A few years ago I was lucky enough to be able to visit High Tech High as we were working towards a PBL model for our school. We are now in the transition process and when looking for a blank notebook to write down some ideas I came across an old notepad that had some notes from this visit. It is interesting to read my notes and compare to where we are and where I am as an educator today.
Here are my notes with current thoughts woven in
1. Atmosphere - how you do you adjust climate of regular building into the climate of project based?
This very question is something we are trying to overcome. We cannot let the physical structure of a building limit us, but at the same time it can be very limiting. It starts with the atmosphere we develop as teachers. How can we take our rooms and what we do have and begin to cultivate a new atmosphere. Part of this will come when teachers continue to develop their ideas and projects. It takes time. It is much like the planting of a seed. We have to get our feet a bit before we dive in. For a plant it starts very small. We don't always see the growth, but overtime we will have a thing of beauty.
2. Curriculum not an object, it flows!
How do we step away from worrying about covering "content" and shift more into covering "learning"? Once again I see many schools do a patchwork system of operations trying to blend old school models with new ideas. It does not work. It is time to hit the refresh button on how schools are structured. Anyone else tired of a bell that determines everything?
3. Don't care about grades, care about learning - This is so important. I know the big issue here is assessment and monitoring of progress to put points in a gradebook or crank out standardized scores. The reason students cannot think on their own or even identify their pathways is because everything is spoon fed to them in little morsels that it is almost offensive to those that can think.
4. Do we assess learning or do we assess obedience? I think you are already know the answer to this question. Still a major roadblock in most classrooms because learning is messy and not always easily identified.
5. If you don't want to keep it or they don't want to keep it, then it is not worth it! If they are not personally invested in the material, then the learning won't stick. Teachers need to share their passion and bring students along on the journey of learning and discovery. We can't save every child, but it is sure worth the effort to try.