New Story? Or New Experience?

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The “New Story” hasn’t caught on because it is not a new story – it’s not even a tech story or a web 2.0 story. The New Story doesn’t catch on because it is not a story you can hear or read about and really understand. To understand it you have to work with a class of students that you really know. You know who knows how to do “traditional school”, who gets traditional work done, who doesn’t. Who is motivated and who isn’t. Who is outgoing and who is shy – even painfully shy. Who is in control and who is out of control – even spooky out of control. Who likes to please and who could care less.

Next you have to do things differently. You have to empower students in group decision making and social skills. Allow students to do work that brings out the hidden talents in the room – from artwork, creative writing, problem solving, “making things” and tearing them apart and putting them back together, etc. You have to teach them how to find and think about information and then give them permission to show what they know in various ways and “their way” at least sometimes. Then you have to come up with an idea for a project – as real world and community service based as possible is what I feel is best. Then turn them loose in cooperative groups to do it.

What happens next is often magic. Students who are out of control are not out of control (at least for longer than they usually are). Students that are shy might not be shy today – and might even blow your socks off with a flurry of outspokenness or leadership. Your unmotivated students might still be, but some will be among the most motivated in class. Those that know how “to do” traditional school (old school) might be lost – and might be watching or listening to a usually unmotivated or out of control or bullied student to find out how the heck to do THIS. Students that never get excited will FIND YOU and constantly report to you what they found or learned or did or didn’t do (even though you didn’t ask them to). Students will ask you or other students how to do something they don’t know how to do because they HAVE to know how to do THIS. And your classroom becomes a bee hive – there is a palpable buzz of activity and learning – what you became a teacher to experience.

But if you are an outsider observing in that room… And you don’t know THESE kids… then you might see a glimmer of the magic… but you don’t experience the magic or get the magic. You don’t know that when Molly is berating her group for getting off task and they listen to her… that all year she has been that dirty, quiet, strange girl that no one really pays much attention to unless they are making fun of her, but now her group is following her lead…amazing. Or that Darrel who… “he never does anything” has just spent the last 30 minutes helping a group member paint their dirt “Mars Red” because then they are going glue it down on the bottom of the greenhouse he designed and he needs that kids help. If you don’t know these kids you miss that (and many other things) and so you miss the value and the point.

You can’t plan for all the good things that are happening, you can just design projects that meet certain standards knowing that a whole bunch more are going to be met along the way… and some things are going to happen that aren’t standards but you know are just good things. Things that a well rounded person needs to know about – but doing nothing but small reading groups and keyword summaries and circle-seat-center and reading about science and social studies and art in reading groups but almost never doing them – aren’t going to be learned.

So where’s the tech? It’s there. It’s how much of the research was done. It’s how some questions were asked and some answers were received. It’s how product was produced and edited and questioned and talked about with peers and experts from anywhere. AND it’s how the work was presented and shared and discussed and questioned and tweaked and archived and copied and more – much more.

But if you don’t know those kids – you just might not get the whole story. That’s what we have to overcome to spread the word and activate change. We have to get more people to experience THAT.

Learning is messy!

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