Update: Someone asked me why this photo was so small, and how they could read the various items in the mind map. I said, “just download it and then zoom in!” thinking that would solve the problem. Wrong! So I’ve now linked it to the original on my Flickr account. Original post continues below.
At right is my visualization of my NECC experience in 2009. It’s a tag cloud or mind map, lightly linked by lines radiating out from the center. I generated it on the train ride home on my iPhone, using the program SimpleMindX.
Wednesday evening I stopped at my parents’ house on my way back to home and school. There’s no internet connection there for my own laptop; I have to go through the rather cumbersome process of borrowing my mother’s computer and logging in to websites and tools to us the Net there, and of course she’s a heavy computer user so this means stealing her time.
Yesterday, Thursday, I drove home, stopping along the way for a chapel service at the Boy Scouts camp where I usually work in the summer. (Some of you may criticize me for working for an organization you perceive as sexist, racist, homophobic, etc, and all I can tell you is it’s not like that, really. REALLY. You’ll have to trust me or not on this one).
All of the principles and guidelines I heard at NECC 2009 about meaningful learnng — that there should be opportunities for failure; that there should be teamwork, creativity, and interconnected learning, with project-based curriculums and connectivity between disciplines and across social networks — already exist in Scouting programs across the US. In a sense, it’s this alternate social framework for schools that’s been doing learning 2.0 actvities without learning 2.0 tools.
Don’t get me wrong. The BSA has some growing and transforming to do. But a loyal and dedicated cadre of scouts and former scouts will teach 350-500 students a week for six weeks this summer, just at this one camp. The kids will leave with 6-10 merit badges under their belts: in swimming and boating, first aid and citizenship, environmental science, crafts, shooting a rifle, archery and more. Kids and staff together are motivated to help each other learn and grow. The scouts span a range of mental and physical abilities, but everyone gets stronger along the way. There are requirements (set to high standards), but no formal tests.
And that seems to be what we expect of our schools: high standards, deep reflection, rich connectivity, meaningful learning, goal-oriented, and turning out successful students eager and willing to learn more.
I keep wondering: how do we make schools more like Scouting? I have a few answers, but we all have a long way to go.
In the meantime, I’m getting ready for a family reunion this weekend, and an interview today. I seem to have picked up a sleeplessness while in DC, too, because I’ve been so wired since NECC that I’ve not slept more than three hours a night since Tuesday. Yow.