Friday, December 14, 2007

Perspective Before Three Weeks Of Holiday Break Part 1: Marathoning and Apprenticeship Education

I haven't posted in awhile, not because I haven't had anything to say, but because things here have been busy. The way my school's schedule works pretty much the entire semester needs to be wrapped up (please excuse the holiday pun) before winter break. When we come back in '08, we get about a week of class before finals week begins.
In the time between my last post and now, there have been a series of events upon which I'd like to reflect and that will hopefully provide me with somewhere to start when I come back from the mainland in January.

1. I finished my 3rd marathon on Sunday. While I was running, I couldn't help thinking about the experience as metaphor for the work I've been doing this year, and for the past 7 years, actually. The Honolulu marathon is known as the people's marathon. It prides itself on not having a finishing time limit. This year, the last finisher came in somewhere around 14 hours. While the winning time was around 2:17. The frontrunners would have eaten 3 meals and gone to bed by the time the last finisher makes it across the finish line. This is a lot like the experience of education in the 21st century. What I enjoyed most was making my way back to the finish line after crossing it myself and encouraging runners still on the course. And I think that's an important part of being an educator. It's a people's endeavor. Some are well trained, some aren't. Some finish sooner, some later. But the runner's high is the same. The feeling of accomplishment bonds all finishers.
This year, there was another interesting twist. It seems that the timing system failed, meaning everybody's times might be incorrect. And this really has made me think about the reasons I run. At mile 23 this year, I really didn't think there was any reason to run another marathon. But by today, now that I can walk down stairs unassisted, I'm already thinking about another race. In an undertaking like a marathon, does time really matter? It's just a way to measure what you've done. But is it measurable to anybody but me. This year I wanted to run a personal best, since the last marathon caused an injury that kept me from running for over a year. I missed that time (by my watch, not the official clock) by about 2 minutes. But I still feel like this was a much better race. I think I trained more efficiently, at healthier, enjoyed the experience, finished feeling good, and have been enjoying the recovery. Another metaphor that I want to remember as I encourage my students and colleagues.

2. Last week, after connecting via Twitter, I hosted Wes Fryer and Dr. Dana Owens for a day on our campus, meeting with Technology Resource Teachers and Director, as well as working with teachers to incorporate more authentic learning experiences. The conversations were, of course, excellent and edifying. But there was something else about that day that's been ineffable for me until I was able to juxtapose what I learned from them about their WWII Digital Storytelling project with several conversations with colleagues here. What Wes is doing, and what technology allows us to do is bring education back to true experiential learning: apprenticeship. Thanks to Lisa for articulating this idea. Wes has involved 8000 students in collecting the stories of veterans from their communities. Commercial news would be hard-pressed to collect 8 stories. Students are apprenticing as archivists, storytellers, community activists. This is also what's happening over at Students2.0, where students are apprenticing as educational writers and thinkers. Lindsey and I spoke earlier this week about how meaningful the experience has been for both of us. I wish I could have her apprentice as an educator. For more visionary thinking on the idea of education as apprenticeship, check out The End of Education by Neil Postman.
Part 2 coming soon...


C. Thompson said...

Chris, I really like your comparison of running a marathon and learning. This year I had the experience of doing my first 10 km race. Yes, I had a goal, a time I wanted to beat, but when all was said and done what I savoured was the training, the pre-race excitement, the beautiful day, in fact the whole experience. Too much of the time we (teachers and students) become focussed on the end result, as opposed to the experience. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could encourage our students to savour the process, the experience, so that in the end the real questions are "what did you learn?" and "what changed you the most about this experience?", not "what was your grade?" So I guess the question for me is how do we encourage this kind of learning?

Lindsea said...

I still can't believe you ran the marathon. That's such a great accomplishment on its own, but you 've ran it THREE TIMES! I also admire your ability to think coherently while running. I honestly wouldn't be able to think anything other than, "My legs are falling off! My legs are falling off! Save me."

The apprenticeship idea is really interesting to me, because I think learning that's connected with real life passions (i.e. archiving, storytelling, being community activists, like you mentioned) is very important for students. In one of my posts for Students 2.0, I talked about how connecting community service to the classroom has helped inspire me to become more active in the community. Having a context to base learning in has always made the material easier, and more fun, to learn.

Recently I've been playing with the idea of becoming a journalist, and Students 2.0 is helping me with my writing, and especially thinking.

It would definitely be worthwhile to organize something (a presentation maybe?) that can be given at one of the teacher work days. I think we briefly talked about it when I came to see you in your office.

Anyways, I hope you have a relaxing break, and a fun holiday :)

C. Watson said...

Claire, Congratulations on your 10K! That's a great distance. I bet you would love a half-marathon: all the glory of the marathon but a lot less pain. And thanks for visiting my blog. I agree with you completely on the power of reflection in teaching and learning. One the best experiences (well, actually, there have been many) I've had in education was in a pilot group called Collaborative Coaching and Learning. Essentially, we were a small group of cross-grade-level, cross-disciplinary teachers given release time each month to visit each other's classes and other classes in other schools and districts. Then we worked through reflection with a "literacy coach." Our coach also pointed us to professional literature and research to scaffold our observations and reflections. That kind of structured growth really worked for me.

Now it's the end of the semester, and I'm looking at the list of end results I was supposed to get my students to, and... maybe we came close. But I would certainly like to have more time to lead them through reflection, as well as introduce them to research about their own learning. I guess "Learning Communities" is the current term.

Lindsea, You know actually I do my best thinking while doing things like running, hiking, and climbing mountains, and probably my worst thinking sitting at a desk. Something about the oxygen or the altitude. Over break, I wrote in my journal about how I really believe snowboarding or skiing is the quintessential whole brain activity (reference here to 21st century skills). I was a snowboard instructor for 7 years, and it's an experience I always try to draw from when I'm planning English curriculum.

C. Watson said...

Also, about the apprenticeship piece, Mr. Schauble and I are putting together a PFA presentation about wikis and blogs in the classroom. I think we'll continue to think about and explore apprenticeship. We were discussing the Postman section right before I gave it to you for your post. Big implications I think, especially for a place like Hawaii.