Mashing Back to School Night and STEM/Humanities Thinking

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Mashing Back to School Night and STEM/Humanities Thinking

Yesterday’s Twitter #satchatwc (which got moved to #satchat due to spamming) was full of innovative ways to amplify the unique time we may each year for Back to School Night.  Rather than seven minute silos for each teacher to hand out the syllabus and review expectations, or “get to know you” (which is absurd with 15-40 parents in seven minutes!), here were a few ideas…

  • Involve students!
  • Provoke parent input about their hopes, dreams, and expectations.
  • Mini design-thinking exercises; post up parent ideas for all to see.
  • Spill over into the hallways.
  • Build your school’s brand; teachers are our most critical ambassador of mission and vision.

…and so many more.

On the Twitter feed this morning, I read and passed along several items about STEM, robotics, and programming.  Why, in 2013, is programming not a course of integrated study K-12? Pre-schoolers are learning to program with a board game. More importantly, in my view, is the need to export/transport/amplify/leverage the kind of thinking and learning that goes into STEM, robotics, and programming to our humanities classes.  Kids are excited when they get to design, build, test, work with their classmates, try stuff, tear it apart, build it again, show it off, earn points.  How much of this takes place in social studies, English, and foreign language classes? Kids will be excited if we use that same quiver of arrows to write, read, investigate, research, analyze, and synthesize in our humanities classes. Yes, we need more kids to go into STEM in order to remain competitive in science and engineering, but we ALSO REALLY need more kids to go into whatever they are passionate about in order to remain competitive in creational thinking, empathy, justice, and the understanding of the human condition.

What do these have in common? Changing our approach to what we want to learn.  Back to School Night is a learning opportunity for parents, students, teachers…the school community. The same type of thinking and learning that helps kids enjoy building robots belongs in the English class, Back to School Night…wherever we want learning to occur!


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By | 2013-09-29T17:26:31+00:00 September 29th, 2013|Innovation in Education|4 Comments

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  1. Angél Kytle September 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Interesting that you connect these two topics here, Grant. I agree that they have “changing what we want to learn” in common, but they also have changing what we want to focus on and communicate. The essential practices of what is done in STEM-like courses have amazing potential in the humanities which will only enhance children’s capacity in all of their courses. Sharing such opportunities with parents is extremely valuable but will require a longer process of teaching them how to examine and understand something different than they are used to. The parents at Design 39 campus would be great facilitators for this, and I think what has made it “easier” for them is that they are involved with the actual design of something that does not exist. So there is no tradition or “this is the way we do things here” to overcome or change the tide. Schools would benefit from examining these ideas collectively, intentionally, and creatively.

    • glichtman September 30, 2013 at 3:01 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Angel. Yep, I think it is about moving the entire community to understand learning as a different process than what we grew up with; to contribute to that; give way to it; embrace it; and we should take advantage of every opportunity to do so!

  2. Ned Parsons October 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    We’ve recently started asking ourselves this question, though quietly as not to panic anyone: in the age in which we find ourselves, is programming a more relevant language to be learning than French or Latin? Should design thinking and problem-solving classes be replacing some of the more traditional disciplines…or informing them, at the very least? We’re looking for ways to involve our students more directly in the hands-on processes of learning, not just so they’ll have some form of “marketable skill” when they emerge, but so that they’ll have some form of life-affirming passion to pursue when they do. But we’re constrained…as we all are in schools…by our own reluctance to step into these ideas, by fear of what we’ll lose, by perception’s weight from the outside world. Hard to know where and when to step into all of this. I know others are thinking about this, too, and would love to hear more from people who are making some of these steps happen.

    • glichtman October 1, 2013 at 5:52 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Ned, and you are right in all respects: we know what we want to do, but fear taking the step. Others are having the same conversation, though some have moved past the first round of fear and found that it really was not as big a monster as they had thought. I guess that is what my blog, all my work with schools and educators is about: helping them to connect the dots, to overcome that fear; to engage with confidence!

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