An idea that really resonated with me is that MS is an important time to provide opportunities for students to do more independent learning through service learning and field opportunities so that they aren't shocked when they arrive in HS. We have college prep and MS needs a HS prep. I'd love to see more opportunities for students to shadow at the HS earlier than 8th grade (as we currently do at NSS). We also need to do better at getting kids to shadow good models instead of their buddies who graduated recently. They usually come back with the discovery, "dude, there's a lot of homework her!" instead of, "wow, there are a lot of opportunities to do your own thing here".
The discussion of the flexible pathway gave me an idea for a way to gamify some PLP planning.
-create a board game where they move a piece or fill it in with activities they use to move towards an end goal. The activities could be self selected or drawn from a stack of cards if they're stuck (Watch a Youtube video on your subject, search for a TEDtalk on the topic, Ask a friend what they know about it, etc). That led me to thinking about the app Oblique Strategies by Brian Eno that is essentially a stack of cards that get you to look at things in different ways (highly recommended).
I also liked the discussion about community partnerships. It extended what I thought of as "community". I'd had the idea that the Newark community was the families and businesses in the immediate area. Silly, old-fashioned way to think about "community" in this day and age. I need to expand that a la Internets. A bunch of groups that like to partner with schools was given.
We also talked about how kids are tasked with demonstrating mastery, which got to thinking about badges and our experimentation with diy.org. Badges would be a great way to motivate kids to strive for mastering new skills. Just googled learning badges and there seems to be no shortage of ways to add them to blogs or get physical copies. Will investigate further.
It's no easy task for teachers to know how/what to assess all the time so kids will definitely struggle if asked to show what they know without a ton of guidance. The challenge of it has to be discouraging and keep them in their just listen to the teacher and parrot back the key points for grades mode. I'd love to create some way for the report card to reflect standards met by independent means. Maybe something color coded like a pie chart (I learned this on my own / My teacher taught me this).
Talk finished up with a great discussion of how to organize class/teams for self regulation / indy work and all the pre-teaching/modeling that goes into that.
And a plug for modules that I should check out: Flexible scheduling, Flexible grouping, Facilitated Personal Learning, and Service Learning.