrooms, students wrestle with messy problems that require convergent and divergent thinking as well as a deep understanding of a domain of knowledge. They view the experience as authentic in that it allows them to address issues related to the world beyond the classroom and make connections beyond individual lessons or tools. Further, instead of working in isolation, students navigate this complexity as part of a learning community that values their skills and talents. Finally, students own their identities as learners, making the process a personal (vs. personalized) experience.
When discussing the keynote with the organizers of the convention, they made three requests.
- Model the tenets of inspired learning.
- Focus more on the how than the why.
- Encourage people to form a community.
In the weeks leading up to the convention, I wrestled with these requests. However, this video from Henry Jenkins sparked an idea. He makes a reference to Dumbledore’s Army from Harry Potter and raises the question of what students can truly accomplish when they have an opportunity to engage in a more participatory culture. In a similar vein, consider what educators might accomplish when they form a community of change agents.
Every Great Rebellion Begins with a Band of Rebels
Thanks to this spark of inspiration from Jenkins, I decided to use the theme of rebellion from Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games and then leverage Jean Paul Gee’s framework for the design of learning experiences. According to Gee, great learning experiences should demonstrate four key tenets: a clearly articulated goal, meaningful action on the part of the learner, someone to manage the attention of the learner so that they notice the important parts, and an overall good design. You can watch the video below.
I decided to take a more hands-on approach to the keynote and used a See-Think-Wonder visible thinking routine to structure an active exploration of three classroom examples.
- Thinking Deep – Behind the Scenes – Danger of a Single Story – elementary example from Billy Corcoran and Mindy Ahrens at Design39 in San Diego, CA
- Building Content Knowledge: Collaborate and Curate – middle school example showcasing the learning farm model with Mark Engstrom and described by Silvia Tolisano.
- Sara Fjell, Station Rotation Model – high school example from Bellevue, NE featuring educator Sara Fjell with notes provided by Ann Feldmann.