Fourth Graders Play the World Peace Game

John Hunter puts all the problems of the world on a 4’x5′ plywood board — and lets his 4th-graders solve them. At TED2011, he explains how his World Peace Game engages schoolkids, and why the complex lessons it teaches — spontaneous, and always surprising — go further than classroom lectures can.

Musician, teacher, filmmaker and game designer, John Hunter has dedicated his life to helping children realize their full potential. His own life story is one of a never-ending quest for harmony. As a student, he studied comparative religions and philosophy while traveling through Japan, China and India. In India, inspired by Ghandi’s philosophy, he began to think about the role of the schoolteacher in creating a more peaceful world.

As his online biography says: “Accepting the reality of violence, he would seek to incorporate ways to explore harmony in various situations. This exploration would take form in the framework of a game – something that students would enjoy. Within the game data space, they would be challenged, while enhancing collaborative and communication skills.”

In 1978, at the Richmond Community High School, Hunter led the first sessions of his World Peace Game, a hands-on political simulation. The game has now been played around the world, on a four-tiered board. It’s the subject of the new film World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements.

Thank you for the tip, Argy!

Ten Years of Laptops in Maine Schools

[In 2001] Maine legislators approved — after months of doubt and debate — Gov. Angus King’s proposal to give every seventh-grader in Maine a laptop….

Ten years later, each seventh- and eighth-grader in Maine public schools and every grades 7-12 teacher has a laptop paid for by state taxpayers, at an annual cost of $11 million. And, through the Maine Department of Education, 60 percent of Maine high-schoolers have laptops, paid for by local property taxpayers. That’s a total of 72,000 laptops, according to the DOE….

Teachers, students and administrators interviewed for this report said laptops are giving several kinds of return on that money.

Laptops make learning and schoolwork more interesting, students and teachers said. “When kids are engaged, you can teach them anything,” said Jeff Mao, who oversees instructional technology for the Maine Department of Education….

In the years since thousands of laptops have been given to students and teachers, they’ve become such a part of classrooms that teachers often underestimate how much they use them, Mao said.

“They’ll say, ‘I don’t do too much with laptops,'” he said. “But you watch them in class, and you see teachers with classroom Web page where all kinds of information — homework, class work, recommended sites — is available. Teachers e-mail students and parents. They give out assignments on laptops. It’s become so common it all seems mundane now.”…

Maine is recognized as a “world leader” for technology in classrooms, King said. Delegations from Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Israel, Peru, Australia and Ireland, among others, have visited Maine to learn about laptops. While some cities and counties have given out laptops, Maine is the only state with a statewide program….

One of the most important reasons for the laptop program was establishing equity. That’s been achieved, King said.

“How many Maine families could have afforded to buy laptops for eighth-graders? Yet every single kid has one,” King said. “We put this tool in the hands of thousands of kids who otherwise wouldn’t have it.”

“I’m as enthusiastic as ever,” King said. “We did the right thing at the right time. It’s been tremendously successful.” Maine has a digitally literate group of students, he said….

Let Kids Rule the School

I recently followed a group of eight public high school students, aged 15 to 17, in western Massachusetts as they designed and ran their own school within a school. They represented the usual range: two were close to dropping out before they started the project, while others were honors students. They named their school the Independent Project.

One student who had failed all of his previous math courses spent three weeks teaching the others about probability. Another said: “I did well before. But I had forgotten what I actually like doing.” They have all returned to the conventional curriculum and are doing well. Two of the seniors are applying to highly selective liberal arts colleges.

The students in the Independent Project are remarkable but not because they are exceptionally motivated or unusually talented. They are remarkable because they demonstrate the kinds of learning and personal growth that are possible when teenagers feel ownership of their high school experience, when they learn things that matter to them and when they learn together. In such a setting, school capitalizes on rather than thwarts the intensity and engagement that teenagers usually reserve for sports, protest or friendship.

Portland Principal Promotes Collaborative Culture

Mike McCarthy is principal at King Middle School in Portland, Maine

McCarthy transformed a culture of divisiveness and violence by committing to cooperation and innovation.

McCarthy: “The genius of this school is not in a program, it’s not in the laptops, it’s in the learning. It’s in teachers designing learning that they know will work for kids … and they have the space and the time and the autonomy to do it.”

Reflecting on the Tapestry of Small-town Life

Some years back, Julia Alarez wrote an ode to living in small towns and to the sorrow of losing acquaintances: neighbors, friends, storekeepers, doctors.

In a small town … we don’t just make quick, specialized appearances in each other’s lives. For better or worse, we get to know people in a fuller way. The owner of the orchard where we pick apples is also our doctor, and the local bartender fixes our bicycle chain when it slips out on a country road.

This is good for all our characters, I think, for the flawed person we see in one situation can suddenly surprise us by a small act of kindness or thoughtfulness in another encounter. Small towns give us second chances, and third and fourth ones, too. [Source]

Once or twice a week, I spend early mornings in our town’s natural-food-and-free-wireless coffee shop working on project planning and correspondence. Over the months, I’ve gotten to know a few regulars — folks who work nearby, retired professors, college students — and listened to bits of stories about their lives and what’s important to them.

Over the past month, I’ve been busy on a project and haven’t gotten into town very often, so this morning, when I noticed I hadn’t seen one of the regulars, I asked where he was. “Oh, Gustavo. I’m sorry to let you know he died in his sleep several weeks ago.”

All of my thoughts — about what needed to get done this morning, about my pending deadlines, about the beautiful day I was looking forward to — evaporated completely. Someone I’d known, not as a friend, but certainly well enough to know his life story and what had brought him here … he was gone.

How could I not have known? I read the local paper every day. How did I miss his obituary? Have I been that busy? Did he mean more to me that I’d thought? Had I taken his presence for granted?

I found the obituary and tributes online — please read about this good man — and there they were, in black and white: the stories he’d told us. I haven’t wept in public for a long time. This morning, I did.

I could write about the art collection he curated at home and the beloved pieces he chose to sell at Cabot Antiques. I could share his frustration with the insulated, disconnected culture of middle-America, and its affect on our children as well as people around the world. I could tell you about his continuing struggle to get treatment for his asthma and sinus infections as a person dependent on the threadbare safety net for our elders. I could tell about his plans to sign up for yet another trip to some corner of the world that would be new to him.

Instead, I’ll quote this passage about his engagement with the world, both nearby and far beyond us.

made the coffee shop in the Tontine Mall his own Madrid cafe and met there nearly every day with a circle of friends, exchanging ideas and arguing issues. He supported various causes, local, national and international. But he was also a man who loved exploration away from Maine.

His youthful energy belied his advancing years. He was full of curiosity about life and interested in what was going on in the world. His friends and family followed his world travels to China, South American and Europe through post cards and pictures. [Source]

I sit, looking around the cafe, imagining the loss of any of those with whom I’ve chatted, no matter how briefly, or of those with whom I’ve shared just a warm smile and hello. As I return to my daily routine, I vow to consider each and every one of those moments with more respect, deserving of my full attention, with both friends and with strangers.

I’ll hope I can carry that feeling with me. I think all I’ll need to do is remember Gustavo.

The rise of K-12 blended learning

From Michael Horn, Innosight Institute:

Online learning is sweeping across America. In the year 2000, roughly 45,000 K–12 students took an online course. In 2009, more than 3 million K–12 students did. What was originally a distance- learning phenomenon no longer is. Most of the growth is occurring in blended-learning environments, in which students learn online in an adult-supervised environment at least part of the time. Continue reading “The rise of K-12 blended learning”

Real value creation happens at the edge

From Harold Jarche:

I think the edge will be where almost all high value work gets done in organizations. Core activities will be increasingly automated or outsourced. Most of the people in an organization will be on the edge. The core will be managed by very few internal staff.

This is a sea change, in my opinion. It means that change and complexity will be the norm in our work. We already see this with increasing numbers of freelancers and contractors. Any work where complexity is not the norm will be of diminishing value.

We need to embrace complexity and chaos, it’s where the future of work lies.

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