Video Interview: A Student’s Perspective on Project-based Learning

At the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, our site is working with a local school district on implementing the design of Project-Based Learning (something my WMWP colleagues have already done in another school district.). I am not directly involved in that work but I am facilitating a Professional Learning Community in my own school district on Project-Based Learning.

So when our WMWP UMass intern Grace Dugan sat down to share her experiences in high school at a charter school based on the PBL philosophy, I was grateful to have an ear open (and I helped edit the video). I appreciated how Grace talked about her experiences, and how the inquiry model really shaped how she approaches learning and PBL has a resonance effect.

Peace (more than a project),
Kevin

Innovation, Design and History (plus Multi-Genre Writing with Primary Sources)

Innovation and History PD at Armory

Our second professional development session of Exploring HIstory with a Local Lens with teachers at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site last night focused mostly on engineering design and innovation, with a deep look at some of the designs in the Armory archives that worked, and those that did not. (This project, a partnership between Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the Springfield Armory, is funded with a grant from the National Writing Project and the National Park Service.)

We were pleased to have the Springfield Armory Curator, Alex, join us, sharing his vast knowledge of the Armory’s history and an understanding of how the engineering design process fueled not only the Springfield Armory’s place in the field of manufacturing and innovation in the country, but how other businesses and innovators in Western Massachusetts grew and expanded as a result of the work being done in Springfield.

Alex showed us a variety of prototypes, and like a detective game, we had to figure out why a design worked and was further developed, and which were not. A coffee grinder in the stock of the rifle? A sword with an embedded whistle? A gun with revolving chamber that might blow up at any moment?

Ranger Scott and the 3D Printer

Armory Ranger Scott Gausen, a fellow facilitator in the course, then had us exploring patent diagrams in a lesson about interpreting engineering drawings, and determining the notion of a patent. We then worked on our patent drawing for a flying machine. Mine became a Rube Goldberg machine that you probably should not build at home.

How to Fly (but don't)

Scott then brought us down to the museum floor, where he made a connection between the innovation practices of old and the new, as he had a 3D printing machine up and running, working on a plastic part that the huge lathes behind the printer used to make.

Finally, after perusing and exploring our state’s new Social Studies standards, I had our participants exploring multi-genre writing through the use of primary sources of Shays Rebellion, which was a farmer’s uprising and assault on the Springfield Armory after the Revolutionary War. We made black-out poems, drew illustrations, wrote journal entries, made newspaper/media products, and I joined in with a rough comic, featuring George Washington and Daniel Shays.

Shays Rebellion Comic Strip

All in all, it was a great professional development session, leading us deeper into the notions of history, stories and innovation. We meet again in January as participants start to fine-tune their project ideas.

Peace (in the past),
Kevin

We’re In This Room Together

At our recent Western Massachusetts Writing Project conference, the keynote speaker was educator Kelly Norris, whose new book — Too White — explores her identity and her story through the lens of race, bias, empathy and social justice.

Here, she reads some of her recently published book:

Interestingly, during the Q&A period, Kelly responded to a question about addressing difficult issues like these while working in a relatively insular school community, and Kelly mentioned how difficult a role that can be. Particularly, she noted, when she always seems like “that person in the room” who raises questions and challenges assumptions and bias.

Then, while watching the video archive of a Studio Visit for the Equity Unbound course, I heard the same phrase by some of the guests, noting that they often feel like “that person in the room” and put on the spot.

Which led to a comic. We’re in the room together.

Spark change

Peace (and understanding),
Kevin

WMWP: Conversations from the Digital Margins

This is the digital annotation workshop for WMWP’s Best Practices. While this is here for participants in the workshop itself, anyone else who might be visiting (hello to you) is free to explore and join us, too. Although, the first part — where we write on paper — might prove trickier for you than for us.

Links/Resource List:

Peace (in the piece),
Kevin

Getting Ready for Annotation Workshop

Big Article for Annotation Workshop

Tomorrow, I am leading a workshop at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project about digital annotation (and a second one about Write Out and place-based learning). My frame is to have them first work with the text on their own, with pen and notes in the margins of their copies of paper; and then together as a workshop group, marking up the text with sticky notes; and then online with the world, using Hypothesis to make connections with the text and others.

I took the Christensen article we will be using — a powerful piece about critical literacy and paying attention to students by Linda Christensen — and blew it up into poster-sized pages. For the second phase of the workshop — annotating as a small group — we will use these over-sized pages and sticky notes. The article was part of a Writing Our Civic Futures activity last year.

You will be able to see the slideshow for the workshop here tomorrow, since I am going to embed it for participants to use for links and such.

Peace (writing on the walls),
Kevin

 

At WMWP: Instruments in a Common Band

WMWP Best Practices Overview

The small group planning the two main conferences for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project this year have decided to have an overarching theme of the entire year. Which I think is a fantastic idea — the theme is the thread to connect our work.

Even better is the theme they chose: Instruments in a Common Band. The tagline is: Voice, Identity and Respectful Dialogue. Perfect, right?

Not just metaphorically, which works for me as a musician, but also with the intent of encouraging the consideration of different voices and identity and discussion in the field of teaching and writing. Our first weekend conference is coming up, and the sessions and the keynote address reflect this theme rather nicely.

The “common band” phrasing has stuck with me, too. How we are all making music together, metaphorically — sometimes in harmony; sometimes, with cacophony; sometimes in rhythm; sometimes, not. Our obligation is not just to make noise but to make music. Not just as teachers, but as learners. As citizens.

And the theme certainly dovetails nicely with our WMWP Mission Statement.

Peace (sung from the band of the Common),
Kevin

PS — if you are in Western Massachusetts, there is still time to register for our Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing on Saturday, October 13.

Slice of Life: Four Presentations in the Days Ahead

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

In the next two weeks, I am facilitating or co-facilitating four different workshops at three different places, and while I am making good progress, I still feel a bit scattered, thinking through all of the tasks I have to do to get it all into place.

October Presentations

This weekend, my Write Out colleague Bethany Silva and I are doing an online presentation for the 4TDW (teachers teaching teachers about technology and digital writing), and we used Zoom this weekend to finalize most of the planning. Online presentations like this are tricky because you want to engage the audience and encourage them to visit resources, but then you need to have them all come back to the platform. The virtual conference is free, by the way, and our session on Write Out (an initiative between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service) is on Saturday, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

A week from today, meanwhile, I am gathering with some grade 3-6 colleagues in our school district, as I have been asked to lead a Professional Learning Community around Project-Based Learning. I have a bunch of activities and activators all set up, but there is limited time, and we will meet only one more time this year. Yeah, not really a PLC. More like a PBL teaser, but I’ll do my best to get conversations started and underway.

Finally, two other presentations take place a week later at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project’s annual fall conference. on October 13 at UMass Amherst. There, I am doing another version of the Write Out workshop (but this time, more localized, around our work with the Springfield Armory National Historic Site) as well as a workshop about digital annotation and the Writing Our Civic Futures project from Educator Innovator. My aim is to get us annotating a text (by Linda Christensen) on paper (first, solo, and then as a workshop), then together, online, joining the crowd annotation project.

Phew. October just started, and it already seems busy.

Peace (sharing it),
Kevin

Helping Teachers Get Published in the Newspaper

Karen Pleasant Chalk Talk

Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has long nurtured a partnership with our local newspaper — The Daily Hampshire Gazette — as a way to help teachers in our WMWP network get published in a monthly column called Chalk Talk. I coordinate the program, acting as recruiter of teacher-writers (one of our missions in the writing project), editor and sounding board, and liaison to the newspaper.

Our first writer for this new school year, Karen, writes about the intrusions of the world on the classroom — of the fear of gun violence, and strangers in the building, and the impact all of those considerations have on educators and students alike.

Karen Quote

It’s a sober look at the world today, through the eyes and heart of a veteran teacher.

You can read Karen’s piece here and you can read the many Chalk Talk pieces we have published over the years.

Peace (in our worlds, small and large),
Kevin