Category Archives: .H3 Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning.

So close . . . and yet so far.

One of my science students, PK, recommended a game to me called Doodle God, from JoyBits Ltd.  My student said, “since we are studying chemistry, which is about combining things, check out this game, where you try to combine things.”

I was excited to give it a try and have now been playing it off-and-on for about a month.

Here’s what I like

  • Easy to learn to play.
  • Very rewarding to see two things swirl and create something new.
  • Some combinations are very creative, not immediately obvious, but logical.

Here’s what I don’t like

  • From the start, the portrayal of a monotheistic, creative deity as a grandfatherly, tinkering, bumbling, bug-eyed, wild-haired, white-bearded, tongue-protruding simpleton, seems borderline blasphemous for at least three major religious traditions of the world.  But, hey, whatever sells…
  • When I let my 8-year-old play—ignoring the 13+ rating of the game—I should not have been too surprised when certain risqué themes emerged.  Alcohol, drugs, sex, [censored], rock-n-roll are all there, and were they all necessary?  But, hey, whatever sells…
  • From the beginning I was a little peeved when I tried to combine certain things—that made logical sense to me—but they didn’t combine.  Similarly, when I saw hints which led to things that did wondrously(?) and improbably combine, I almost put the game down.  (And how was I supposed to guess that?)

Seeing that the dislikes for me seem to outweigh the likes, why am I writing this blog post?  I feel this game is *so close* to being something of real and amazing educational value.  Imagine something like “Chemistry Zeus” [any similarities between deities living or dead is purely coincidental], where students start with a few elements and either bombard them to make new elements (nuclear physics) or combine them with other elements or molecules to make compounds, or whole families of substances.  I think I would play that game, and if it taught a little science or history of science along the way, cool!

JoyBits, if you need a scientific consultant, you can contact me.  Smile

Some math fooling around

You start with 4 elements and are asked to deduce pairings that create successively more complex elements.  Since the deduction part is flawed in my opinion, I believe most successful game-players resort to trial and error.  Let me explain.

If I give you N items and tell you some of them might pair, by trial and error you would take the 1st item and try to pair it with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. up to N.  When you are done with the 1st item you then take up the 2nd item, and try some pairings, but you don’t have to test it with the 1st item, since you already did that, so you test 2nd+3rd, and 2nd+4th, and 2nd+5th, etc.  one way to visualize this is with a grid.

  1 2 3
1 1+1 1+2 1+3
2 X 2+2 2+3
3 X X 3+3
Doodle God game with 3 elements (1-3)
Table shows all the combinations you need to check.
You do not need to check combinations marked “X”

The square with 1+1 means you are taking the 1st element in the game and trying to pair it with itself.  The 1+2 means that you are trying to pair the 1st element with the 2nd element.  Notice that the square that would be 2+1 in this example is marked with “X”.  That means you don’t need to test that combination because in the game 1+2 is the same as 2+1, the order you click on elements to pair them in the game doesn’t matter.  (If someday it did, the following analysis would be invalid.)

The formula for how many pairings you have to check for N total elements is

Total Pairs You Need to Check = N2-(1/2)(N-1)(N)
(thanks to Wolfram Alpha for helping me evaluate a sum)

We can verify that this formula is correct, by checking for N=3, plugging that into the formula and then counting in the table above to see if the results agree.  For N=3, from the table I would need to check 6 pairings to exhaust all possible combinations in the game.  The formula predicts

Total Pairs You Need to Check = N2-(1/2)(N-1)(N)

Total Pairs You Need to Check = 3*3-(1/2)(3-1)(3)=9-(1/2)(2)(3)=9-(1/2)(6)=9-3=6.

Now, the object of the game is to find successful pairings so let’s say 1+1 is successful.  But that would produce a 4th element.  That means we have to check more potential pairs.  (Note that some pairings produce two elements, that happens pretty rarely so the analysis so far and following is not invalidated.)

If successful, then you create a 4th element, and the table would now look like this:

  1 2 3 4
1 1+1      
2 N      
3 N N    
4 N N N  
Doodle God game with 3 elements
But the 1st element paired with 1st element produced a new 4th element.
The table of combinations thus adds a row and a column
 
Notice that although the 1st element paired with the 1st element made a 4th element, you haven’t tested any combinations of that 4th element yet.  You will have to test those, so we add a column to the table.
 
The number of total combinations we needed to check when we only had 3 elements was 6.  We tried one pairing of elements and we were successful so now we only need to check 5 plus the new pairings we potentially created.  It turns out that when you add 1 new element to an N-element game, you add N+1 more pairs to check.  In this case, i.e. N=3, we get 6-1+4=9.
 
Can we write a formula for how many pairs we still need to check on the 12th turn of the game?  Sure!  First let’s define a few things.
 
N = total number of elements in the game that you start with.
t = the turn of the game that you are on, in other words how many pairs you have tried already
s = successful matches already
u = unsuccessful matches already
Note that one relationship we can spot right away is
t = s + u
Which just says that the number of unsuccessful + successful matches you have made is equal to the number of turns you have been playing.  But the relationship we are after is “How many more matches do I need to test after t turns in the game?”  I believe this works, let’s try it out.
Potential Matches Left = (N+s)2-(1/2)(N+s-1)(N+s)-t
In the example above, N=3, t=1, s=1, u=0, the number of matches left to test, i.e. the number of blank squares in that grid is:
(3+1)2-(1/2)(3+1-1)(3+1)-1=16-(1/2)(3)(4)-1=16-(1/2)(12)-1=16-6-1=9.
Notice that the function goes like a quadratic in the total number of elements, which means the game gets progressively harder as it goes along.  Even if you don’t blindly try all combinations, you still have to remember which combinations you have made and the combinations you haven’t or review all those elements you have not yet combined for “reasonable suspicion” of being able to combine to form new element.  We say the order of that comparison is O(N2), O() means “order of”.
 
The tradeoff that becomes important in the game is that if every turn in the game produces a new element (s=t), then the number of new combinations increases quadratically.  But that is the reward of the game, producing a new element.  The frequency of reward needs to be traded-off with the rate of increase in complexity of the game.  You can make the game less complex (s << t) by not letting any elements combine, but then who would play it?
 

Back to the game Doodle Farm (Free)

 
Meanwhile…a game that would allow players to combine things in ways that are accurate given physical laws, e.g. chemistry, would be an amazing pedagogical tool.  None of the flavors of Doodle God to date seem to represent any even remotely accurate view of the physical world.
 
I played Doodle Farm (Free) and used a Google Sheet to keep track of my pairings, much like the table above.  I was able to solve the game fairly systematically that way.  But what was annoying (and a deal-breaker for me, sadly) is that two of the first 4 pairings were completely illogical.  Not that the game makes any pretense of teaching accurate animal husbandry, but the whole point of this post is that the game would be used by Teachers if it were more accurate.
 
image
Doodle Farm Free initial elements and successful pairings.
How does Mouse+Mouse=Rat+Cat?
How does Worm+Mouse=Ant?
 

Voice and Choice in Physics

This past week I asked my students what they wanted to study next in our Advanced Physics class.  (Note:  this is not an AP class, since I’m just a physics teacher padawan.)

I listed the remaining chapters in the book (12-31) with their titles and sections.  I asked the students to rank each chapter in interest from 1-5.  Sample size is N=11, 3 females and 8 males.

I took all the ratings for each chapter and averaged.  I also averaged across the ratings for each section, so I could see if there was a pattern of interest across the sections.

Here are the results.

image

When you group the Chapter Ratings by Section, you see a trend that you might have suspected, namely that students want to study Modern Physics.  However, if you note the Standard Deviation for Modern Physics, it is definitely wider, in other words, some students do *not* want to study Modern Physics.

image

Either way, next week we are off to Chapter 20, Electricity.  I can’t wait to talk about analogs to F=ma that exist in electronics , i.e. V=IR.

I should also note here that some of my inspiration for this move was some reading I was doing in the “Physics First” community.  Let me put some references here that speak with particular persuasion in favor of teaching Physics to 9th graders.

Sources

High School Committee of the American Association of Physics Teachers [AAPT]. (2006). Physics First: An Informational Guide for Teachers, School Administrators, Parents, Scientists and the Public.  AAPT. Retrieved November 9, 2013 from http://www.aapt.org/upload/phys_first.pdf

How I Got Some Freshman Science Students To Read “The Economist”

Last week I was grappling with a way to teach the Washington State Science Standards, in particular the INQUIRY A piece.

As is often the case, inspiration came in the nick-of-time.  I would have my students

  1. gain an appreciation for the breadth of science
  2. practice some literacy skills
  3. generate some “scientific questions”
  4. work in groups
  5. practice some creativity

Here’s how it went.  The room is arranged in groups.  At the beginning of class, we review science as a pervasive quest for knowledge, which often looks like questions.  Define/Review scientific questions, and propose a form that students can use “How does ____ affect ____.”  (Is this Act 1 for Science, a la Dan Meyer?)

Tell students that there are pages from a magazine (suitably shuffled) on their group tables and that they are to get with partners and create a poster of 5 scientific questions which will be generated the following way.  Your partner takes a page and finds a noun on that page.  You take a different page and find a noun on that page.  You then come together and form a question “How does noun #1 affect noun #2.”  (Act 2, you have a tool/method, now apply it.)

Where this spins off into greatness is when students:

  • find themselves reading snippets of articles from the Economist for context, since they have been “struck in the curiousity bone
  • find themselves posing questions like “do bees affect cancer?” which might lead to a long and fruitful career in science for this 9th grader
  • realize that sometimes science questions look superficially quite silly but hide an incredible profundity, like “will dry ice slide down a sand dune?

Finally for Act 3, we have a wall full of questions, from 4 periods of science students, which we can now take to the next level of refinement of the question, and posing more questions.  Take a look:

IMG_1367

[Book Review] Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I’m reading a book by Richard N. Steinberg entitled An Inquiry Into Science Education, Where the Rubber Meets the Road.

Professor Steinberg took a sabbatical (2007-2008) from the City College of New York to teach high school physics in Harlem.  This book is a reflection on his experiences.

His themes are predictable if you’ve been following current topics in education.

  • teacher preparation
  • student apathy
  • classroom management
  • abysmal math fluency
  • standardized testing
  • teaching is a lot of work!

His more hopeful and helpful themes are around how he has stood for true inquiry in his science classrooms, and some lessons that he taught.  That plus some other references he cites as resources are worth the price of the book.

Steinberg spoke at a conference in Washington DC in May for the Robert Noyce Scholarship folks at PhysTEC, since he is also involved at that program at CCNY.  He doesn’t talk about PhysTEC in his book, but I suppose it would be out of context somewhat.

Wiggins, G. (2010). What’s my job?–Revisited

In a prior blog post, I commented on this essay by Wiggins (2010).  As I re-read that essay here near the close of my internship year, I have the following thoughts.

Wiggins starts the essay with a startling confession that he taught for many years without being either having to prove he could teach or being evaluated more than twice.  As I read this again, I am reading it in the context of being an employee of a school district and a member of a teacher’s union.  As I read this again, I read it having spent 8 months in the whirlwind that is public education, bathed in the sometime shrill debates on value added evaluation, and standardized testing.

I still agree with Wiggins, namely that teaching is more than just activity, it is about causation of learning, interest, and confidence in students.  However, I now have perspective that this is harder than it sounds.  Treating teaching as just activity coordination without goals is hard enough, but working toward these goals, consistently and creatively is an extreme challenge.  Thus it comes as no surprise that many teachers don’t like to keep those “results focused responsibilities” in mind, to keep them as the “bottom-line goals.”

As I look back on my internship, Wiggins would prompt me to ask 3 questions.

  1. Have my students experienced successful learning?
  2. Have my students been bored, or engaged?
  3. Have my students discovered new competencies or confidence?

More specifically let’s look at a class I have been teaching since February.  The students in the class are juniors who are looking forward to taking the SAT this June.  They have not taken a formal math class since 8th grade.  Let’s see if there is any evidence in this short time of my moving the needle on those three questions.

Have my students experiences successful learning?  For this SAT prep course all the students (approx 15) took a full SAT, diagnostic, pre-test.  At the end of March they also took a single math section of a sample SAT.  Here are the results for a nearly identical set of students on a subset of questions that deal with geometry.  (More details here.)

Geometry Improvement

I would conclude that based on the improved percent of correct responses that indeed successful learning has occurred.  Or, as always might be the case, more effective test-taking skills have been developed.  That might especially be the case in that the percent of questions left blank has dropped off, and the percent of questions being answered wrongly has skyrocketed.  However, the combined percentages of wrong and blank are still less in the Sample Test than in the Pre-Test.

You may ask given the above evidence, sure, based on a score on a standardized test, but are my students bored or are they engaged.  Here’s a moment of engagement, check for yourself.

[We are discussing the following slide, and the transcript of the video is in the comments]

image

And finally, have my students discovered new competency or confidence?  Well, I asked them that myself, or maybe not in so many words via a SMS/Text poll.  Here’s what some of them said in reply

Poll-Geometry

Now that is not a scientific poll, and I have some ideas to do some Action Research on things I can do in this class to improve perception of self-efficacy.  However, I am hopeful that at least 2 out of 3, if not 3 of Wiggins’ criteria for what true teachers should be doing in the classroom are being addressed.  But most of all, I am grateful to be at a school which enables some of the flexibility and personalization that Wiggins thinks is essential.

References

Wiggins, G. (2010). What’s my job? Defining the role of the classroom teacher. In R. J. Marzano (Ed.), On Excellence in Teaching. (10th ed.). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-04-02 [32] (the week before Spring Break)

My Monday SAT Prep class had some very interesting discussion.  Since I taped that session, I am able to go over the discussion which we had in class again, in greater detail.  I would like to reflect on the whole class, but highlight that discussion.

I was just wrapping up the following slide on proportions…

image

When the question was asked by KJ:  “With proportions, is cross-multiplication and division the only way to simplify?”  My answer:  “No,” and some elaboration led to a bunch of student voice stemming from some mass confusion.

As I look back on the slide, the step where I multiply both sides by 12 could have been elaborated upon, or taken a little more slowly.  It is interesting to wonder if that was the root of the ensuing 20 minute discussion.

A few students were confused about what it means to “multiply both sides by 12”, and one student, AO, asked about where we were multiplying 12 in the numerator or in the denominator.

Another student was confused that we didn’t just compute (doughnuts/package) and then multiply by 5.  At which point I realized that students were not confident that I could take the inverse of both sides of the equation, i.e. to have doughnuts/package on both sides, and thus get the same answer for x.

image

When one student (F.R.) pointed out that this method would work when the numbers weren’t so neat and tidy, I thought we were making headway, but just then… a student asked “But why does it have to be that difficult?  Why can’t you just say 12 divided by 2 times 5.  Why is that so hard?”

And another student chimes in:  “I get what SL just said!”

“Maybe this question wouldn’t have been so hard if the numbers hadn’t been so easy,” said another student.

“Why do we have to be taught the more complex way?” says SL.

After about 8 minutes of students taking positions on cross-multiplication-and-division, or the algebraic method, we get at one root of the matter.

“When you write something over another number, it just looks so much more confusing than it has to be,” says SL.  We conclude that fractions are scary.  And that you have to work on them until they aren’t so scary.

“Fractions are, like, my worst enemy,” says SL.  And a couple of other students agree.

I have to say this animosity towards mathematics is very interesting, and a little dismaying.  No other subject seems to be determined to make the learner feel stupid.  No other subject seems to offer simplicity and then once a student is lulled into thinking they understand, there is a sudden change in difficulty.

Overall, I think the first half of the class was very valuable.  I think many students had chances to voice their frustrations or challenges with the content.  I need to keep those students in mind when I prepare a lesson.  I need to brainstorm other ways to connect the math to those students so that it feels authentic and non-threatening.  I am really thinking that a Mighton-esque approach where the numbers are easier at first and then the problems only get minutely harder as the student progresses.

The second part of the class (slightly better camera angle) was a little silly, but folks seemed attentive.  The break seems to be very helpful, and students seemed refreshed and ready to go after the break.  After I gave out the homework handout many people interpreted that as the end of class, that wasn’t so helpful, but it was used by some to get some work done.

This was the first class where I tried both a handout in class, and giving out the homework and letting some class time be used on it.  I don’t think I will get any better return or completion rate on the homework by doing this, so I may not do it again.  I was able to collect quite a few worksheets that were done in the first half of the class.

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-01-30 [23] (Visual Studio, AIE, TESC)

Spent a lot of time last week and this week getting Visual Studio (via DreamSpark) installed on machines in the media lab.  That exercise will help us be prepared for the Computer Game Design elective start which will use that room.  And it turns out that getting Visual Studio was very timely, because when students came back from the field trip the Academy for Interactive Entertainment (AIE) they were very eager to start learning C# or other programming.

The AIE (http://www.theaie.us/) folks gave us a great presentation on computer game industry and what to do at each level of high school in order to some day be successful in their program or in the industry.  The speakers were Dr. Earhardt (director, and veteran game producer) and another professor.  I learned that the game industry shows no sign of slowing down, and that the game-player we should all be designing for are 20-30-something soccer moms.

One Big Picture student, KE, was so excited when he got back from AIE that he wrote his first computer program ever this week.  In addition he shows no signs of stopping as he devours new concepts and enjoys seeing his ability to control the computer grow.  I have to say that has been a pretty amazing.

I also finally learned why the Academy of Interactive Entertainment has a campus in Lafayette Louisiana.  It turns out that many of the major studios have shops there and that many movies can actually be filmed in Louisiana.

Taking three students and college admissions counselor to The Evergreen State College was also quite an experience.  One student in particular, SD, is making TESC his first choice so he was quite excited to get an official tour.  I also took the opportunity to show this group around Olympia, since I went to high school there.

Since that was my second or third college field trip, I got a chance to reflect on the difference between work-site field trips and college field trips.  Both seem to have an extremely motivating impact on students, but also somewhat polarizing.  For instance a student that before the trip was ambivalent toward the college, either came back really excited to pursue that option or definitely decided against that school in particular.

I really appreciate the chance to drive the vans.  Since there is a shortage of people at the school that have clearance from the district to drive, my skills are in demand.  However, I with Dan’s (mentor teacher’s) caution against volunteering too much for those activities.  The benefits of driving are that I get to talk to students and staff in some depth, the disadvantages of driving are that I was pretty much not engaged with any other students for a whole day.  On this day in particular I, as I had to get to SPU for evening classes, I realized that I had spent about 2-3 hours in the car today.

Finally on Friday there were two special events.  First, I attended a guest presentation of the group Red Eagle Soaring which was coming by to meet students in Big Pictures Native Student Association.  Second, I attended an all school assembly called a Send-Me-Off where announcements are made, and demonstrations of student projects and interests.

Rough Timeline (no need to evaluate)

Monday (1/30):  milk carton collection continues, KN presentation on Worms, Helping out in 7th grade math, covering for Stan absence in his advisory

Tuesday (1/31):  field trip to Academy for Interactive Entertainment which is located in the Seattle Center House 4th floor.  Dan and I each drove a van, so we had a full crew.  Students were very excited upon return to campus.

Wednesday (2/1):  very early start to the day in order to get the van and drive some students down to The Evergreen State College in Olympia.  Here is Malini and three of our students in front of the native longhouse on the campus of TESC.

WP_000002

Thursday (2/2):  special teams meeting led by Dan.

Friday (2/3):  Working with students on their portfolios (LD) and autobiography (MJ).  Walked around a copy of a section of an SAT exam to try and get some students (JG, BV) more equipped for their preparations for the March SAT.

Got some good feedback from a student on my YouTube videos that I have created to help students solve the SAT Math Question of the Day (QOTD) which comes about every third day from the College Board.  My channel on YouTube is here:  http://tiny.cc/johnacad.

From: John Weisenfeld GMAIL [mailto:john.weisenfeld@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, February 02, 2012 11:27 AM
To: RK
Subject: Re: YouTube and SAT Math Problems

Thanks RK, some are more clear than others, so feel free to ask if you have some questions.

On Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 9:59 AM, RK <@gmail.com> wrote:

Hey John,
your youtube channel displaying the SAT questions of the day are very helpful.

On Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 6:08 AM, John Weisenfeld GMAIL <john.weisenfeld@gmail.com> wrote:

I’ve created some YouTube videos that walk through the solutions of some SAT Math problems, there are about 40 of them so far, and I intend to add more as time goes on.  Check them out some time…

http://tiny.cc/johnacad


John Weisenfeld
STEM Specialist/Intern
Highline Big Picture High School
206.631.7724 (work)
425.301.7404 (cell)

Here’s an e-mail I wrote detailing the progress we made on Thursday to student advisors.

From: John Weisenfeld GMAIL [mailto:john.weisenfeld@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, February 03, 2012 9:04 AM
To: David Levine; Jessica Rottweiler
Cc: MJ; LD; DP; KE; Dan Dundon
Subject: Status Report 2012-02-02 (Thursday)

All four of the scholars (LD, DP, MJ, KE) spent time in the media lab on Thursday 2/2 from approximately 9:30am to 2pm.

All four were given printed copies of the application for Summer Cyber Camp at the Academy for Interactive Entertainment.  Based on the copies left in the room at the end of the day, very few of those were actually taken home.  All four have expressed interest in the camp, pending finances and a firmer commitment from their parents and/or both.  Phil McGilton, Dan Dundon and I are tracking these applications.

KE spent much of the time before lunch programming in C#.  He has become more acquainted with "for" loops (which we had started on Weds) and also learned about "if" statements and "switch" statements.  We are working our way through a tutorial in C# which is on MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network).  The URL for that is here:  http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa288436(v=vs.71).aspx

LD got signed up for DreamSpark, so he now has access to professional training in C# as well as programming tools that we have installed in the lab.  He spent some time on some games on the PC and since I brought the iPad, he also looked at some games on the iPad that were both familiar and new to him.

MJ spent a little time listening to some PluralSight training (which we get free for 90 days through DreamSpark) and a little time programming, and more time playing some of the other games that the other students were playing which he wasn’t familiar with yet.  I think Michael J was interested in Android app development.

DP also got signed up for DreamSpark, as well as PluralSight so he could also listen to some training.  He is interested in Windows Phone 7 development or iPhone. 

Popular gamed today were:  a iPad app that records peoples statements and plays them back via an animal avatar (this was quite a hit and does very well with pre-schoolers, too!) and a tower defense game  (chromegamez.com | Frontline Defense HD 2).  When we visited AIE this past Tuesday all of these students learned that the targets for game development for the near future are "Soccer Moms", which is not necessarily the games these students like to play, so if they want to work in the game industry, they should familiarize themselves with games they might not particularly like.  So occasionally I now ask these students if they have played a soccer-mom-game today.

I’ve asked all of these students to start a google doc that keeps track of the games that they have played.  I plan on using such a tool in my high school elective on computer games when it starts up after exhibitions.

Some interesting observations from these students:

"Wow programming is hard."

"Programming is a lot of work/math."

P.S.  Hey students, if you have other observations from yesterday just reply-all to get your comments heard.


John Weisenfeld
STEM Specialist/Intern
Highline Big Picture High School
206.631.7724 (work)
425.301.7404 (cell)

Twitter as Log of What I’m Reading

A little while ago I started using Twitter as a log of what I was reading on the web.  Most of what I am reading has to do with education, and although it is intriguing to think about how to solve all of education’s problems, I should focus my reading primarily on getting certified and stuff I need for my classes at SPU.

So check out my Twitter feed to the left here on my blog, and if you want to follow me, click here

“Doing Math Like Mathematicians Do” FluidMath from Fluidity Software (and Physics!)

NOTE:  you need a SmartBoard, Tablet-PC (with touch), or a traditional PC with a Tablet input  device.

Fluidity just won an award from the US Department of Education | Institute of Education Sciences | Small Business Innovation Research.  Here’s the award announcement story..

Here’s a blog post / testimonial from a teacher.

Here’s a YouTube video demo from FluidMath’s YouTube Channel:

Internship Reflection Week of 2011-11-21 [13] (Exhibition Form, AG Essay)

Before we could leave for Thanksgiving break last week, we had a few more exhibitions to do.  Recall that these conferences are run by students and give them a chance to demonstrate the progress which they have made on their learning plans.  The invitees to these meetings are the student’s advisor, other staff from the school, students and any family or friends that the students wishes to have in attendance.  All attendees to an exhibition fill out a feedback form.

I have to say that the exhibitions are quite informational and often emotional.  It is clear when students have prepared, and when they have not.  It is clear when they have pushed themselves in the past quarter, and when they have not.  Questions frequently asked of students are:  "what part of the portfolio that you have shown us today do you consider your best work?",  "how long have you been doing activity ‘x’ and what new skills have your learned (or what new things about yourself have you learned)?", etc.  Some have compared an exhibition to a legal proceeding where discovery and evaluation of evidence of learning is the main agenda item.

A most powerful part of the exhibition lies in the ability for the student to rank herself or himself (on a scale of 1 to 4, 4 being A+) and then for the family members, other students, other staff and advisor(s) to also suggest a grade or score.  Some advisors use an average of all scores suggested during the exhibition and some use a consensus score for the final exhibition score for their student.  Either way the conversation about the score can be uncomfortable or can be quite laudatory.  Students often under-rate their presentations, just as parents often over-rate their child.  These are both understandable as the learner does not always see all the learning they are really achieving, and parents see a side of their student and their work habits outside of school.  The conversations around

Some of the more powerful exhibitions are moving because of the depth of experience and self-expression that students achieve.  Recall that they are writing autobiographies (across all four years) and must have an accumulated length of 100 pages—after  4 years—in  order to graduate.  The reflections generated along that journey can be quite profound.  Some students weave together learnings from internships, with their academic discoveries, and their personal journeys.  What results is some incredible writing.  I close this post with an essay from a student, which they read at the end of their exhibition.  (With permission from the author.)

Bottom

What happens after you’re finished spiraling to nothingness? After you feel like there’s nowhere else to fall? What happens then? You hit bottom. There is no lower to go, the whole world pressing down on you all around you. You feel there’s nothing you can do to escape what the world says. You’re lost, you are nothing, nobody. Too weak to face the challenges, you collapse to an innocent ball and retreat to a place mixed with wonders and horrors, this limbo coma where nothing is real but the past.

All memories is what it comes down to, years of falling down, years of being stepped on, stepped over. This becomes your hard, cold, faceless reality. You live here for a long time, going through the days which blend together. Memories blurring, life in a whirl, the world in a hurry to go nowhere, and it seems you’re here in the center watching as all the people continue to meet an endless deadline. As you sit and watch, the people of the world cry over a loss. They die a hard death. People of the world rejoice in the death of another; people of the world rejoice in a new life. People of the world tear at each other, then come together to be there for one another. People of the world do not care for anything; people of the world live in drama. People of the world end up forgetting the good and embracing the bad, resorting to living with hate, disrespect, and an absence of liberty – of pride, of joy – of all the goodness humanity could achieve.

Here, in this pressured, dark state, this observant state, I rise from the cold earth on which I’ve sat for so long, breaking through the weakness that bound me, that held me to the ground. Then this light from above, from the heavens shines down on me, and through the darkness so long and deep a figure is awaiting me, a voice that speaks “I have waited, and now you have risen, your life is truly yours, now live it through me, live with the light, live with love.” As I step out of the shadow of the darkness, I am shaken, revived with an energy to face the world, the goodness of humanity is out there. I am here to bring it together. This is a place where people have fallen into a hate, a rush, a horrible place. To bring them out is a challenge I stand and face, but one to take for I have already been to the bottom, I can only go one way. People of the world let this warmth awaken you, this light shine on you, see the goodness you can achieve. Be awake and live, love holds the key to all the gates, you must walk through now.

%d bloggers like this: