Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Flying home from San Diego thinking about Project Based Learning

I am sitting on a plane heading back to Iowa from San Diego trying to process all I have been exposed to the last few days on my visit to High Tech High. I have a thousand thoughts swirling in my head(pretty typical, but these thoughts are moving at light speed), but it all comes down to one central thought....

It is time to revamp education and revamp how we teach.

Our school is in need of change. We are at a place where it is time to let our guard down and get with the times. We need a change, not a patch in the many things currently going in the wrong direction, but a complete overhaul. Let me provide an analogy. We have been driving this once brand new car for too long and now the transmission is going. There are some great deals on a new vehicle and it is time to invest. It is time to park our current way of teaching, step out and jump into the new vehicle. Yes, the cost up front and the learning curve of the new vehicle is always tricky, but over time the investment is worth it as you realize how much times have changed. My Ford Escape still has a tape deck where cars now come equiped with 15 ambient light choices and GPS voices named Betty helping you find your destination.


Project based learning is fresh, applicable, and relevant to the lives of the kids. I have more excitement now for teaching than ever before. I am more excited than my first day of teaching. My passion for teaching has doubled and I was not sure that was possible.

There are going to be hurdles, but we will adapt and navigate right over them. While we teach project based learning we will be solving the projects of implementation as well. Some teachers will be cautious about being on board. They will have to make a decision. I was thinking about why they would not be on board and decided it comes down to a few key points

- Reason #1: Lack of Understanding and Knowledge

They are just not well enough informed to truly understand the system. They don't quite know how it works and how to go about implementation.This is okay and it is our jobs to help them learn.

-Reason #2: Self Realization - They know that they currently don't do a good job teaching and this new model of teaching will highlight their inadequacies. Right now they  can hide behind the curtain of a system that really does not work. They won't be able to hide with this system

-Reason #3: Stuck in Neutral - They realize that they don't know any other way to teach. For some teachers they do a good job how they teach now, but need to realize they can do better. For some teachers, it is time to realize that maybe you are just not cut out for teaching and maybe a new job is in store. Sometimes teachers are in the middle. Sometimes teachers teach a certain way and feel stuck. Sometimes teachers  are not adaptable or willing to change or perhaps just flat out don't know how. This is sad and something that needs to be addressed. Think about it.....students have a limited amount of time for educators to help them pursue passions and learn to develop skills for the real world. Being stuck with a bad teacher for one year of education takes away crucial time for students to progress and prep for their future. When you think about it that way it really makes it more of an eye opener.

Project based learning is exciting. Yes, I realize there are pros and cons to everything, but when done correctly it is a system that replicates life and employment. I will post later about my impressions of the school, but just needed to get some ideas down.

I am coming back to Iowa invigorated. I keep thinking about helping getting other staff members on board. I keep working out my ideas for a project and during this 2.5 hour flight I wrote up two projects that are ready for project tuning.

In my two days at High Tech High 8 I gained more valuable ideas, strategies, and insights than everything combined in my last 8 years in education.

My Getting It Done! Mantra is moving over to education. I cannot wait to get to my classroom and get started.

Now, if only I could solve the problem of my knees killing me in this tiny seat not designed for a 6"4' man I would be very happy.
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