24 November 2012

Who wants to Learn Different?

The Octopus's Garden (see previous related posts) has been launched! I do feel the need to write about my experience of my first PBL-FC project and the effect I think it is having on my learners, but for now, I need to share my experience of my attempt at a little 'subliminal advertising', and my persuasion to over-think and assume that everyone else puts in the same level of research and thought to their unit planning.

One of the roles in the teams for the project is that of Community Advisor. In an attempt to create a community spirit and to share the type of learning that goes on within our school, this role asks learners to create a physical display that shares our project with the whole community. Part of this was a little 'teaser' of posters designed at the very inception of the project, to get the community excited and interested in what we are doing.

Example of the Learn Different posters
For those of you familiar with advertising, Apple, or even design, you may recognise the reference.
Perhaps you may not.
Perhaps I was too subtle.

Within an hour of the learners requesting to and putting up the posters around school, I had been called into the office, as a 'complaint' had been made about them. The posters, not the learners :)

I thought it might be about the logo, as I know they don't like that being messed with, but I felt safe in the knowledge that I had forwarded copies to SLT for approval weeks ago, and hoped I was being allowed to make this adaptation, as it had a sound reasoning behind it.

But it was not this that was the issue. To my surprise, it was a complaint about the poster being grammatically incorrect.

I bit my tongue. At first. Then quite passionately rattled off the rationale, thinking, research, design, work, effort and thought that had gone into this. I was met with a smile. And a request to send out an email to explain this to those less geeky than myself.

Here is the statement I issued. I hope it subtly transfers my disappointment at the complaint; I hope the  irony was not lost on my readers, but I fear in many cases it was - else I would not have had to write it in the first place.

Inline image 1

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

The Octopus's Garden is a Project-Based Learning and Flat Classroom project that asks learners from Grade 7 and Grade 8 to work together to answer the question, 'What is a 21st century classroom?' The tagline is 'Learn Different' and both the project name and the tagline have multiple layers of meaning and have been researched and developed carefully.

The 'Learn Different' posters are a pastiche of the highly successful 'Think Different' Apple advertisement campaign that "reestablished Apple's counter-culture image that it had lost during the 90s". The grainy nature of the image is deliberate, the logo has been adapted to mimic that of the original, even the font is authentic. See below.
Inline image 1
The "Learn Different' posters are purely intentional - though any offence was not - and their grammatical mistake is not a faux pas but a homage. The tagline of the original Apple ads has always grated on those who are advocates of standard English, but it was a deliberate ruse (rouse?) by Apple to force us into considering things differently; their deliberate grammatical change "'conveyed a total change in the whole body of what you think about...Instead of thinking in your everyday way, ‘Think Different'.'" (Jessica Schulman, art director at TBWA\Chiat\Day, who developed the campaign). 

The Octopus's Garden project asks learners to rethink learning in the same way Apple asked consumers to rethink computers. Apple lauded those who were different as heroes and revolutionaries just as we want to echo the school's tagline, 'Celebrating Diversity. Challenging Minds', in our project aims.

"'Think Different' celebrates the soul of the Apple brand—
that creative people with passion can change the world for the better." 
Steve Jobs

Learn more about The Octopus's Garden rationale and project by visiting our website.

What disappointed me most I think, is the nature of the culture to complain over inquire. We strive for our learners to be thinkers and yet our faculty did not model this. I don't remember seeing moaner or ignorant on the learner profile; I do recall seeing inquirer and knowledgeable, yet rather than expand horizons and learn, we bitch and complain.

It disappointed me more as I am feeling a little out of place at the moment. I am suffering under a lack of belonging; I know where I want to go, what I want to achieve for my learners and where I want to take them but it seems some others are not ready. I want us to be risk takers and put ourselves out there; not all of what we do is going to work - look at this as testament - but at the same time, this was my message. Take risks; it is the 'round pegs', the ''rebels and the 'troublemakers' who make the difference. Creative people (why is creative not part of the learner profile when it is so central to learning?) challenge and change the status quo.

I have learned that I need to develop a thicker skin and a stronger wall to keep the doubters from crumbling my good intentions. I believe in what I am doing; I believe my over thinking, over planning and over learning (if there can be such a thing) makes a difference. I believe in challenging it all. Rethinking it all. I hope this subtle message got across; I am the troublemaker in their midst, the one not fond of established rules of teaching and learning, who will not lie down or be quiet or let things be. I will be the risk taker, the inquirer, the thinker. And because I care, I will lead my learners out in to the world informed about how to deal with whatever comes at them and ready to question it all.

My intention with the posters was to get people talking about my project and interested in what my learners are doing. The email statement was way beyond what I would ever normally 'inflict' on people and I have to view this as a positive. The culture of complaint allowed me to openly advertise what it is I am doing and I guarantee more people read the email than click on my website links. Perhaps I should sit back in the knowledge that 'all publicity is good publicity' and take refuge in in the words of one of my favourite purveyors of wit and sarcasm:

Oscar Wilde

As always, a huge thank you is owed to my wonderful husband who, at the drop of a hat, entertains my scheming and brings into reality my excited jibberish. His, as yet unlimited artistic and IT talents, have brought to life the designs that are in my head but not at my fingertips. 

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