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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Interview with Brock Dubbels

For book research, I interviewed Brock Dubbels.

This helped inform:

  • #unrules24: Teaching is leadership. Most teaching is bad leadership.

Here is a piece where Brock explains his experience teaching high school, which should be a role model for all involved in education, including in traditional schools and homeschools:

I teach fluid dynamics and aerodynamics to “at risk” high school kids. I try to appeal to the things that might be interesting.
I know if talk about certain words too early like resistance, displacement, or friction, the students are going to check out. So what I say instead is, "next week I'm bringing in my wading pool. And we are setting up the first lake this school has ever had. And we are going to have a boat race. To win the boat race, you have to win in one of four categories: speed, weight-bearing, maneuverability, or general purpose.”
The students get a general idea of what their goal is. But they also realize that they will need things that don't currently have.
Then I asked the question, "If you were to learn about boat building, how would you like to do it?" I begin to elicit people's responses. This helps me get a sense of prior knowledge. By doing this I've accomplished building interactivity from the beginning, and I also start introducing the concept of choice. Of course, from my perspective, all of the interactivity is pre-structured. But the students don't know they're being shepherded. They just know that going to a better pasture.
Then I ask the question, "What would you build if you knew you couldn't fail?" This gets their imagination involved. This engages their ability to visualize.
Then we start building communities. I ask people to share “perfect world stories.” For example, I might say, "if you are to build boats, and you are to have a race, and I provide all of the materials for you, what would that look like? How would you build your boat? Are there other races you'd like to have?" We start tapping into the excitement.
Most people like the default model that I have up on the board. But there are always some people that won't engage unless they have some sense of choice. They won't engage unless they are heard. I look at these people as desperately wanting leadership, and not willing to involve themselves unless they have a leadership role. So, I try to get them into a leadership role as fast as possible.
This is consistent with the research around affinity groups for communities of practice. The question is, how do you distribute leadership and not hoard it?
What we might do is write up on giant sheets of paper the various ideas, and give people votes. We can have the class control the experiment.
The nice thing about this phase is, if it is done right, it eliminates one of the biggest criticisms of any kind of formal learning, which is that it's not relevant and not interesting. The students can control both.
In some cases, the students can even determine how I am going to grade them. Generally they don't deviate very far from the guidelines I put up for them. But we are creating education that is co-created not tops down or hierarchical. So we might have a wiki that explains the day-by-day curricula, and I give students the ability to change that up to the morning of that day’s class.
See more on leadership styles here.

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