19 April 2013

INTO THE WOODS...

By Klevsand (Own work)
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0
via Wikimedia Commons
The Project Based Learning Certification course offered by PBLu through bie.org is a rigorous programme comprised of two phases. The first phase is concerned with learning the essentials of PBL; it requires reading, watching lectures, collaborating with other participants and the completion of relevant documentation that outlines the learning that happens in a PBL unit, along with the creation of sample project elements. In order to complete the teaching certification, the second phase has also to be taken, which involves the actual design and implementation of a PBL Unit, along with six assessed written assignments that outline, reflect on, and document the learning that happened in the Unit.

In all, the course has taken me eight months to complete. It has been a great learning opportunity for both me and the learners who have been through the project. I feel pleased with the reflections I wrote, the changes I made, the planning I did, the learning that happened - and for the successful implementation of my first PBL Unit.  Equally, I received much praise for both my written assignments and for my course design from the PBLu course tutors, for example:
"Another outstanding reflection and demonstration of high-quality PBL!"
"the rubrics you came up with [are] very comprehensive"
"a really thoughtful and inclusive way to do this"
"I like that this is highly responsive to the needs of students and involves them directly in the decision-making and learning process"
"I was blown away by the thoroughness of your work and the work of your students. You are involving them at every turn and the work seems to show."
"This assignment has been scored in the skilled range and has received full points."
In actual fact, I received FULL MARKS for EVERY ONE of the 27 assignments I submitted for this course - resulting in, not only a successful project, but also an invitation to write, design and submit projects for the PBLu, due to demonstration of sound knowledge and understanding of what works in a 21st century classroom, and from being recognised as an educator who has "a lot to teach others about how to have a truly co-created project between teachers and students." 

Innnovation, however, always meets adversity - it is an unfortunate but all too often true fact. Teachers can face negative attitudes towards progressive approaches towards teaching and learning, and the power of positive comments can help realign our desire to keep exploring new ground. I received the following comments regarding my work from people who have observed my teaching and planning:
You are the perfect example of a disruptive innovator (meaning you are boldly embarking on this journey alone). You should know that your work is also a model for the technology integration as well.
Keep pushing the boundaries - it's not easy being the trail blazer. 
And so I do.

Educators must continue to grow and avoid becoming 'stale' - they must continue to push for well thought-out, personalised learning that is directly related to curriculum content. Go way beyond what the curriculum requires - and veer off the planned path to find teachable moments at every opportunity. I want to learn and explore new ways of learning too much to just lie down and take the easy route. A certain Robert Frost poem may be appropriate if somewhat cliched. It can be read in many ways and yet I like to think that it means we are not taking a new route, as others have blazed before us. We are taking the one 'less' travelled - we are taking the one that needs a little more effort.

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

To me, Frost points out that the problem is not the choice faced at the fork in the road. The problem is not even the fact that there are two roads, as there is always choice, but rather that he is "sorry [he] could not travel both/And be one traveler ".

We have the responsibility to make the right choices for the learners in front of us and we cannot 'blaze a trial' whilst sticking with the traditional. I cannot 'travel both' the old, recognised ways of teaching and learning that parents recognise whilst being someone who personalises the learning for their classes based on new pedagogies. The poem also introduces a recurring theme in my blogs - collaboration. Educators cannot do this alone; to be the lone 'disruptive innovator' or 'trail blazer' transmutes you into a 'trouble-maker' and pariah. Even if there is only one more believer, innovator and one more do-er, it makes a difference; one certainly wouldn't feel so lost in the woods, the "one traveler" who can't be everything for everyone and try new things.
© Copyright Andrew Harvey and licensed
for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Frost does state that the choice to take the road "less traveled by...made all the difference" and this is what we have to hold tightly onto. My problem, as I see it, is not the road I choose - as nothing I am trying is particularly brand new globally, it has all been trialled and documented. The different ways of teaching and learning are "worn...really about the same", suggesting all paths exist to offer the chance to be someone to tread them anew. What I am trying is not 'new new', the methods "equally lay", they are just new here; the paths have "leaves no step had trodden black" - yet. The educational ideals and pedagogies I am trying are already established and recognised as effective - hence the fact that teacher certification programmes are offered. All these new methods mean is, as educators, we are afforded the opportunity to revisit curriculum delivery afresh, specifically chosen for the learners in front of us. This is what will make "all the difference".

Isolated innovaters need to establish themselves as effective and enthusiastic and, through their passion, 'suck' others into trying new things. They need to create a great PLN to receive supportive messages - such as this one from a course facilitator on my Flat Classroom Teaching Certification* course, responding to my post 'A drop in the ocean':
"Wonderful quote: 'If I can't be who I am to those I want to support; I will support those who want me to be who I am.' 
"I can easily see how people who have been doing what they've always done would feel threatened by you, because you do so much, and I can totally relate to your sense of isolation. Sometimes people aren't ready to make changes and it is disappointing and frustrating especially when you are attacked for doing amazing things in your classroom and trying to share those practices with others. Luckily, you are building a wonderful network of global supporters (count me in that list :), you have a supportive principal, and most importantly are doing fantastically innovative things with your students. You certainly are an inspiration here in this community!"
And this is what we need to remember. The people who call into question new ways are simply those who have not yet travelled the path, who can't yet see the wood for the trees so to speak. Our role is to point out the different ways we can get through the wood together and to point out the many different and beautiful teachable moments to be experienced along the way.



*Online global projects such as the Global Youth Debates is one way to reach beyond and connect with other edupreneurs around the world.


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Links to my Journal documenting the ups and downs of this course can be found on a separate page of my Blog in the tabs at the top, or by clicking HERE.