Back in my undergraduate days, I was privileged to meet a famous architect who shared some frank thoughts with me on the challenge of finding compromise with a client. One would think that architects would have free reign to design whatever they wanted, but as the clients would be footing the bill, architects like him had to be able to propose ideas, redesign and mitigate concerns while driving the work forward. Then he said something very profound:
"Within any problem, within any constraints, there is always room for creativity. If you focus too much on the limits set before you, you will only focus on your own limitations. Find freedom to express new ideas and new ways of thinking within each problem and you will come to see your work as a solution and the walls around you will seemingly disappear."
As our semester of distance learning comes to a close, I've witnessed an explosion of innovation in my own practice and from others that will undoubtedly continue into the future. As FDR teachers have looked for ways to create products, foster conversations and assess student learning, the eclectic nature of tools, perspectives and skill sets has produced learning products that are exemplary for students and teachers worldwide. Here are some highlights you may have missed:
First Ever Online Drama Production
The middle and high school drama department created their first ever drama production that was completely online. On December 4th, drama teachers unveiled a live broadcast of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' that went live through zoom but was recorded and edited before hand. As I was watching the performance, which spliced together movie clips that students recorded and sent to a main editor, the only thing that went through my mind was how much logistical work went into this. Students auditioned for roles and then were sent scripts that they costumed themselves and framed shots that would seemingly splice together with peers who were doing the same within the confines of their homes.
Design Technology Does Bridge Testing
The design department has been busy implementing ISTE standards in our school's curriculum from K-12 but also providing time for students to build and test products as if they were in class. Students created bridges by utilizing both materials and their properties and also the structural components of what reinforcing does to an engineered product. Rather than just having students build and show off such products the design teachers collected bridges from students and took them to FDR to have a virtual test online that all students could see. The dedication to teachers to fully illustrate the design thinking process was commendable.
Virtual Bookshelves in Elementary
One of the more interesting products that I saw come out of the elementary was a grade level that took a Google Slideshow and created a virtual bookshelf with it. Each student had hyperlinks to what they were reading, along with teacher slides for book picks and reading groups. I have never seen a Google slide deck used so creatively as a sort of 'running record' of student reading progress but also in a way that shares and builds a community of readers!
Flipgrid for Science Experiments
Flipgrid has exploded in popularity as a hosting platform for student created videos. As much of our medium of instruction has grown to incorporate video and also offer students the ability to comment on one another's work in a safe and secure environment, Flipgrid allows teachers to create grids that are private and accessible only to their groups of students. In the example below, some science teachers walked students through some of the basics of video editing in 'iMovie' so students could film and share evidence of chemical reactions in their kitchens from home.
Publicly Accessible Writing Products
No other departments have adapted to moving student writing online like the English and Language Arts department. Although 'Google Docs' can be published and made 'public' in their sharing settings, a number of teachers have gotten especially creative by hosting a classroom blog, or have students publish their work to their personal website. One that stood out from me is the MS English department that created a shareable magazine of student writing. (See below)
These are just a handful of the ways that FDR faculty have strived to provide authentic learning experiences with great aplomb and their ingenuity has been very more than impressive. With the shift from online learning to online 'schooling' the systems that FDR departments have made, driven by administrative leadership and innovation leaders has made FDR a wonderful place to work and allows all students to "pursue their passion for learning and lead lives of integrity".
I wonder what next semester will bring?