Wednesday, August 5, 2020

What Goes in the Tote Bags?

Okay, so my big goal for the fall is that distance learning NOT equal time on Zoom. We all were forced into kneejerk reactions in March when this happened quite suddenly... but that was six months ago and all teachers have had time to reconceptualize and improve education at a distance.

How can we be apart from one another and still provide high quality instruction?

If I pack up tote bags for students and drop them off on doorsteps, and they work independently for two weeks, what goes in the tote bags?

This is a wonderful time to explore hands-on learning materials and to promote self-directed education, but there's also another player in this game: Project Based Learning. I just read a really compelling article -- which I highly recommend -- called Living in a VUCA World by Tikvah Wiener, HOS at The Idea School. The Idea School is a Project Based Learning high school.

VUCA (a term coined by Tony Wagner) stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World
by Tony Wagner

I love the truths about "wicked" problems. I'm looking forward to reading his book... and reimagining what can go in those tote bags!

And I want to put the question out to all parents who read this blog. If the school sent home something that REALLY encouraged your child to happily learn at home, what would that look like? When I first thought about tote bags instead of Zoom I was still stuck in traditional: worksheets, math manipulatives, handwork supplies, and some interesting philosophical questions for family discussion. But it can really be anything. And I have a whole month to brainstorm (and then months after that to tweak what isn't working). Loose parts? Art supplies? Science experiment materials?

In short, I probably can't send home a puppy in a tote bag but beyond that the sky is the limit.

I've talked with one mom about what kinds of books her child would want to borrow from school. In the privacy of your own home, you can read what you're interested in without worrying what the kids around you might think. An early reader that you love? Why not! A thick chapter book that is a huge stretch for you but you're determined to read it? Why not! The dictionary? Why not! My daughters loved to read old vintage textbooks when they were in elementary school.

I'm conceptualizing tote bags & personal projects for students, and daily virtual "office hours" for parents to check in with me and get the support they need. I'd much rather the adults be on Zoom than the children. I can still have Zoom check in time for kids but it would be short and non compulsory. Rather than providing instruction via Zoom, my goal is to promote learning at home with thoughtfully chosen activities and projects, and use Zoom for touching base and providing ongoing support.

UPDATE: Project-based learning gets its moment during the coronavirus

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