We gathered a week before spring break. Schools had just closed and we had to meet on a Zoom call because we could no longer be together sitting around a table in a rooftop restaurant in McMinnville.
That was our table – we had claimed it for over a year. Each month we would gather around it, with beers in our hands to talk, laugh, and simply be together.
This gathering has been important to us. It brought together administrators and teachers from nearby districts, all of whom were committed to reimagining education.
This path of reimagining is difficult but also exhilarating. We come together to share the challenges and celebrate the joys.
But this meeting was different. Not only were we not together at the table (we did have beers in our hands) we also realized that we must all do something together as we moved into this time of profound uncertainty about educating students amidst school closures.
What could we do?
The natural tendency when order is disrupted is to seek to find a solution that you can grasp onto as fast as you can, for uncertainly is a very uncomfortable place to be.
But the experience of living the Dayton Experiment had cautioned us about doing that. For often solutions are so complex that they can not be imagined with what we know at that moment.
We simply don't know...
But we knew we had to do something, something small, something fast, to begin a process from which a solution might emerge that would help these administrators develop new distance learning models.
Learning starts with wonder. What did we wonder as we faced this unknown?
Quickly we identified our shared wonder, one that became our 'common ground'. How might The Dayton Practice, with its focus on quick, fast Learning Cycles that create purpose and meaning, inform how we thought about distance learning?
So we spun up an experiment that was quickly launched. Jenni was going to lead us in a one-week sprint in which we all experienced, from a student perspective, the feeling that her students felt in her Genius 2.0 classes at Dayton. We knew that it was important for us to feel that experience in order to really understand that experience.
That next Friday, Jenni introduced this first Sprint. We were all given our base and spun a wheel to randomly get our scrambler. Our base was 'plants/agriculture/nature'. Team members' scamblers were topics such as 'history', 'sustainability', and 'travel'.
We had one week to explore how those topics, when combined with some personal interest, were related, then craft something that we could use to share what we had learned in a way that might inspire curiosity and wonder in others.
One week later, in our demo, we presented what had made and what we had learned. They were all different – each amazing and wonderful.
Something truly vital and lifegiving emerged from that experiment that inspired our creative minds. An experience that now we knew was worthy of experimenting further with others when staff returned from spring break.
Something that also might quickly be formed into a new learning framework. Something we are calling Designed InGenuity (DIG).
This week ODE released guidelines for distance learning. Their guidelines are daunting and there is no clear path for implementation. Many schools are simply looking at online learning within the old paradigm of education. But now is the time to reimagine. There will need to be fast, creative thinking and experimentation to navigate through these uncharted waters.
Guided by curiosity – leaning into wonder.