“Every creative person, and I think probably every other person, faces resistance when they are trying to create something good. The harder the resistance, the more important the task must be” (Miller, 2009).
When asked by friends or family members, “what do you do?” many of us respond with a rehearsed yet professional title. However, I think the true intention behind that question is who are you and why do you do what you do? As curious beings, it is in our nature to want to know and inquire. We desire to connect and make meaning of the world around us. We want to know where we fit, and if what we are doing is making a difference in the world. If we find it doesn’t, do we have permission to rewrite our own story? With this in mind, our students often feel the same way. They want to know if what they are learning matters, and how it will help them connect meaningfully in their lives. Our learners need to be inspired by the very people that claimed learning as a profession: us.
I want my students to be set free and liberated through learning. Every step we take as professional educators should be through the lens of a professional learner in which we model authentic learning opportunities with our own life. “People want to join a great story. If you want to lead, tell one with your life. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself” (Miller, 2003). The same is true for authentic learning environments. Engagement in authentic learning is the catalyst that will revolutionize our society and bring true freedom.
We have more opportunities than ever before to create engaging learning environments through project-based learning in which our learners choose and own their learning. Project based learning is effective because learners discover that they are no longer confined to textbooks; the possibilities to learn are limitless. Not only is PBL an innovative approach to learning, but it makes education real. Our students become both the creator and the learner. A significant learning environment meets the learner where they are, and fosters opportunities for growth. When learners engage in meaningful learning opportunities, it helps them develop their voice and share it in an authentic way with a real audience. I propose that UT Charter promote the goal of full implementation for all core subjects in the future.
A blended learning environment paired with PBL gives learners meaningful opportunities to engage through projects face to face and further expand their learning through technology giving them access to limitless information. Utilizing technology as a tool to create significant learning environments allows learners to choose, own, and personalize their learning both online and in person. Learners are then able to discover new interests and showcase what they have learned on a variety of platforms. Extensive research has proven blended learning with PBL is an effective approach to motivate learner agency.
PBL helps learners connect creatively, and develop a sense of self-efficacy. Creative projects engages the whole child allowing them to connect intangible emotions to a tangible product. This is vital in guiding our learners to establish social-emotional skills, intrinsic purpose, and self-regulation. The urgency to promote creativity as beautifully explained by Shauna Niequist:
Please keep believing that life can be better, brighter, broader because of the art that you make. Please keep demonstrating the courage that it takes to swim upstream in a world that prefers practicality over poetry, that values you more for going to the gym than going to the deepest places in your soul. Please keep making your art for people like me, people who need the magic and imagination and honesty of great art to make the day-to-day world a little more bearable (2007).
Meaningful learning further deepens appreciation, compassion, and connection to their world. Through PBL, our learners learn how to learn, and inspire others through creative inquiry to hope for a brighter future.
For further reading:
Sinek, S. (2011). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin.
Simon Sinek proposes the importance of identifying our “why” so we never lose sight of our purpose. He suggests that people don’t buy what we do, they buy why we do it. Leaders are encouraged to initiate innovation with the message of why so the goals remain clear and focused. This book will help educators and administrators motivate learners to discover their own “why” for learning.
Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.
Daniel Pink’s book Drive unveils the truth about motivation being largely intrinsic, and categorizes motivation into three main parts: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Paired Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, teachers will be better prepared to help learners identify their why and discover a passion for lifelong learning.
Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., Switzler, A., (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
The authors have dedicated this book to influencers who wish to restore hope in leading change for the good of the world. They encourage changing human behavior through capturing their hearts, and provide insight on how it can be done effectively.
Horn, M. B. & Staker, H. (2015). Blended: using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Horn and Staker’s book encourages a truly blended model of education in which the learning environment consists of digital tools along with face-to-face interaction. This creates an environment that personalizes the learning for each student, and provides significant opportunities for students to access limitless information. The authors also encourage educators to organize and create teams to oversee each innovative transition toward a blended model. The right team is vital in fulfilling the ultimate goal in creating authentic learning environments.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Dweck has had a tremendous influence in helping others discover and develop a growth mindset. This book exposes the fixed mindset voice, and provides strategies in how to overcome it with the powerful word, “yet.” Yet grants permission to see failure as an opportunity to learn, not the chance to quite. Dweck encourages learners and leaders to use the power of a growth mindset to propel education into a more personalized learner-centered model.
Miller, D. (2009). A million miles in a thousand years. Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2003288-a-million-miles-in-a-thousand-years-what-i-learned-while-editing-my-lif
Miller, D. (2003). Blue like jazz (p. IX). Nashville, TN. Thomas Nelson Books.
Niequist, Shauna. (2007). Cold tangerines: Celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life (p. 228). Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan.