Flame Throwing Friday

You don’t need to pack your Prius and drive around the country to fan brushfires of school innovation.  Here was my Friday, and I never left the window seat. Click on a few of these links and you will be as excited about the future of education in America as I am!

First Tweet of the day was from Brett Jacobsen, Head at Mt. Vernon Presbyterian who had just published his weekly podcast of our interview several weeks ago.  Brett runs a big school but is making time every week to connect all the rest of us via these timely and thoughtful podcasts.  Follow him.

Doug Berman, a visionary and award-winning teacher from Porter Gaud shot me a link to the video of students designing their own school at Monument Mountain Regional High in Massachusetts.  Many of you have already seen this; if you haven’t, you should.  Doug said they are living exactly what I had written in The Falconer a number of years ago, and he is spot on.  Not convinced? Have you watched the $1 million TED talk by Sugata Mitra?  If you are an educator and are not at least pondering the implications of this work, you’re eyes are glued to the rear view mirror.

Fired off a batch of Tweets (and watched the re-Tweets flow by) to help launch registration for the Martin Institute Summer Conference in June.  I will do a full post on this by Monday; right now let me just say that the line-up of presenters is, in the slang of our students, nothing short of sick.  The days of sit-and-get PD are officially dead; this is going to be a groundbreaking event.

Set up a meeting with the Director of Learning at one of the largest public school districts in California for early next week.  Sure, they are adopting the Common Core.  But they are also launching a district-wide community visioning discussion of where education has to go in the next ten years.  The traditional box is not going to set the boundary, content will not be the only goal.  They “get it”.  Sure they have stiff political winds to manage, but they are getting in the game.

Fine-tuned my work with Head Charley Stillwell of St. Christopher’s School in Richmond for their board retreat next week. I get to summarize at the highest level the most important things that I think a board should be thinking about within the context of this time of transformative change.  I also get to spend a morning with their faculty and staff visiting another great school with great traditions, and creating a vision for their second century.

Jill Gough called to tell me that stories are flowing in after her workshop to train middle school math teachers in the Art of Questioning, also sourced in part from The Falconer.  As far as I am concerned, this is the toughest test for real classroom flipping: getting middle school kids to invest enough in math to become the ones who ask the questions. Three weeks ago those teachers were utter skeptics.  Now the story line from many goes something like this: “I tried to get the students to ask the questions but they really balked; it was hard.  But I stuck to my guns and to the methods you taught me, and ‘lo and behold the students are exploding with questions that they never would have asked before.”

Talked on the phone with Peter Baron from Whipple Hill to set up a webinar in May.  We will meet online with educators from all over the country.  Will we talk about Whipple Hill products?  No.  We will share ideas about how the mechanics of learning have been completely re-defined in a matter of a few years, and what school leaders need to do to ride that bucking bronco. I imagine Whipple Hill will be taking good notes.  Flipping the classroom isn’t about watching podcasts at night; it is about flipping ownership of learning from teachers to students.

Finished with a great call with Shelley Paul, another of the Atlanta flame-throwing brain trust who will present at the Martin Conference.  We set up the session in April when I get to Skype in and talk with about 75 Atlanta-area educational technology folks about the lessons from my EdJourney, and wrap those back to the foundational ideas of questioning and systems thinking, exactly what those students at Monument Mountain Regional High are designing right now, utterly on their own.

That’s it.  Count the flames being thrown in just one day within the narrow vision of just one guy on his window seat. Who needs a Prius?!

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