Explode the Silos

From Silos to Collaboration: The idea is to have a useful method of supporting collaboration across all the teachers....

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8/26/15

Step by Step guide for an PBL/STEAM activity:

A step by step iCity can be found at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/icity/id963412823?mt=11

but,please keep in mind that doing a PBL/STEAM is the suggestion to enter Transdisciplinary world, to get used to the planning involved, later should be all topics threaded into one big PBL project.

8/23/15

We recommended on 8/16/15 using a STEAM activity for the initial prototype 

SO

Let’s look (through pictures) at  PBL/STEAM activity for Kinder that has been prototyped: 

KINDER:

Theme: Step by Step / Where We Live - PBL/STEAM

Big project: building a city. (iCity)

STEAM concept with  Project Based Learning allowing the teachers to cover benchmarks in all these areas in a single project

Resources

We won't be writing the actual benchmarks covered here, but you can have an idea of what was covered below:

SCIENCE: Climate & weather (day and night), biotic at night, solar system (sun, moon, stars)

TECHNOLOGY: light (electricity – battery), city sounds ( buddying up with an older grade)

ENGINEERING: City lay out, bridge study using design thinking

ART – painting, color, transforming, tearing gluing, naming conventions (language)

MATH: 2D & 3D shapes, patterns, organizational thinking, measurement (ruler, iterated units) , spatial reasoning.


Science


Technology


Engineering
Arts & Math

Now let’s prototype here the Feedback forum

Positives            

"I enjoyed working with all the subjects in one place"

"fun to work with the Math teacher at the same time" 

Possibilities

"I can really see how I will integrate my literacy benchmarks, here, maybe signage"

"We can add posters on buildings and using Aurasma embed videos on them."

"Can we have another grade make a First People's maquete with their benchmarks? and then we could somehow connect the learning?, like before and after?"

Concerns

"my class had no place to store all boxes"

"I found a bit overwhelming when I had the other teachers in the class with me"

Iterations

"We discussed how we could add other subjects to future prototypes - Language, Music, History, Geography..."

The subjects added, and the way we add them, will depend on the age group being taught."

"We plan to have an Open House and have parents participate in a demo project"


I hope we were able to give you an idea of how this would look. 


end of current update________________________________


8/16/15

UPDATE VERSION: This is a mash up of two ideas: ”Back to Transdisciplinary and Feedback Forum”

https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/ideas/and-we-are-back-to-transdisciplinary

https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/ideas/feedback-forum

Explode the Silos

Overview: 

From Silos to Collaboration: The idea is to have a useful method of supporting collaboration across all the teachers who work with a particular grade or division, so that they can coordinate their presentation of the curriculum.

Potential For Impact: 

By coordinating the presentation of the curriculum, with the same concept showing up in several contexts, the students can have more opportunities to apply what they have learned, and to see that what they are learning can be relevant in multiple ways.

Value Prop/Pitch: 

A more collaboratively built curriculum that is connected horizontally, with common threads across the subjects.

How’d I get this idea off the ground?

You need a common room with two huge white boards or magnetic walls. This idea MUST BE VISUAL to work.

This idea is actually quite simple, and has two parts:

Part 1

When back from the holidays, instead of seeing our subjects as being distinct and each going about our own planning, teachers sit together, grade by grade (including the specialists, who would need to rotate through the grades). The class teacher describes the humanities concepts and benchmarks in her curriculum (eg. All About Me) and the Art/Science/Music/PE/Tech/ specialist teachers describe their own concepts and benchmarks. Then, together they talk about how they could combine concepts into larger projects – most likely the class teacher would take the lead on creating broad projects and the specialists would look at how they would work with those, but the specialists could propose projects also. All this is written up on a large whiteboard that the teachers can refer back to.

Once back in their classrooms, the teacher and specialists work with the children on their respective subjects and, where relevant, apply their concepts to the larger projects that the students are working on at the time. So, even though the subjects are still taught separately, the kids' broader projects are the common threads through the separate subjects. The kids learn and apply the concepts across the different subjects, seeing the concepts in action in different contexts - because learning is not supposed to be just content but also concept and application (life!).

It is important to say that if you have for example, 5 kindergartens, they don’t necessarily have to do all the same projects: they can have different ones, or they could have variations on a theme, or they could have different projects that come together at the end. While all this is discussed before the students have arrived, teachers do need to be ready to adapt and change the plan according to the students’ needs – and teachers need to remember to talk with their colleagues about the changes.

Part 2

So now we have developed the concept, we have applied it, and we have finished our Big Project. It is time for Feedback! This brings us to our second large whiteboard, on which are the following categories: positives, possibilities, concerns, iterations.  On top of the board, the teachers write the project title and overview. Then, first they each share what worked, the positives of the project. Next, they share what might have come from the project, any extensions/changes introduced that had not been expected at the beginning. Finally, they share what did not work, and any concerns that arose, and talk about what to do differently next time to address these. The final category, iterations, is where the colleagues share what they think might improve the project.

How you can get started:

Have a chat with your team, remind them that they are a team and they are all have the same goal! The students come front and center: ultimately, the goal is to make learning fun and engaging for the students – and that’s a lot easier if the team is engaged and having fun too!

It’s easier to get this approach going if it’s done incrementally, starting with maybe just one project, and expanding from there - prototype!

For the initial prototype, we recommend using a PBL/STEAM activity.

STEAM activities naturally cross silo boundaries and we believe it can be much more effective to show someone a STEAM project than to explain it. The hands-on format is impactful both because the participants can see how their students would experience the project, and also because they can more easily visualize how they could execute something similar themselves. After the project demonstration is completed, the teachers can “unpack it” together, and we have found the mood is usually very positive – this tends to be a pretty effective team-building exercise! Make sure you have a common area with white boards for the brainstorming, and wrap up the day with a team party.

Materials to get this idea off the ground:

We can come to the school and go through the process with the teachers, and we can build a sample unit if we have the benchmarks of one of the grades (e.g Kinder/ 3rd grade), to get them to visualize how to do it. We’ll need a brainstorming space, with whiteboards, and space for the team PBL/STEAM session.

end of latest update

-----Coach Moss asked me what would this look like, I think could be something like this:

Let's use Kindergarten as our example, so I imagine like this: A copy of the complete Kinder curriculum is given to the teachers and specialists. Then we have a wall to write on! The header will say for e.g Where We Live then there will be columns under the header Science / Technology/ Music / Arts/ Science / PE/ MLD and each teacher would write which benchmarks they could cover and the class teacher would brainstorm with them which could be the class project where the kids would apply the knowledge they learnt. . To have this in the way I describe above we would need to have admin and other colleagues completely ready to let go. I am tweaking a sample template.

(We did something like this with my Where We Live (we didn't meet all together, I read the whole curriculum and reached out to my colleagues that were open to it) so we have applied STEAM and on site STEAM (we were not able to have connections with Music and PE at that time) I mentioned during Discovery.

What I described above would be a larger whole school version of it! and I believe that would be the way to go. Imagine even more after Kinder finishes and the students move up to first grade and the first grade big projects should/could be an extension of the previous project.

ORIGINAL POST

What if, when we arrived back from the holidays, instead of seeing our subjects as being distinct and each going about our own planning, we saw them as transdisciplinary? We could sit together, grade by grade, with each grade including the specialists (who would need to rotate through the grades). And what if the class teacher described the humanities concepts and benchmarks in the curriculum (eg. All ABout Me) and then the Art/Science/Music/PE/Tech specialist teachers looked at their own concepts and benchmarks, and together they talked about how they could combine concepts into larger projects? Then, they could work on their subjects in their own sessions with the children, applying their concepts to the larger project, so that even though the subjects could still be taught separately, the kids' broader projects would be the common threads through the separate subjects. The kids would be learning and applying the concepts across the different subjects, seeing the concepts in action in different contexts - because learning is not supposed to be content but concept/life!

I believe that one of the only ways to foster a culture of innovation is if we teachers understand that we MUST work together, that nobody owns the concept - apart from the kids! This will allow the kids to have more ownership of their learning, the ability to see where they are going and an understanding of how they are going to get there.

Am I making sense? (When I am on a roll I sometimes find it difficult to put my thoughts on paper)

-


25 comments

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Photo of Jimm
Team

Love the Silos title and the concept. The silos issue applies across many aspects of education & I'm really pleased you've raised it.
We've been experimenting with "matrix management" to diffuse silos. This us an approach that is widely used in the software industry, but does not seem to have been applied a lot in education. It may be useful to apply it here.
I'm quite seasoned in it. If it's something you want to know more about, just let me know. I'm in NYC. jimm.meloy@gmail.com

Photo of Garth Nichols
Team

Love this concept! I have an idea that is going at this 'transdiscipline' approach in a different way - through a design lab. I'd love to hear your thoughts: https://goo.gl/ukI1cl.

I'd love to see students use the inquiry-based approach and develop their own question that requires more than two to three disciplines to answer effectively. They set off in search/exploration of possible answers - seeking mentors, resources and experiences that will help them answer the question.

For example, in Grade 12 Science, answering the question: "Am I satisfied with the way pesticides are created, applied and destroyed, in my life?" a student would need to research what a pesticide is, and how they are created. Maybe a field trip to a pesticide factory, or a farm. They would need to reflect on the impact that it has on their own lives, the life of their family (now and in the future) as well as the environment. They would have to critically analyse the justification of, and refutation of their use. Perhaps their final product would be a campaign to support or offer up an alternative to their use?

Such rich learning potential!
garth.

Photo of Jessica Lura
Team

I love the idea (though as you know, I am a big fan of STEAM).

On the same vein as Maggie's comment, maybe include information similar to the MakerSpace Playbook: http://makered.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Makerspace-Playbook-Feb-2013.pdf for people who are new to this giving suggestions on how to organize. Unfortunately, without some sort of getting started place, many teachers won't know where to begin. Even a reminder that you can find materials at _____ types of places would help encourage teachers.

Also, I think that the teachers need to see how easy (and how meaningful) it is do a single transdisciplinary activity before they will be interested in creating entire units.

As part of the2014 Maker Faire, Make created 5 basic circuit (STEAMy & transdisciplinary) activities that could be done fairly cheaply (can almost get the materials for all 5 activities for 20 students for about $100) with directions: http://makezine.com/2014/05/16/classroom-packs-shine-in-bay-area-schools/ . I could see teachers doing a couple of single lessons/activities, reflecting on the activities, seeing the benefits, and then being motivated to collaborate with colleagues around themes and long-term projects.

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

Great feedback! We are adding the STEAM concept to Project Based Learning allowing the teachers to cover benchmarks in all these areas in a single project. We believe that for the first try will be easier for teachers to join STEAM to their PBL project then next works with all subjects.
I will share this ideas with Lisa as we are developing an idea of a MakerSpace in a box :-). So many cools things out there. :-)

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

BTW just got my tickets to the Maker Faire here in NYC!

Photo of Jessica Lura
Team

Yay!

Photo of Margaret Powers
Team

I think it would be awesome if a video could be created to model this for teachers - including the planning, the actual project work, and the final reflection afterwards. I think that would help make the model scalable and something other teachers and schools could adapt for their own use, as well as maybe a website or workbook with prompt to help teachers and specialists know where to start (e.g., what questions to ask? How often to check-in with one another during the project? How do organize their collaborations and document the work?).

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

Hi Margaret,
Thank you for the input! I like it :-).
Check the step by step guide : https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/icity/id963412823?mt=11 of an example.

cheers,paula

Photo of Moss Pike
Team

Thanks for the update, Paula; it's fantastic! I love the scaffolding you've built around the idea. And I agree with Maggie that building a model video or even blog to chart the work done in the project could be helpful. Something that walked teachers through the process would greatly aid the feedback stage that you've described so well. One question: how do kids celebrate the end of the project? Do they show them off to each other and the rest of the community in some way? That could be a lot of fun! Looking forward to seeing what you do with the idea over the course of the coming academic year!

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

Hi Moss, I have done the STEAM part at my school. My class and the specialists. We invited parents for an Open House (and they built some with us, with the students explaining (check the book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/icity/id963412823?mt=11, it is a glimpse and you can download for free) and we displayed the project we did at our lobby. We have presented at workshops.
I never did full scale, with all the classes involved, that is why I started with the idea of going big during the discovery phase and now at the ideation phase evolving it. I just find amazing the collaboration we could have if a school embraced it. When I saw Michael's feedback post was just a huge AHA moment, so we had to merge the ideas. Let's see what happens :-) Paula

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

Margaret you might like to look at the book I wrote about my class STEAM activity: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/icity/id963412823?mt=11 free download at the Apple Store.

Photo of Niranjan Vasireddy
Team

Paula, Great article. It is not always easy to put all our thoughts in written words - Easier Said than written. Not sure if you have seen this concept in action - but a High School in Portland Maine has got it right -
https://youtu.be/i17F-b5GG94 .
I was completely sold after I saw this video.
The video goes into how the 8th graders were given a 3 month project in building robots, to later building windmills which generate a single volt of current and later ideating on how they would build a device that would/could use solar/renewable energy. I liked how in this journey, they integrated the STEM projects with English, Geography, Politics, Environment and got the kids to see the world in a 360 view.
I believe that this should be the future on how we educate our kids. I however also am a very strong believer that children should be taught in multiple age groups at the same time. I have implemented this as a part of our camps at the children's museum. This works seamlessly.
Looking forward to more contributions from you and looking to connect as well.

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

Thank you for sharing the video, I hadn't seen it! Happy to say that the school I work for works on big projects like this too! It is brilliant to see the outcome. I agree with you we teach for life we need to connect the concepts together! cheers, paula

Photo of Moss Pike
Team

Agree with Robin that this idea indeed makes sense! How might we design the kinds of meetings you describe in terms of time, resources, etc.? Might we be able to create a sort of "kit" to give to teachers who want to do this kind of work but aren't sure where to begin? Perhaps a few example projects to begin with? This could be quite powerful!

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

We will use Kindergarten as our example, so I imagine like this: A copy of the complete Kinder curriculum is given to the teachers and specialists. Then we have a wall to write on! The header will say for e.g Where We Live then there will be columns under the header Science / Technology/ Music / Arts/ Science / PE/ MLD
and each teacher would write which benchmarks they could cover and the class teacher would brainstorm with them which could be the class project where the kids would apply the knowledge they learnt. . To have this in the way I describe above we would need to have admin and other colleagues completely ready to let go. I can't add a picture here but I designed a sample template just now.

(We did something like this with my Where We Live (we didn't meet all together, I read the whole curriculum and reached out to my colleagues that were open to it) so we have applied STEAM and on site STEAM (we were not able to have connections with Music and PE at that time) I mentioned during Discovery.

What I described above would be a larger whole school version of it! and I believe that would be the way to go. Imagine even more after Kinder finishes and the students move up to first grade the first grade big projects should/could be an extension of the previous project.

Photo of Emma Scripps
Team

Love this fleshed out description, Paula! You should add this to your post to help flesh this out more.

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

Just added! Thanks for the input. I made a template, but I am still tweaking it!

Photo of Moss Pike
Team

Awesome; thanks for adding, Paula! I really love the metrics/benchmarks you've described, given the adage that we get done what we measure. I think that adding benchmarks to collaborative work of this sort can greatly help to pull people in and spread the idea. That now raises the question of what kinds of benchmarks and how we measure them (something to think about down the road). Great work, and I'm excited to see it evolve!

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

Great feedback Moss. I will think the how :-)

Photo of Margaret Powers
Team

Speaking as a visual person, I wonder if there could be some way to color-code each subject area/discipline (maybe magnets that get moved around on the whiteboard used for planning?) and then as plans are made, a graphic could be made to show how the colors begin to mix and intermingle for each unit or project. I think having that explicit labeling or naming of how both collaborators and ideas/subject matter can come together can be powerful for teachers, students, and administrators to see.

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

Could be an interesting idea, in my head all of it will be covered in the big class project and when it comes to that they stop being connected to subjects.... as broader projects would be the common threads through the separate subjects. Do you see what I am thinking?

Photo of Jennifer Auten
Team

I teach 2nd and do something similar. I arrange teaching into larger driving questions that specifically go with literature, science or social studies topics. We relate to math (which I teach), music and art (where I get help from specialists). It is probably easier in primary where most content is taught by a single teacher, so fewer people need to coordinate a schedule.

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

Hi Jennifer,

How cool! Collaborating with others is very enriching and we make our students lives easier. I agree with you, for older grades is harder.

Photo of Robin U
Team

This idea makes a lot of sense and would definitely help students and teachers foster innovation. For one, as you said, students and teachers would see that, "no one owns the concept." Also - students and teachers could make and see more connections; when we see connections and patterns, we are already expanding our thinking and seeing things that we didn't see before. This can help us understand the complexities involved in many issues/challenges we face and hopefully, come up with more creative and innovative solutions.

Photo of Paula Marra
Team

and with more creative and innovative solutions we make learning fun! I totally agree Robin!