Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cultivating a Learning Environment

I love David Warlick's blog. In a recent post he lists six suggestions for cultivating a learning environment. I'm going to use these as a guide for any meeting I chair or any tech project that allows me some influence. I also hope to add to the list and have a list of my own specific examples by the end of this year.

Here are his suggestions taken from his post:

  1. Fill your school(s) with learners. When interviewing prospective teachers, ask “Tell me about something that you have learned lately.” “How did you learn it?” “What are you seeking to learn more about right now that is not related to your teaching – and how?” Find out how proficient they are at network learning.
  2. Be a public learner. Open your faculty meetings with something that you’ve just learned – and how you learned it. Include in the daily announcements some piece of interesting knowledge that is obviously new. “Did you know that a California power utility has just gotten permission to sell electricity from outer space? Make frequent mention of what you’ve learned from your Twitter stream, RSS reader, specific bloggers you read. This should not be limited to job specific topics.
  3. Introduce new ideas that are not necessarily related to school. Share links to thought-provoking TED talks or other mini-lectures presented by interesting and smart people. Ask for reactions during faculty meetings, in the halls, or during casual conversations with employees and parents.
  4. Make students’ outside-school-learning part of the conversation. Find out what their passions are and ask them what they’ve just learned about it. Suggest that they write something up about it for the school web site or annual research publication.
  5. Make your school a curiosity lab. Plant around the school (especially in the library) intriguing questions that might provoke curiosity in learners (How many steps does a centipede have to take to travel a foot? Who was the youngest person to sail around the world?). Reward students who answer them and video their explanations of how they found the answers for the school’s web site. With the help of creative teachers, invent a mystery for your school and plant clues around the school. Require student-participants to research the clues they have discovered in order to find their way to the next clue.
  6. Make all school stakeholders public learners. Ask members of your staff to write essays about their latest vacations or hobbies and publish them on the school web site or annual research publication. Ask teachers to devote one of their classroom bulletin boards to information about a personal passion of theirs, sharing their latest gained knowledge and achievements. Suggest that they produce TED style multimedia presentations about a topic they are especially interested in and post them on the school’s web site or perform them at PTA meetings. Learn about the hobbies and travels of the parents of your students and ask them to share what they are learning and how they are learning it through essays, videos, Skyped-in conversations, etc.

Other versions of this list can be found here and here.

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