Thursday, July 31, 2014

Are These Really "Atrocities"?

Chris Jordan is a photographer and artist making bold statements with images.

At about the 7 minute 30 second mark he calls the statistics surrounding prescription drug consumption, imprisonment, and breast augmentation surgeries "atrocities" in our culture. Is he right?  Since I teach teenage girls and see their daily struggles (not to mention that I vividly remember my own), the stats on breast augmentation surgeries for women under the age of 21, and given as a gift for high school graduation.... well, I'm not sure what to say.

Once we have gotten past our first five days and students have set up their initial tech, critical research, and analysis skills; I'd really love to dive into history with these images of today's statistics.  The lesson is that we have arrived at this place because of our history.  My job is to teach kids the history and to help them understand how it affected the present.  Their job is to help create change that will move us in a positive direction.  The people who came before us were not bad, but they were not aware the way we are.

School is meant to create better people who can think about the world's problems in new ways. We educators should not be indoctrinating a method of thinking. We should be inviting kids to create new ways of thinking.  I saw this last week on the iSchool Initiative tour bus and it really sets the mission of modern education:

How do we help our children understand that we and they are tasked with shifting our culture?  How do we get them to think in terms of "better" instead of "more"?

For more of Jordan's powerful work please visit his blog at Running the Numbers and Running the Numbers IIExperience the images. Read the corresponding statistic and click to see the picture zoom in or out to give you a true sense of the numbers.

Note: This post was inspired by coursework from Primary Source, Inc.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Leaders Communicate, Plan, and Act Together

During our final day of the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Student Leadership Institute, BOLT students learned about the importance of communication, planning, and working with others. A leader does not have to be the smartest person in the room, just the person that can recognize others' talents and figure out how those talents will help everyone reach their goals.

On Thursday afternoon one of our last activities, facilitated by Christian Huizenga, was aimed at teaching the kids to communicate and plan before attacking a problem.  Their hands were tied together with yarn and then intertwined with someone else. They had to find a way out.

We kicked off Friday morning with MouseQuest in Epcot.  Continuing the theme of thinking and acting together, students worked in groups of 6-7 to solve clues, find answers, complete tasks, and answer challenges all morning. They had to take on roles within their groups based on their strengths.

We celebrated with a group picture in front of Spaceship Earth.
After returning to the Grand Floridian Conference Center the kids got a chance to learn about the way technology can make communication and problem-solving as a group even better through the iSchool Initiative and their tour bus on the #DLRTour.  Our hope is that students will bring these ideas back home and use the power of the mobile devices they already own in school to amplify their academic experiences.

BOLT Middle School Facilitators Johnny Calder & Jason Fulmer on the iSchool bus.

Finally, Friday afternoon closed with our BOLT student leaders learning from the former Commander in Chief what being a leader is all about.

President Bush's message to the kids about being true to themselves and to the people who love them will certainly serve them well as they embark on their leadership journeys after returning home from BOLT in Disney World.  (To read more about our guest, click here!) He even took the time for group and individual pictures.

After a brief awards ceremony our time with the future leaders of BOLT was over. I'm looking forward to hearing from all of them about how they are deploying their visions of leadership in their schools, churches, and communities and I hope to see many of them again next year in Disney World at the 2015 BRSOE Summer Leadership Institute.  Amazingly, I've already heard from one student who conquered a fear she's had for a while before she event left Walt Disney World. I know she, and all of the other students I worked with this week, are destined for greatness!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Student Leaders & the American Spirit

Our BOLT student leaders embarked on a new adventure with the YES program in the Magic Kingdom this morning.  They visited the Hall of Presidents and learned about how leaders have helped shaped the American Spirit.  Four core sources of the American Spirit were the focus:
  • optimism
  • determination
  • rugged individualism
  • courage
After a day full of investigations, brainstorming, and creating, I put together this video about their latest ideas of leadership.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kids Get Perspective on Leadership

Our first full day of the Blue Ribbon BOLT program was all about perspective.  We asked students to consider how people of differing perspectives might look as community/global issues.

Example 1: Scientists

We started the day with the Disney YES Properties of Motion program in the Magic Kingdom.  Kids learned about how gravity, inertia, centripetal force, hydraulics, and pneumonics all play a role in what make rides and roller coasters fun.
Disney YES guide Rick has the kids help him demonstrate pneumonic valves.
We got to ride Space Mountain twice before the park even opened to the public to learn about potential and kinetic energy.  Then we check out Buzz Lightyear to learn about how hydraulic valves create a different effect in moving attractions than pneumonic valves.
The kids pose with Zerg after the Buzz Lightyear ride.
Finally, they rode Thunder Mountain to feel centripetal force around those tight curves and while being thrown up and down. Throughout the process, Disney YES professional Rick reminded the kids that scientists use the scientific method to:

  • Observe
  • Hypothesize
  • Experiment
  • Record
  • Conclude
After making our way through Magic Kingdon, we carried that through to our BOLT session in the afternoon.

Example 2: BOLT

Our session started with the kids brainstorming something they could improve in their school, church, or community when they go home after this amazing week. Then we talked about the importance of learning about the issue before coming up with a solution. Just like the scientists who observe before they hypothesize, leaders should learn all the facts before proposing a solution.
Source: Oxfam
The facilitators and I took on the roles of various groups in students' communities who they could learn from and who might be able to offer them help in tie future.


After a great day of roller coaster learning and planning for real life back home, the kids are ready for more tomorrow! Check back for the details and their words on leadership.
Meeting the Fire Chief on Main Street.

They each got to sound the siren!
See ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kids Voice Their Thoughts on Leadership

I have the privilege of working with 24 young leaders this week in Walt Disney World as part of the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Student Leadership Institute.  These leaders are from Alabama, Illinois, North Carolina, and many other states all over the country.  I have no doubt that, with their combined talents, they will create something powerful to bring home to their communities.

As part of our short kick-off session this evening each young leader defined what the word leadership means to him/her.

The result is this powerful podcast.

Click that link, download from Google, listen, and have hope for our future when these young leaders are taking action and making positive change.

I encourage you to leave comments below for them and check back here each evening this week for more of their phenomenal work!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The More I Let Go, the More I Get Back

Five of my freshmen and sophomores chose to spend their third day of summer break in school with me.

It wasn't our school, but it was a high school.
They weren't the students, they were the teachers.

We collaborated in person and from home on a Google Doc to design an experiential workshop for the CPS Educational Excellence Institute in which teachers heard why they preferred to learn and produce unique media based projects with their mobile devices.  On the right side of the screenshot of our initial brainstorm you can see that all of us were editing and creating on the same document.  I found that the more I let them drive the content, the more detailed the list became.

The result was this presentation, which we also created collaboratively using Google Drive.
Click here to see the whole presentation!

During the actual event, in addition to explaining the reasons they liked a paperless history class this year and demonstrating some of their favorite tools, they also interacted with attendees via backchannel.  Click here to check out the TodaysMeet. Here's a taste:

I bet you can't definitively decide exactly which backchannel participants are the teenagers and which are the professional educators. I wish I had taken pictures of them.  They were amazing.  Once I just got out of their way, the session became more engaging and interesting for everyone in the room.

This is only my third time presenting alongside my students.  (The first was in December 2013 and the second was in April 2014.)  Each time it has been a different group of students so that as many of them as possible can have a voice in education policy. Each time I have let go a bit more and given the students a higher level of control over how they want to structure their message and deliver it.  The presentations have become less about my classroom and more about their learning.

As I attend more conferences this summer I've noticed many administrators, "thought leaders", and teachers talking about putting students first, but there are no students present.  If students are really the number one consideration, shouldn't their perspective be more at the forefront of education conferences?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Ultimate Web

A web is made up of interconnected strands. The strands are somewhat strong on their own, but together they are capable of much more. For example, if one strand breaks, the others can bear the extra stress for a while until it is repaired. If several strands are broken, though, the entire web is at risk.

Source: geograph

This giant rock, Earth, and all the people sitting on it make up the ultimate web.  Although the Internet, the other "web", is a big part of what connects us, it is really just a part of the greater global web. Other strands that make up our global web include food supply, environmental health, trade and economics, and energy. In order for our global web to remain strong, all people on Earth need access to all of these things and more.
Source: Global Energy Network Institute
If our students are to grow into adults who can understand and contribute to the strength of the global web, we must be sure that they are global citizens who have a firm grasp of the concept of the interconnectedness of the web.

Global Citizenship  

A global citizen has the following qualities:
  • an understanding of basic definitions of all elements that make up the global web (i.e. food supply, energy, environmental health, communication, transportation, etc.);
  • the ability to explain how each of the elements influences the others;
  • the desire to learn about and gain an appreciation for cultures, religions, traditions, and languages that are unfamiliar;
  • the perseverance needed to make meaningful change that starts small but has the potential to grow into large scale systems that are better than the ones currently in place.
This video from The Story of Stuff really inspired me to craft my definition of global citizenship in this way.

I like how The Story of Stuff makes a distinction between "more" and "better". This is an important lesson that we need to teach our children and to remind ourselves about now and then.

Global Interconnectedness

Since global citizens are aware of the web and all its elements, they are able to see the connections and interdependence that is a part of this "Ultimate Web".  This interconnectedness has both benefits and drawbacks.

The greatest opportunity this presents is quick, even instant, access to information. There are so many ways for a person to gain an education as a result of the interconnected web.  This education can be formal and traditional in a classroom while forming relationships with classmates and teachers in a brick and mortar school. At the same time, it is supplemented with more information relationships created through social networks and media.  We are educated about causes and have the opportunity to donate to them through websites like GoFundMe. At the same time, we are able to check for the legitimacy of these causes and other instantly available information through resources like FactCheck and Snopes.  The most notable recent example of instant information making a real impact is the social media grassroots effort that caused the Arab Spring to bubble over starting in 2011.  I know that my education and world view is more global than my parents' generation, and I often wonder if man-made political borders will hold much meaning at all to my own children as they navigate toward adulthood.

The greatest obstacle we have to overcome in this interconnected world is grappling with the reality that we have very little privacy and that any decision we make about our own lives will have an impact on many others. We can no longer make arguments like "it's my life" and "it's my body" when making big life-changing choices.  I'm not saying that we have lost the right to free choice and free will.  I'm just saying that our decisions have a broader impact than just ourselves and our families. As OxFam suggests, we should go through at least a basic 3 step process in the graphic below since our connections with the global community, that "Ultimate Web" will be affected.  This is true of governments, corporations, international treaty organizations, and any other group with power.
Source: OxFam

Educator Responsibility

We, the educators, need to teach our students about the "Ultimate Web" and all of the elements that make it up. A great way to illustrate this is through some of the free lessons available at Facing the Future.  If you scroll down to the Free Previews area, my favorite is Lesson 4: Making Global Connections.

Then we need to teach them about all of the potential perspectives on each element. Depending on one's life experience, economic standing, access to resources, and social mindset a particular global issue might take on a different meaning.  A very simple activity to help children understand the concept of perspective from the Ohio Department of Education can be found at CRETE Conflict Resolution Education. The activity is quick and effective - a great ice breaker.

The next step is to encourage them to work through that 3 step process from OxFam so that they can be true global citizens with the motivation to create change.  Among the many rich resources from the Primary Source Global Education Online Resource Guide, my favorite for promoting student action is YouThink!. It is a blog where young activists can share their ideas and experiences as change-makers.  Rather than pushing our students toward causes that we are passionate about, which has a certain value, these blog entries show how real people like our students took an idea and turned it into action. My hope would be to inspire my students to develop their own passions and turn them into actions.

If we want our students to make positive change in a world that is really the "Ultimate Web", we need to teach them what the web is made of, how their decisions have an impact on the integrity of the web, and what they can do to make it stronger.

Note: This post was inspired by coursework from Primary Source, Inc.