I am definitely in basecamp, nowhere close to the summit today.
A few months back our Technology and Innovation Educational Specialist at Upper Perkiomen School District shared a great opportunity with us. He had heard about a partnership opportunity with Summit schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, Summit Basecamp. Fast forward several months through an application process and meetings with our newly implemented ninth grade academy team and here I am in California for two weeks.
One of the conversations that I had with a teacher before we committed to this project continues to stick with me. A science teacher had some questions about why this learning was important to us. We were sitting in my office discussing self-directed, personalized learning. He turned and looked at me and said, “Do you really think students can be self-directed learners?” I gave him a sincere and earnest reply, “Yes, yes I do.” I believe in the concept with my whole being, but what would does it really look like in practice in different schools and classrooms throughout the country? And what can and will it look here in our own school?
Well here on my first day at Summit Preparatory Charter High School in Redwood City, CA, I am learning just that. But the learning looks different. Summit Basecamp believes in providing training that looks like what what will be modeled in our classrooms. No one is sitting here lecturing me about the personalized learning platform and I have yet to watch a powerpoint about the mentoring component of self-directed learning. Instead, I am asked to learn about the PLP by going there and opening a task card and working my way through activities that guide me through understanding it.
The facilitator told us from the get go- Don’t ask me, engage in a productive struggle, talk to your partner and work through it. I struggled. I struggled a lot. I think my partner may have wanted to wring my neck. At one point, I told my facilitator, “You just made me feel like a total idiot.” It wasn’t easy to grasp something that I had never encountered before in a self-directed way, but we persisted and the learning is happening.
Obviously this system is doing something right. You see this sign shortly after walking into the school building.
So how can you not want to be a part of this exciting work? During our introductory session, Summit explained that several years ago, they found that many of their graduates were struggling in college. When asked how their graduates are doing now, they told me they will be looking at the data over the next few years to determine if this self-directed learning model really does improve post-secondary outcomes for students.
It is so refreshing to have an opportunity to connect with educators and professionals across the country. I met a secondary principal from a school in Texas which enrolls only students who are on track to become professional soccer players. I met a “user experience researcher” from Facebook who designs the learning platform. Their experiences are all so different from my own. All in all a great day as we continue to struggle with the questions surrounding self-directed learning and what it means for students and teachers at our schools.
You can learn more about the project here: Summit Basecamp