Thursday, June 18, 2015

ACT Achiever

Another student makes it to the 27 Up Club. Congratulations!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Student Agency

I am officially back in the office for the first day since returning from the Google Apps for Education conference in Homer’s Glen, Illinois. It was a great conference that focused on student achievement and student engagement enhanced by technology, specifically Google Apps and other related apps and add ons. It was a great conference and I felt privileged to attend.

One idea that kept popping up throughout the conference was the idea of student agency. There were several definitions for student agency given at the conference, but here is my attempt at one: Student Agency is when we provide opportunity for students to think, question, and create into deeper problems and deeper learning, choosing a path driven by their passion. Just as adults have hobbies (hunting, fishing, woodworking, sewing, golfing, etc.) wherein they strive to get better and enjoy themselves, students should have the time and resources to pursue their passions in education. Corollaries to this idea pertain to student voice, student choice, student-centered learning, and student engagement. The central idea to all of this is the student.

Much of the conversation around student agency revolves around the concept of “Genius Hour,” “20% Time,” or passion driven learning. Just as Google at one time allowed employees 20% of their time to create and follow a passion of their own within the company, all of these ideas concern giving students the time to develop themselves with what I call “structured-unstructured time.” This is where we allow students a certain amount of time to think and create and research (structured) a subject, problem, passion of their own (unstructured) wherein they develop themselves, their ideas, and their ability to independently grow.

How can this be done in a small high school with limited staff, limited budget, limited space, and limited (no) corporate partners? How can this be done and we still proficiently address the core subjects? How do we motivate students enough to instill within them a desire to have a passion and then to actually follow it with hard work? (That truly is a subject worthy of lots of thought.) I don’t fully know the answer to these questions yet, but I do see possibilities. I see easily next year a handful of students given the opportunity to take on a problem or a passion. I can see a handful of students given a period a day to become “geniuses,” to follow their educational passions, to solve problems, to find good questions and good solutions. And maybe if these handful of students can see this in themselves, and maybe if others in the building, both teachers and other students, can see them see this in themselves, then perhaps we can see a way for all students to gain greater student agency.

Lots to think about.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summer Fun/Summer Growth

So, I am halfway through the EdTech Team Illinois Summit and my mind is bursting with questions, thoughts, and hopes for Mountainburg High School. I see so many good practices in other schools, practices that could augment the great things happening at MHS.

Here are some things on my mind:
  • How do we increase student engagement and ownership in Mountainburg High School?
  • How do we help our students gain a greater vision of the world around them and the world within them?
  • How can we incorporate more individual, student chosen learning options that are meaningful and productive?
  • How can we create a culture that guides student thought and motivation?
  • As we transition to a 1:1 environment, how do we stay focused on the most important “1” in the equation, which is the student?
  • I love this quote: “Chance favors the connected mind.” How do we help students develop a connected mind, one that sees connections between disciplines, relationships, conversations, and themselves?
  • Another great quote “Directions are instructions given to explain how. Direction is a vision offered to explain why.” --Simon Sinek   How can we create a culture that is not only effective at giving good directions and teaching students to follow them, but also a culture that helps students gain direction that will guide their lives and careers?
  • A basic but important question: Why is 1:1 important for us to do at Mountainburg High School? What we do is important. How we do this is important. But most important is the why.

How would these ideas fit at our school? How would they need to be modified? What else could we do to help promote student engagement and achievement? Lots of thought-provoking conversations are going on.

I look forward to sharing these thoughts with teachers and with students as we enter into the 2015-2016 school year.