Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From transparency to transparency

Some years ago, teacher use of the word “transparency” always meant that sheet of plastic used to display notes or lessons on the overhead projector. I had a manila folder full of them; I always recycled them--washing them at night, hanging them by the corner from the cupboards to dry. That seems like centuries ago-- those days and years when I felt so isolated in the classroom, somewhat empty, yet not recognizing the yearning for collaboration and sharing in search of accomplished practice.

Those days are gone (or can be) as educators embrace the possibilities and potential of personal learning networks and online communities of practice that new technologies enable. And with these possibilities arise a new meaning for “transparency”. Not that it hadn’t always been one of a number of definitions, but now almost a buzz word, transparency suggests easily recognized and/or detected. Blogs, twitter, wikis, skype and innumerable other tools facilitate that transparency of practice, as the opportunity for improving and tweaking shared practice emerges when we all learn from each other.

It seems to me that there is no one better at breaking the “ice” of that isolation, having the courage to share globally, of being so transparent in practice than Darren Kuropatwa. I’ve had the pleasure of a front row seat as his pedagogy evolves, becoming more and more accomplished. As could you. How? -- through the windows of his class blogs. Since the addition of an interactive whiteboard to his classroom last year, he has posted slides of daily lessons on his class blogs for his students. It’s been fascinating to watch as his style has become more sophisticated and creative, especially since he has blogged how he’s come to consider the importance of creativity in learning after viewing Sir Ken Robinson’s TEDTalks which he quoted and added his thoughts in italics. Here’s just a snippet:

All kids have tremendous talents and we squander them ... pretty ruthlessly.
This comment reminded me of the song Flowers are Red by Harry Chapin.

Creativity is now as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.
I'm sympathetic to this sentiment yet ... how do you teach creativity? I suspect Sir Ken would reply that you don't have to teach it (see below). OK then, but how do you assess it?

I daresay that one strategy for enabling creativity in students is by modeling it as a teacher. Darren’s done just that. Here, in the pre calculus slides from 2007, you’ll find lots of calculus.

Here, in the pre calculus slides from 2008, you’ll not only find lots of calculus but also extraordinary use of photos from Flickr to initially engage his students in their learning. Darren’s willingness to share his pedagogy transparently on the class blogs not only enriches global practice but also provides an incredible model for his students.

That is evidenced in their extraordinary Developing Experts Projects, in which their learning and thinking become transparent and in which it is obvious they’ve internalized his underlying message. When they developed their rubric for this project, it was agreed that there would be bonus points for creativity. This year they’ve taken the projects to a new level. In every project, you can see the impact of Darren’s modeling, but especially in these:

Jamie and Nelsa"s Strawberry Fields Forever

Richard ,Justus and Lawrence's Mathematics is the Science of Patterns

Craig, Grey M, and Mr. SiWy's DE Vious

His pedagogy, their learning ---------powerful, creative, exemplary and transparent!

From transparency to transparency, what a distance traveled in such a short time-- what grand opportunities for learning and improving practice! Can we all dare to be as courageous? Just imagine, our globally accomplished practice and its potential---

Photo credits: