Friday, December 14, 2018

JECC Reflection 2: Learning Product and Belief, from Restorative Practices to Project Based Learning


Backwards from Learning Product
“Children are a central part of life and family here. Children are very visible and are very seen. We use the terms 'citizen' and ‘fully developed human’.”

In a podcast conversation with Rachel Fink on why she was attracted to the Reggio Emilia approach to learning for The Journey: Early Childhood Center in Tel Aviv, she mentioned the above.

Fink told the story of a frustrating search through the early childhood centers of Tel Aviv seeking the right environment for her child.  In one early childhood center, children where each given identical outlines of a tree and told to fill it in.  This clashed with what she believed children are capable of.  She questioned…

“What is childhood?  What is the image of child?”

Then she explained...

“You make the shift to understand children not as empty vessels to fill up with our own learning, but as competent, capable learners who are interested and motivated to learn.”


Using Fink’s example of learning product, of a group of young learners all producing near identical results and how that clashed with her belief system, I reflected on my own practices, research, and conversations with educators to create a list of approaches and methods that validate children as “competent, capable learners who are motivated to learn”.  I think that by working backwards from learning products, productions, artifacts, and evidence of process through documentation, we can work with and around institutionalized learning metrics, and unlock true meaning within our belief systems and school mission statements.  In this post, building from my notes, I will compare Restorative Practices and Project Based learning, how their products of learning differ, and how they contribute to a constructivist belief system.



Restorative Practices

Restorative practices builds from traditions in ancient and indigenous cultures around the world.  In modern justice systems, offender and victim are separated and the social capital of community is not restored.  Through informal interaction and formal meetings such as circle talks, students and teacher facilitators work through conflicts with the cooperative goal of building an integrative learning network where peer relations are a critical element.

We have to accept that conflicts in classrooms will arise and the goal of restorative practices is not a replacement of a punishment system, rather an investment in positive proactive measures in order for students to spend less time on disciplinary office visits.  The product of learning is a long game in that over time students feel part of a group and responsible for its well being.

In an extreme case, I witnessed a group of third graders share their experiences with death in order to console an emotionally walled in student who had lost his father.  A year later I watched this same student read his carefully written poem about his father in front of the whole learning community of students and parents.  Restorative practices are not just about conflict resolution, but address how a community responds to crisis and moves forward.  The week this student came back to school, one of his classmates stood up in the middle of a circle talk and gave him an outpouring of empathy and compassion.  While the immediate product was the bursting of the guerrilla in the room, the long term product was establishing the school as a safe place for the student to process grief.




Restorative practices reflect a belief that children are living participatory parts of community, and with facilitators are capable of the restoration of conflict, even in the most extreme cases.  The language barrier often distorts our perception of children’s abilities, and how moral judgement develops before linguistic expression in children.  This belief overlaps with Morton Deutsch inspired Johnson and Johnson’s work with collaborative learning, that learning is not just an internal cognitive process but a social construction.  Cary Roseth continues this research showing that when peer relations and cooperative goals are the focus over individualized or competitive goal structures, learning improves by multiple forms of measurement.  Another core building block in this belief is Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development in which the community of learners present are critical tools in extending a learner’s grasp.



Project Based Learning

This is a confusing term in the spectrum of hyphenated learning approaches.  Here project based learning refers to extended periods of time, two weeks to three months or more where students begin by immersing in an experience or interact with an artifact intended to spark inquiry.  A student created driving statement for a project overrides teacher dictated essential questions, although they can all be present in the process.  The key is validating student inquiry and understanding that without it there is no project.  Unlike STEM/STEAM approaches that also contextualize learning with interdisciplinary constructivist challenges and emphasize the “behavior of scientists”, PBL in its purest form has no boundaries normally confined by set curriculum.  John Larmer explains the spectrum of PBL as being dependent on your school’s climate.  When asked how much student inquiry, time for projects, constructivist approach to curriculum is appropriate, his response… “As much as you can allow.”


In working towards the creation of a product, service, or experience, projects feed off of peer relations, distributed teaching and learning, cooperative goals, interaction with real world professionals, and an authentic audience.  A writing piece, graphic, oral performance, or other artifact go through repeated cycles of prototyping, each iteration presented before peer or whole class for critique and reflection.  Some describe this environment as a safe space to fail fast and often.  For me, this ensures learning will not only happen, but will go deep.  Good projects crescendo, often only ending because of a deadline.  Projects design for intrinsic motivation, engagement, and “need to know”, deemphasize the extrinsic motivation of grades.



Differentiating PBL from STEM and STEAM: challenge-based approaches contextualize learning and could become project based, but often draw tighter parameters around voice and choice in order to get at specific curricular objectives.  Like Fink’s frustration with cookie cutter individual products, the voice and choice may only be evident within the mold of the final product.  Fink observed kids choosing colors and patterns to include in a predetermined shape, much like the middle schoolers I have observed chose their problem solving methods of wingspans and flaps, but they all created model wooden gliders.  This is not to say that such challenges are not important within learning environments and they can easily be modules within larger projects, just as teacher read-alouds and lectures have a definite place, even within project environments.

Buck Institute and New Tech Learning also show the wide spectrum within PBL.  BI says that any project work is good, while NTL applies a more rigorous approach to whole school adoption of project method.  BI promotes rubrics that create reflections on learning objectives difficult to quantify (ie those too subjective to be taken seriously by many schools), while NTL grades are based on communication, collaboration, agency, knowledge, and thinking.  The spectrum of how much project based learning goes back to the Dewey/Kilpatrick debates on "the project method", Kilpatrick arguing for unrestricted student choice and motivation, while Dewey promoted the role of the teacher and curriculum in developing student critical thought.



Beliefs: Learning is far more complex than a series of inputs and outputs of cognitive processes.  Starting with inquiry and working toward a product of learning creates a kind of narrative bracket to learning where purpose and choice drive student motivation to master skills and content.  Early learners come ready with three types of agency - individual, proxy, and collective - that projects should provide space for.  Children with scaffolded guidance and continuous cycles of feedback are capable of managing their own learning.

Building a Product

Restorative practices and Project Based Learning show how very different products of learning can be, from the utilitarian product of a project developed over a specific period of time with specific learning goals in mind, to the long game open ended construction of a classroom and school culture of restoration, one informal or formal interaction at at time.  Each complements the other in the belief in children as capable, co-constructors of their learning environment.  I hope that by walking through each approach and reflecting on how product unlocks belief, it may shed light on how the branding and marketing of learning approaches distract from the more important goal of identifying what our beliefs are about what children learn, how they learn it, and why.


In the next post this strain continues with Writer’s Workshop, Maker Centered Learning, and Design Thinking.


Work Cited

Bandura, A. (1999). Social Cognitive Theory: An Agentic Perspective. Asian Journal of Social Psychology,2(1), 21-41. doi:10.1111/1467-839x.00024

Costello, B., Wachtel, J., & Wachtel, T. (2009). The restorative practices handbook: For teachers, disciplinarians and administrators. Bethlehem, PA: International Institute for Restorative Practices.

Davis, C., Lopez, D., & Leon, N. (2015, February 17). Paul Curtis from New tech Network on Student Inquiry. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pzig32AQxE

Davis, C. (2016, April 01). Testing #prototypes & gathering feedback #designthinking #dchat #dtk12chat #makerEd #edchat #pblchat pic.twitter.com/FmUt3xwNez. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/chrisdaviscng/status/715753654809141249

Davis, C. (2016, April 24). The Teacher's Lens. Retrieved from https://celebratecng.blogspot.com/2016/04/why-tweet-part-3-documentation-process.html

Davis, C. (2017, March 28). The Teacher's Lens. Retrieved from https://celebratecng.blogspot.com/2017/03/you-are-what-you-do-maker-empowerment.html

Davis, C. (2017, May 11). Dr. Cary Roseth: Motivation and Purpose in Learning Environments. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywZIS7OZ0kY


Davis, C., Lopez, D., & Leon, N. (2015, January 22). Interview with John Larmer of Buck Institute: Student Inquiry. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgWAcxrDm68

Hallermann, S., Larmer, J., & Mergendoller, J. R. (2016). PBL in the elementary grades: Step-by-step guidance, tools and tips for standards-focused K-5 projects. Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education.

Howe, J. (2002). The Kuna gathering: Contemporary village politics in Panama. Tucson, AZ: Fenestra Books.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., Tjosvold, D., & Roseth, C. J. (2018). Morton Deutsch: Celebrating His Theorizing and Research. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research. doi:10.1111/ncmr.12122

Larmer, J. (n.d.). PBL Blog. Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/blog/the_importance_of_project_based_teaching

Sharp, J. (2018, December 10). #NewTechNetwork schools grade Ss on Communication, Collaboration, Agency, and Knowledge and Thinking ... much more meaningful than a simple A-F! https://t.co/apG1lHRkW9. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/JessicaSharp/status/1072126865995902977

Sills, L. (2017, August 21). Design Thinking at Mid-Pacific. Retrieved from http://www.midpac.edu/designthinking/2017/08/design-thinking-at-mid-pacific.php

Monday, October 22, 2018

JECC Reflection 1: The Social Contract of Child Education

“If you could design a learning environment for your child, not for other people’s children, but for YOUR child, what would that look like?”  

Benjamin Kohlmann



Define, Thread, Court

The US Navy with all its hierarchical power structure and bureaucratic bloat is not the place one would expect to find innovators such as Benjamin Kohlmann.  By finding like minded thinkers, leaders that supported his vision, and working within the culture of the Navy, he was able to run design sprints, reforming from within.  For educators his example hits with an impact. Schools, like the Navy, can seem intractable to change. Our hierarchies of decision making, “best practices” and metrics left over from the era of New Public Management, and adherence to quantitative research based learning often detract from our potential to be communities of reflective practitioners, designers of learning environments, and facilitators of what Dewey called “experience”.  Teachers became implementers of top-down programs. Many would not feel equipped to answer Kohlmann’s question. As a teacher colleague said, “I have always done as I am told, and that has made me successful in this environment, but it has not made me a great teacher.”



Then this last month I met Rachel Fink, director of The Journey: Early Childhood Center in Tel Aviv, who, when dissatisfied with her search for the right school for her daughter, decided to create it for her.  Like Kohlmann, Rachel did not just follow her belief system, she formed a community of like minded teachers and parents who were discontent with what preschools offered. She reflected on her own experience with Reggio Emilia in New York, connected with Dr. Naama Zoran and others who have worked on growing the Reggio Emilia culture in Israel, and researched the early childhood history of the Kibbutzim.





Memory and Experience

Kahneman describes the difference between memory and experience.  Like Susan Sontag’s tourists armed with cameras to separate themselves from experience, we buy memories. The images we capture are fantasy narratives of the experience we wish we had.  In the US the trend is toward education as a free market where packaged predetermined memories are sold as “programs”. In a linear mono-chronic assembly line straight out of the industrial revolution, segments of time, normally 45 minutes, follow a rhythm of the lesson plan...


  • establish a goal
  • access prior knowledge 
  • present new information
  • apply this new knowledge
  • generalize the goal



Each time unit, planned as a prepackaged bundle of knowledge, a linear progression toward a test, leaves little room for spontaneous construction.  Marzano and others are so right in their research identifying aspects of learning that work within this school model, particularly in the Cognitive Domain of Blooms Taxonomy, but with little consideration for the Affective and Psychomotor Domain.  The prepackaged memory model treats Blooms Taxonomy as a hierarchy of cognition, a building from lower to higher levels. What is missing is Vygotskian constructivism where learning happens in the context of tools within one’s environment - tools with the purpose of either construction or as artifacts to spark inquiry - where upper levels of cognition frame and spur the lower levels, and as Dewey explains, learning is driven by repeated experience and reflection.  

Time, especially when imbued with meaning through music, according to Stravinsky, is psychological, not ontological. Institutionalized learning, organized around mono-chronic principles, should also account for the poly-chronic. Cycles of experiences and reflections, iterations of learning products should culminate in “critical events”. Kahneman would most likely say we have created a system where we fool ourselves into believing that real learning has happened, we prepackage memory without investing in all the factors that create the meaning in "experience". Like the vacation photos that stream on Instagram that may as well have been assembled with a green screen and a Google image search, we create simulations of learning experiences, an image of learning captured in a metric.




Mixing Fertile Soil

Beginning with the concept of Experience over Memory is a step toward answering Kohlmann’s question.  In Rachel’s journey, Experience meant creating an environment based on the Reggio Emilia approach, not a program, and contextualizing those principles in Tel Aviv.  Howard Gardner explains,


“I think it’s a mistake to take any school approach anywhere and assume that like a flower you can take it from one soil and put it in another one.  That never works. We have to reinvent it, we can’t just transplant it. We have to figure out what are the aspects that are most important to us and what kind of soil do we need here to make those aspects thrive.”


The soil of Israel provided two critical nutrients, 20 years of a Reggio Emilia movement promoted by Dr. Naama Zoran, and the education model of the Kibbutzim, which Rachel explains paralleled the Reggio Emilia almost one for one in its approach to constructivism, collaborative learning, environment, and catalyst for societal change.  Rachel says,


“We take from both of these places.  Some parents grew up in that context, and lots of teachers were part of the Kibbutz movement.”


It makes sense.  Reggio Emilia was formed by communities of women who had no schools after the destruction of World War II.  They decided to create a new school system themselves, one that would reflect their values and hopes for the future, far from Fascist Italy, and further from pogroms of the past.  The Kibbutz education movement, heavily influenced by Rousseau, Froebel, and Zionism meant to create a space where children would grow up communally, close to the land, an attempt to "make the desert bloom" (Rachel Bluwstein), a territory linking the construction of a new jewish identity with statehood.

Rachel is quick to point out the distance between the early Kibbutzim and JECC in modern Tel Aviv, but at the same time believes in the continuity of their early childhood beliefs, that children are capable constructors of their learning and contributors to society.  To emphasize the point she explained how their current site is a reconstructed bombed-out building and on opening night parents gathered on what was a construction site at the time, the perfect metaphor for the malleability of all things, particularly learning environments - a lesson hard learned by the Gates Foundation, who after years of trying to identify the traits of an ideal teacher, have scrapped scaling teacher methods for a more holistic ground up systems based community approach to school improvement.


Learning from JECC?

Most educators will not start a school based on core beliefs, but what if we looked at our own learning environment with the lens of Kohlmann’s question. How would we change it for our own child, and if not for the whole school, then for one classroom at at time?  Our schools are clumsy constructs of complex, often competing systems, never ideal, but here are three anecdotes that I believe could be tweaked for any environment…


Thread Community

While working in a magnet Arts school in Galveston, Texas, the cultural divide was inescapable.  The teachers lounge showed the split, one half Latino, one half African American, no mixed tables except for a couple of white dots, myself and a visiting poet, Jenny Browne.  From the beginning of the year I had laid the groundwork by making home visits to every family with a student in my classroom. Jenny then worked for three and a half weeks on poetry in a laboratory model - “experience”, write, share, reflect.  At the end of the month a “critical event” was held, a poetry reading in an historic setting on The Strand in downtown Galveston. Poems that had gone through multiple versions with feedback from different students, brought to life through oral presentation, recorded in book form for each family.  Through cooperative effort, a culminating “critical event”, proactive threading, and belief that community is critical for a learning environment, seemingly institutionalized obstacles were overcome. Latino parents, most of whom were illegally in the country, may otherwise have been suspicious of “the institution”, and African-American parents who began the year hostile to the idea of “Visual Math”, all came together to validate all the students poetry.



Foment Inquiry

Inquiry based learning is normally associated with Project Based Learning, Design Thinking, Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf/Steiner, and Papert’s constructionism lab at MIT, but even the most rigid of systems can account for student wonder. Allowing space for carefully curated immersion and time to wonder and reflect is more efficient than beginning with preordained essential questions, rubrics, and expectations - particularly when accounting for motivation, engagement, and the narrative framing of one’s learning.  

While coordinating and co-teaching a six week project on native peoples students used digital and physical resource in the library to collect artifacts about a particular group of people. In small groups, a teacher facilitated a see-think-wonder routine recorded questions that were then posted on a giant wall. Small groups revisited the questions, creating affinity groups and titling each category with their own “essential question”. This launched the next six weeks of study as questions were revisited during check-ins.  The inquiry process took 90 minutes by blocking together a Social Studies and Library period. By using rotations, each with a teacher facilitator, and by making sure the “artifacts” would by continuous points of research and reflection throughout the project, no time was lost. Two days into the project every students knew what problems they were trying to solve over the next weeks. Even within a learning community where belief systems varied greatly teacher to teacher on how much students could manage their own inquiry, the project showed four critical aspects of collective inquiry.

  • validates both individual and social constructions.  
  • time efficient.
  • students created an incredible depth of inquiry we would not have dared prompt them with.
  • facilitated affinity grouping and group formation of essential questions produced an almost identical replica of essential questions teachers had written previously. 


Validate What is Already There

Teaching in International Schools in Latin America can be a challenge for parent - teacher communication.  Society is structured by classes down to your monthly utility bills based on stratus 1 to 5, determined by average incomes in the area.  A director once called a faculty meeting informing all the foreign teachers that they were not to socially engage with anyone below Calle 70 because of associations with poorer neighborhoods.  Meanwhile we all looked at each other bewildered since half of us lived below 70. Basically, “teacher” can be associated with empleada.  A pencil falls off of the second grader’s desk and the student looks up at you, waiting for you to pick it up.  Coming from the U.S. public school system, this child appears over-indulged, consentida, mimada.  Yet that same child most likely arrives to school with a defined sense of self at an early age, an agency of voice, and few inhibitions in learning.  

Generally, Colombian identity and belonging form in concentric circles - family at the epicenter, extended family, social clubs and organizations, work relations.  Young students expect to bond with their teachers and treating education like a business exchange creates a cultural rift.  For this reason relations with parents are important, moving teacher, in the child's eyes, closer to that epicenter of belonging. Students need to see their teacher as a friend of their parents, and this is a challenge given the family, extended family, and clan-like makeup of society.  I learned this the slow, hard way and would often not talk to some parents until there was problem or crisis.

Then a colleague passed me a parent inventory of child learning habits which I asked parents to fill out the first week of school during parent night.  I was overwhelmed with the care, attention to detail, and brutal honesty parents took in explaining their child. The real key was taking the time to read these carefully as ethnographic study, then revisit them and highlight key points. During parent-teacher conferences, with grades and data spread out on the table, we would spend most of the time talking about the inventory combined with examples of student work and anecdotal narratives from my own running notes on the child.

This is not pandering to parents, it is centering the discussion on learning between three central perspectives - student, parent, teacher. The quantitative data is there to help us understand what is happening, but the why of learning can only unfold through our own sense making, through our reflections combining experiences, learning artifacts, and analytics. The quantitative data can merely inform our beliefs and the narrative we create around learning.

Beyond the One Classroom

These anecdotes worked for those particular students and parents for that particular year, but I also understand that these small communities disperse once the year is finished.  All this care and effort is like creating a Tibetan sand mandala, scattering it to the wind when the time comes, before the next cycle begins all over again. The challenge is to not just influence a classroom community for a year at a time, but to change a school culture over a long period of time, and potentially sway education policy on a grander scale. To create impact, Benjamin Kohlmann and Rachel Fink provide a model…

  • reflect on your own experience within and beyond your school
  • clearly define your goals
  • find like minded people in your community
  • court supportive leadership within your institution


The early Kibbutzim attempted to solve the challenge of communal child education by creating an environment where the children belong to everyone, an unprecedented social experiment in child development.  There is something to applaud here and draw on for schools everywhere. Maybe we need to contemplate broadening our social contract in regards to these communal learning spaces we call schools, and design for others what we would create for our own child.  Kohlmann’s question marks a great starting point.


Bibliography

CNN. (2013, March 18). CNN News Report on Reggio Emilia Italy Early Childhood Schools in the US. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVv5ZL9nlgs&t=427s


Davis, C., & Kohlmann, B. (2016). Benjamin Kohlmann on Innovation Within Hierarchical Systems. Retrieved October 23, 2018, from https://soundcloud.com/chris-davis-276158228/benjamin-kohlmann-on-innovation-within-hierarchical-systems

Davis, C., & Rachel, F. (2018). Rachel Fink on Reggio Emilia in an Israeli Context. Retrieved October 23, 2018, from https://soundcloud.com/chris-davis-276158228/rachel-fink-on-reggio-emilia-in-an-israeli-context

Davis, C. (2016, April 9). Transmedia Literacy and the Wicked Problem of Tech Integration Part 4. Retrieved from http://celebratecng.blogspot.com/2016/04/stepping-back-from-tech-embracing.html

Davis, C. (2016, April 9). Transmedia Literacy and the Wicked Problem of Tech Integration Part 3. Retrieved from http://celebratecng.blogspot.com/2016/04/transmedia-literacy-and-wicked-problem_9.html

Dewey, J. (1917). Creative intelligence: Essays in the pragmatic attitude. New York: H. Holt.

Golden, D., Aviezer, O., & Ziv, Y. (2017). Modern pedagogy, local concerns: The Junkyard on the kibbutz kindergarten. Paedagogica Historica,54(3), 355-370. doi:10.1080/00309230.2017.1345956

“History of the Jews in Calabria.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Aug. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Calabria.


“Kibbutz.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz.

Kohlmann, B. (2015, May 14). What Secretary Mabus' Reforms Mean For The Future Of The Navy. Retrieved from https://taskandpurpose.com/secretary-mabus-reforms-mean-future-navy/

Kohlmann, B. (2016, February 19). A Modern Military Needs To Embrace Modern Standards Of Innovation. Retrieved from https://taskandpurpose.com/modern-military-needs-embrace-modern-standards-innovation/

Kohlmann, B. (2016, April 14). General Military Training Needs To Be More Relevant. Retrieved from https://taskandpurpose.com/its-time-to-make-general-military-training-more-relevant-for-service-members/

Marzano, R. J. (2003). What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Muller, Jerry Z. The Tyranny of Metrics . Princeton University, 2018.

Shapiro, J. (2018, October 12). Help Your Team Understand What Data Is and Isn't Good For. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/10/help-your-team-understand-what-data-is-and-isnt-good-for

Stravinsky, I. (1942). Poetics of music: In the form of six lessons. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Taz Johnson, T. (2013, January 17). Sand Mandala Time Lapse [Extended Version] - Asheville, NC - Urban Dharma - 2012. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdUFqkX2d6I

TED, & Kahneman, D. (2010, March 01). The riddle of experience vs. memory | Daniel Kahneman. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgRlrBl-7Yg&t=37s

Tertman, R. (2018, June 01). Let's Talk About Those 70% Non-Verbal Communication (Verbally). Retrieved from https://medium.com/@roytertman/lets-talk-about-those-70-non-verbal-communication-verbally-46443ad12215

Will, M. (2018, July 17). 'An Expensive Experiment': Gates Teacher-Effectiveness Program Shows No Gains for Students. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/06/21/an-expensive-experiment-gates-teacher-effectiveness-program-show.html

Woods, P. (2012). Critical events in teaching and learning. London: Routledge.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Tales of Unexpected Thinking Moves 1: Why Stuart Little was a Progressive Educator

Stuart Little Substitute Teacher

When Stuart Little became a substitute teacher for a day, he quickly did away with subjects and asked the students for some suggested laws, since he would like to to be Chairman of the World.  What follows is not exactly socratic, however Stuart does model elements of “thinking moves” and engages students in a bit of participatory improv theater to demonstrate design agency of their environment…


"Never poison anything but rats," said Anthony Brendisi. "That's no good," said Stuart. "It's unfair to rats. A law has to be fair to everybody." Anthony looked sulky. "But rats are unfair to us," he said. "Rats are objectionable." "I know they are," said Stuart. "But from a rat's point of view, poison is objectionable. A Chairman has to see all sides to a problem." "Have you got a rat's point of view?" asked Anthony. "You look a little like a rat." "No," replied Stuart, "I have more the point of view of a mouse, which is very different. I see things whole. It's obvious to me that rats are underprivileged. They've never been able to get out in the open."

E. B. White has Stuart Little demonstrating thinking similar to The Explanation Game, Circle of Viewpoints, Tug of War, or What Makes You Say That found in Making Thinking Visible.  Project Zero defines “thinking moves” as having simplicity of steps and being a replicable process across various forms of content.  Thinking moves create a fabric of individual metacognition and collective thought.  They are the building blocks of a collaborative culture, and incorporate essential New Literacies - distributed cognition, collective intelligence, negotiation, performance, and transmedia navigation.  When made visible though post-its and mental mapping they provide framing, reference points for reorientation, a path to purpose in a circuitous discussion.  Applicable across disciplines, they can unlock rich forms of metaphorical transfer.  Stuart set out to proactively circumvent discipline management by “making the work interesting, and discipline will take care of itself.”  In E. B. White’s mind that meant activating student thinking and voice.



Diaspora of Thinking

Last summer at the School for Poetic Computation, Zach Lieberman was explaining the Parsons School of Design critique system, a method carried over from Hunters College.  Zach starts a critique by having students describe physical characteristics of a piece without liking, disliking, or interpreting in oder to validate the artist and gets everyone synched into descriptions most agree upon from sensory observation.  Then, as the group moves into interpretations, critical discussion on meaning and aesthetics evolve.  Finally they all push the artist further with probing questions.  What Zach had described was identical to what Project Zero calls “See, Think, Wonder”, not so far from the d.School’s “I like, I wish, I wonder”, Luma Institute’s “Rose, Thorn, Bud”.  Thinking moves, like West African Polyrhythms manifest in different interchangeable variations like a kind of thought diaspora.  The steps to thinking begin simple and quickly move to explore depth.

A post shared by Chris (@cdveston) on


Thinking Moves are cognitive tools and like good technology tools, as Papert described when creating Logo, they need “low floors, wide walls, and high ceilings”. - an ease of low threshold entry, varied use for multiple disciplines, potentially encouraging interdisciplinary metaphoric bridges and integrative thinking, and no limitations on extended thinking.  New thinking moves should develop from the core routines.  Entry should be simple enough for children to grasp with no parameters on how far it goes.  Papert saw this in children, the same problem solving toolkit and inquiry methods as adults… 

“…subdivide the problem, split the difficulties, make a procedure out of sub-procedures, make a whole out of parts, and understand each separate piece.  Everybody knows that but they don’t do it.”





Project Zero’s move, Parts, Purposes, and Complexities makes Papert’s thinking explicit and facilitates a group of thinkers to quickly focus on collaborative discussion goals.  E. B. White went to Cornell, but in Stuart Little’s thinking, he exposes children to building empathy for the rat through a PZ move called The Explanation Game, then has them roll play using Circle of Viewpoints (COV).  There is a hint at some adaptations from the d.School’s Mindsets and Methods using Powers of 10 (small size, big ideas), and Show Don’t Tell through interactive roll play - although to be fair for simplicity of fitting into a narrative page, E. B. White, like Roald Dahl, Kate DiCamillo, J. K. Rowling, and others, engages in thinking moves that would look more like Show Show Show Tell, or Tell Show Show Show.  It provides a low threshold through repetition, like a calming rhythmic quality.



Democracy of Thinking

The difference between demonstrating thinking or revealing the thinking of authors and applying thinking moves is that thinking moves are meant to be participatory, promoting the democratization of voice in a community, unlike the call and response, fill in the blanks of teacher’s thinking that students most often attend to.  This is exhausting, spend time shadowing a student and measure the time where sitting and being attentive is expected.  Thinking moves promote agency, a bias towards action, immediate applicability to what one thinks he or she knows.  And they are meant to be open ended and messy kind of tinkering where students discovery a meaning behind their learning as opposed to passively working toward no clear purpose. 

“When I was in school they told me I needed to learn long division because I would need it when I grew up, and I think I knew it was a lie, and the effect was to make me despise the teachers a little more.” - Papert

Modality of Thinking

Elementary age students may use different language, may not elaborate to the extent as Lieberman’s Art students, but the same patterns of logical processing are evident.  The lack of words to describe something does not equate lack of knowledge and understanding, a child may not know the words vertices, angles, or obtuse but can certainly “get” the properties of a triangle observing and handing physical models.  In the discussion prompted by thinking moves, the transference from tactile, spacial knowledge will come forth, maybe through the dispersed knowledge in the group sharing strengths in the transfer between modalities.



Another danger is that thinking moves are meant as means not ends.  The ever so efficient applauded teacher will slap these on worksheets with rubrics and have them exported as homework in no time.  But the goal is to provide grounding for launching points of unexpected thought to arise, the “neural instantiations” as Lynn Hunt explains as purpose found in the process.  Purposeful, concentrated thought begets purposeful, concentrated thought, and the depth of this metacognition will enable recognition of patterns of thought… everywhere.
Thinking moves are not all about language.  The MIT Lab recognized that origami folding patterns led to breakthroughs in nano-technology, in the construction of polyhedral DNA, and in inflatable 3D structures.  The Root-Bernstein’s clarify, referencing Science-fiction writer Ursula Leguin and mathematician Werner Karl Heisenberg …

“‘The artist deals with what cannot be said in words.  The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words,” which, she goes on to explain, ‘can be used thus paradoxically because they have, along with a semiotic usage, a symbolic or metaphoric usage.’  Words are, in other words, both literal and figurative signs of interior feelings, but not their essence.  They are, as Heisenberg said of mathematics, expressions of understanding, not its embodiment.”



De-Commodifying Thinking


Learning as a commodity in schools attempts to proscribe premeditated outcomes in thinking - starter phrases for children to explain thinking, lists of questions for teachers to follow while conferring with students on writing, Restorative Justice question cards, design thinking method cards - none of which are inherently bad, unless they are approached as an end game or check list.  Thinking moves, like Oblique Strategies, should invoke, agitate, and conjure thought and inquiry until meaning and patterns of thought suddenly emerge from somewhere as unexpected as Stuart Little, or as the following blog posts will explore, from a video game, a photograph, or looking up at the ceiling!









References

Alberti, N. (2015, July 09). Our favourite teachers in children's books. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://www.booktrust.org.uk/whats-happening/blogs/2015/july/our-favourite-teachers-in-childrens-books/

Anderson, M. (2017, January 01). Low floor, high ceiling, wide walls in ELA classrooms. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://schoolecosystem.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/low-floor-high-ceiling-wide-walls-in-ela-classrooms/

Ball, L. (2017, August 14). Conferring: Writing Workshop Fundamentals. Retrieved October 09, 2017, from https://twowritingteachers.org/2017/08/04/conferring-writing-workshop-fundamentals/

Davis, C. (2015, June 11). Spotlight Audio Poems 1. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ng_-zSiDZFg&feature=youtu.be

Davis, C. (1970, January 01). Why Tweet Part 4: Collaborative Learning Standards. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from http://celebratecng.blogspot.com.co/2016/06/why-tweet-part-4-collaborative-learning.html

Davis, C. (2016, May 22). #improv theatre front loading cognition for #writing #CircleOfViewpoints #edchat @dtk12chat #makered pic.twitter.com/GSpe8VkDjZ. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://twitter.com/chrisdaviscng/status/734519283464704001

Davis, C. (2016, April 20). @AgencybyDesign how #parts and #purpose make this system #complex - the systems within #makerEd #dtk12chat #edchat pic.twitter.com/pXPtZFdFBU. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://twitter.com/chrisdaviscng/status/722881994741399552

Davis, C. (2016, April 20). @AgencybyDesign #Parts immersion by close looking and tangible crowdsourced observation #makerEd #dtk12chat #edchat pic.twitter.com/TMBX0uVhXp. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://twitter.com/chrisdaviscng/status/722880470212571136

Davis, C. (2017, May 29). From Barthes "Myth Today" #Media #MediaLiteracy #transmedia #transcoding #edtech #edtechchat #edchat #makerEd #edlit #literacy #artsEd pic.twitter.com/YLROqBCDeI. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://twitter.com/chrisdaviscng/status/869332993449525252

Davis, C. (2017, May 29). From Barthes "Myth Today" #Media #MediaLiteracy #transmedia #transcoding #edtech #edtechchat #edchat #makerEd #edlit #literacy #artsEd pic.twitter.com/YLROqBCDeI. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://twitter.com/chrisdaviscng/status/869332993449525252

Dodd, M. (2017, October 06). “Machine City” patterns, pathways, and symmetry. pic.twitter.com/Lgn95BMg2c. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://twitter.com/pezzettinos/status/916288950054146048

Falk, B., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). Documentation and Democratic Education. Theory Into Practice, 49, 72-81. Retrieved October 8, 2017.

Hardesty, L., & MIT New Office. (2017, June 21). Origami Anything. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from http://news.mit.edu/2017/algorithm-origami-patterns-any-3-D-structure-0622

Hunt, L. (2010, February). How Writing Leads to Thinking. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/february-2010/how-writing-leads-to-thinking

Jen, N. (2017, October 08). Natasha Jen: Design Thinking is Bullshit. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://vimeo.com/228126880#embed

McNamee, D. (2009, September 07). Hey, what's that sound: Oblique Strategies. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/sep/07/oblique-strategies

MIT Media Lab. (2016, August 01). Professor Emeritus Seymour Papert, pioneer of constructionist learning, dies at 88. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from http://news.mit.edu/2016/seymour-papert-pioneer-of-constructionist-learning-dies-0801

Montessori, M. (1914). Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook. New York City, NY: Frederick A. Stokes Company.

Morabito, S. (2009, June 18). Seymour Papert. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMzojQFyMo0

Oblique Strategies. (2013, June 11). Oblique Strategies (@oblique). Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://twitter.com/oblique?lang=en

Ou, J., Skouras, M., Vlavianos, N., Heibeck, F., Cheng, C., Peters, J., & Ishii, H. (2016). AeroMorph. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://tangible.media.mit.edu/project/aeromorph/

Project Zero. (n.d.). Visible Thinking. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/VisibleThinking1.html

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible: How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Root-Bernstein, R. S., & Root-Bernstein, M. (2001). Sparks of genius: the thirteen thinking tools of the worlds most creative people. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Sean, L. (2017, August 23). Yes, Design Thinking Is Bullshit...And We Should Promote It Anyway. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://medium.com/foossa-files/yes-design-thinking-is-bullshit-and-we-should-promote-it-anyway-64e1d90ccc91

Trafton, A. (2009, February 25). Knowing when to fold: Engineers use 'nano-origami' to build tiny electronic devices (Video). Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://phys.org/news/2009-02-nano-origami-tiny-electronic-devices-video.html

White, E. B., & Williams, G. (2005). Stuart Little. New York: HarperCollins.

Wiggins, G. (2014, October 17). A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/a-veteran-teacher-turned-coach-shadows-2-students-for-2-days-a-sobering-lesson-learned/

Zhang, F., Jiang, S., Wu, S., Li, Y., Mao, C., Liu, Y., & Yan, H. (2015, July 20). Complex wireframe DNA origami nanostructures with multi-arm junction vertices. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/v10/n9/fig_tab/nnano.2015.162_F2.html?foxtrotcallback=true