February 5, 2014

What Does the Classroom of the Future Look Like? with Douglas Kiang – from Beth Holland
Douglas begins by introducing himself and asking the question: What does the classroom of the future look like? Right now, people talk about the 21st century classroom, but we’re already here! We need instead to reexamine the present in order to envision the future. Douglas begins by taking a look at the past and showing his 2nd grade yearbook. Through his illustrations, we realize that the kids had accurately predicted the future: a Hawaiian president, Skype, iPads, robot basketball (school robotics tournaments). Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 9.23.13 AM In the future, the classroom of the future emphasizes curriculum, classrooms, and community.

Curriculum needs to be flexible and adaptive. How do you learn something new?

As an example, Douglas wanted to teach his son to shave. However, when he spoke to his son, he discovered that his son had already learned via YouTube. While Douglas said he had missed as a parent, he had succeeded as a teacher. Similarly, when his daughter wanted to be a princess for Halloween, she was able to look online, find directions, and then make her own costume. There’s a whole Maker Movement where not only are kids making, but they are sharing. Look at DIY.org to get the directions, motivation, and sharing possibilities to make their own projects. There’s also an app. What’s great is that the app page encourages students to “be awesome.” Through sharing, an entire community evolves. Kids are sharing, communicating, iterating, and learning. What’s really nice is that most of the things that involve learning don’t involve technology. The technology is for sharing, but not necessarily about making. The Maker Credo – if you can’t open it, you don’t own it. This ties to curriculum. Is it a black box or do students feel like they can get under the hood and tinker, modify, add to, and change. By making your curriculum open, kids can start to take ownership of their learning. Douglas says that our job as educators is to give students a framework, a map, based on a story that he told about some soldiers lost in the Pyrenees. They came out alive and said that it’s because they had a map.
  1. The Map gave them confidence
  2. The Map gave them impetus to get moving
  3. The Map reoriented them
Kids need to have the direction, the confidence, and the motivation to learn. That’s our role as teachers in the classroom of the future. To be able to give kids the framework to learn, to give them a map, Douglas started using the Challenge Based model. When you make something yourself, you have ownership. Douglas asks how many classes provide a framework but then leave it open for kids to improvise. To begin, Douglas asked, “what if my course ran like a startup company?”  He started with meetings where students could share, collaborate, talk, etc. and not do their work. Douglas said that the technology is for taking the learning outside of the classroom, but the class time was for face-to-face interaction: collaborating, communicating, sharing – like business. Another thing that Douglas did was to restructure his syllabus to be a gant chart rather than a list. This way, he could encourage students to map their learning rather than try to check things off. As a teacher, you have to think creating chefs vs  cooks. A cook cranks out a recipe. A chef creates an experience. What do you want your students to become? Someone who can create or someone who just executes. Big picture: you train cooks and create chefs. While you may need to start by learning to cook (or using a textbook), the goal is to become a chef. The curriculum goal is to give kids the skills to then create something new. Douglas talks about how his coding class validates and celebrates the broader community by collaborating with others. Students forge partnerships with experts and take on “clients” to teach them how to meet specific needs. In the next example, Douglas challenged them to get the entire class to master the AP Science Java Set. He allowed them to self-organize, generate a set of questions, share information, etc. They chose Reddit as a platform for sharing. As a result, students collaborated more, competed less, and marginalized the importance of the actual AP Exam. It did turn into a bit of a crisis of faith because the skills required to succeed as an actual programmer didn’t mesh with the skills of the exam. Students saw learning as more important than an arbitrary exam.
The Curriculum of the Future according to Douglas Kiang
The Curriculum of the Future according to Douglas Kiang
Douglas then showed a video that asked students where they felt most creative. Answers included the ceramics studio, kayak, bedroom, and outside. Some major themes that came up included art and the ability to “let minds wander.” With the curriculum of the future, students need that ability to have the space to be creative. None of the kids mentioned libraries, classrooms, or traditional learning spaces. Technology is changing the learning space and so the ways in which we teach needs to change. The schools of the future need to extend the learning outside of the classroom. How we interact with students is what needs to change. Most of the feedback that Douglas now provides to his students is short, text-based, and immediate rather than scheduled meetings or larger course corrections.
Lessons Learned from Google
To get some ideas, Douglas took a tour of Google. In all spaces, there are fun and creative spaces. There’s a lack of top-down management, and no sense of central management. Employees are empowered to just create things – like community gardens. There’s food everywhere at Google, and everything is color coded by level of “healthiness.” There’s a sense of “incongruous juxtaposition of things” across the campus like a dinosaur skeleton on a volleyball court. There are examples of art everywhere – which raises the question of what is art’s role in the learning environment. Google newsletters are posted everywhere – like the men’s restroom – to just post information everywhere to empower people who want to share. Their help-desk waiting area has a serious of round tables – essentially encouraging spontaneous collaboration around creative things. This way, waiting isn’t wasted time.
Lessons from other schools
The Urban school has empowered students to have their own voice and put it up visually. They have created a sense of community that empowers students. At Nueva school, students can write poetry on the walls everywhere to let them communicate their ideas. At Punahou, they are looking at their concept of the library to reinvent it as a learning commons. The guiding principles of it are purpose, relationship & roles, and space. So Douglas challenged his students to design a learning commons. He asked them to create a space around what they do and how they learn. They created this in Minecraft – which they used as a 3D sketchpad. Every group had commonalities.
  • Lots of group workrooms emerged
  • Large arts studio, recording rooms, galleries, etc.
  • Dream Area – a place where students can go take naps.
  • Outdoor space and elements of the environment
Classrooms of the future empower individual voices, bring the outside in, and create spaces for play.

Community of the Future

The community is more than just the physical interaction but also the virtual. Sometimes, as a teacher, it’s important to structure activities to allow students to interact. If the students don’t know each other, then they don’t trust each other. The community is the sum of all the interactions in your classroom. If the interactions are primarily transactional connections between student and teacher, then there isn’t a community. Douglas asks his students, what’s the fairest way to share an orange? Initial reaction is to cut it in half. However, by asking what you really need from the orange, then you may find that one person needs peel and another needs juice. It’s about figuring out how to create shared value rather than a divided experience. The goal is to build a community that reinforces trust each other and reward pro-social behavior. With community, students can build whatever they want based on their value system and that fits with the broader context. In the community of the future, it’s important to have safe spaces for failure, shared value, and a spot where students own their successes. Douglas wrapped up his talk with the story of the Stone Soup. With this as a metaphor for teachers looking at the changing classroom, our job isn’t to bring all of the ingredients but to bring the stone and the environment for the students to come and share. Douglas challenges all of us to be at the heart of the classroom of the future, empowering individuals, building community, providing the map, teaching them to build shared value. If we can do that, then the classroom of the future can be the classroom of the present. View all of the videos and presentation materials from Douglas’ session.