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50: The Inventive Design of Learning Spaces feat. Pam Moran, Tim Fawkes, Ryan Hopkins-Wilcox, & Discovery Lab

Ep. 50

Today's podcast is all about designing spaces for learning. Often, we think of a teacher's role as creator - someone who is making the learning happen within their room. But we can look at this in a more nuanced way. To completely steal Ryan Hopkins-Wilcox's explanation from in this podcast, when we plan an experience, we're already aware of what outcomes will be achieved. We're planning for what's going to happen next and already have each step in mind. In contrast, to design an experience - or space - we're opening possibilities for students to learn in multiple fashions. We have a general idea of where we want to be, but we're side-by-side in that learning experience.

This is an incredibly powerful message that is core to progressive education. We speak about student voice and choice but that's not choosing from preset options given by the instructor. When we say choice, we're referring to a plethora of possibilities that each student has to meet a learning goal. And we want to make that learning goal as broad as we possibly can to ensure that all students are engaged.

I think the thing that excites me most about education is the ability to craft learning experiences. My "why" in education is to find cool ideas, make simple foundations and structures for them to flourish, and pass almost all control over to students to make it happen. Of course, a lot of barriers exist to making the why of our purpose as educators happen.

Some of us get caught up in the systematic barriers to learning - whether they be topics that seem meaningless, students who aren't getting enough support, our lack of free time or pay, or just the general way our classrooms look and feel. And I think many - if not most - students are in the same boat. They may be excited from time to time on their why at school - after all, everyone loves to learn about things they care about...there's just a lot getting in the way.

Walk into most school buildings and you'll find a fairly bland and sterile environment. It may be even prison-like. Lack of funding is partially to blame, but there's also a system of control that manifests itself in having a comatose environment. Make everything too crazy and maybe the students will go crazy? I'm not sure. The fact is that as educators, we have the capability to design learning spaces that tear down the barriers as much as they can be torn down.

Sure, there's a lot of things outside of our control - and sometimes we're working against the best interests of our employer, the state, board, etc. that may have lost their way on what learning is (as they're more concerned about state test scores or upholding the way things were when they were in the school.) But we can continue to press on and design the most open and interesting environments we can.

These learning environments are both physical - the ways things look and feel, as well as conceptual - how our learning is designed.

We have four guests on today that exemplify these ideas - from a superintendent who designs schools to be honestly incredible, to a music educator who's making his classroom equitable and democratic, to an administrator at an International school who's designing experiences for students and staff, to two parents and educators who created their own school to do what's best for their children.

GUESTS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE

Dr. Pam Moran, superintendent of the widely acclaimed Albemarle County Public Schools and co-author of Timeless Learning. Pam is an avid proponent of progressive education and designing schools that ignite learning.

Tim Fawkes, a high school music educator set on redesigning the classroom as an equitable, democratic space through embracing student voice, choice, and experiential learning.

Ryan Hopkins-Wilcox, an international educator and current assistant principal at the International School of Uganda, where she focuses on igniting learning through well-designed opportunities for staff and students.

Tosha Woods and Natalia Parker, founders of the Discovery Lab, a self-described “micro school.” Tosha and Natalia started this school as concerned parents and community members to provide an outlet of progressive learning to students.

RESOURCES

FURTHER LISTENING

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Ep. 112
Today’s guest is Deborah Meier, who really needs no introduction for advocates of progressive education. Meier is the founder of the modern small schools movement, that aims to reorganize larger schools into smaller, democratic ones. She was founder and director of Central Park East, a Dewey-inspired progressive school in East Harlem, New York City. She also opened Central Park East II, River East, and the Central Park East Secondary School the same neighborhood. This led her to establish a network of similarly minded schools in New York City, and eventually founding Mission Hill School in Boston.Meier is an advocate of democratic, progressive, public schools who has served on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Academy of Education, The Nation, Dissent, and more. She is a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, as well as the author of multiple books including the recently co-authored These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon our Public Schools. Meier is a huge inspiration to us at Human Restoration Project and we frequently draw on her work in our materials and advocacy.In this podcast, Meier and I talk about building a coalition of schools, educators, families, and community members to build and protect a progressive public education, discussing the importance of building a public education system that strengthens and models a democracy.GUESTSDeborah Meier, founding director of Central Park East and Mission Hill School, as well as various progressive democratic public schools, and author of various works including co-authoring These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon our Public SchoolsRESOURCESDeborah Meier's websiteThese Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon our Public SchoolsThe Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in HarlemSUPPORT THE MOVEMENT TO END GUN VIOLENCEMarch for Our Lives 2022 National Rally (June 11th, 2022)Donate: March for Our LivesDonate: EverytownDonate: Moms Demand ActionDonate: Sandy Hook PromiseDonate: GoFundMe - Uvalde, TexasDonate: GoFundMe - Buffalo, New York
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111: Building the Modern Progressive Education Movement w/ David Buck

Ep. 111
On today’s podcast we are joined by David Buck. David is an English professor at Howard Community College in Maryland who is actively involved in the ungrading movement, as well as focusing on open access resources, open pedagogy, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. To foster and grow the practice of ungrading, David is actively involved in utilizing social and other online media for discussion, including but not limited to his “Let’s Talk Ungrading” Twitter Spaces, which is also an edited podcast, the Ungrading Twitter Community, the Ungrading Book Club, the Ungrading Discord Community, and “Crowdsourcing Ungrading” an open-access book on Pressbooks.We talk about:The desire and need for more spaces to gather and reflect on progressive education.What it means to build these spaces in "new media", such as Discord or Twitter Spaces.How we can get more young people involved in joining, curating, and creating these spaces (such as on Twitch).How we can inspire more educators to lead and grow these spaces, co-created with students.GUESTSDavid Buck, English professor at Howard Community College and mass-curator and co-leader of various ungrading spacesRESOURCES#Ungrading: A Digital Ethnography (Dissertation by Christina Moore)David Buck's Twitter (and location for Twitter Spaces)Crowdsourced Ungrading PressbookDavid Buck's Sutori Student BlogsUngrading HUB (Discord)Human Restoration Project (Discord)