Welcome to our blog

This is the story of two educators on one journey. Each day we will record our reflections on the process of being involved in an innovative educational environment. The decision on our part to leave the public education system was deliberate due to our growing frustrations over the factory "one size fits all" model of education. This model has dominated the educational landscape and is not designed to meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Step one in our journey was to find a place that would allow us the freedom to break out of the system. We needed a chance to just breath and facilitate learning in the ways that we both know are best for children. That step has led us to Rosemary Beach Florida to work with the students attending the OH Institute. The OH Institute is a unique educational environment that we find humane. The curriculum focus is on the individual learner with an infusion of technology project based learning. Currently, it has 20 students in grades 4-11 all of whom are seeking something different than what the factory system of education has to offer. This is where our adventure begins...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday March 28:


It has been awhile. Today was the day that I was thinking to myself that the thing that will be the death of this model is not that it is not a great way for kids to learn but rather than in being flexible nothing is defined. Questions that come up for me are things like: When the schedule/attendance is flexible to allow for students to travel and play sports where is the line drawn. Today we have two students leaving at 3:00pm to go and see a movie. I think a lot about all the mixed messages that we have received this year in terms of saying that we stand for "student choice" in their learning to "wait a minute why are the kids not reading the classics and other things that they need to be prepared for their SAT test and college?" It is the constant message of "be innovative,do what you want to do, make it your own" but really just kidding you need to "get kids into a box, deliver the traditional curriculum in a recognizable way, and measure all students using the same measuring stick." Frustrating...

I feel really good about the curriculum that we have designed this year and am very comfortable talking about it to anyone that comes through. What I am not comfortable with is being held accountable for things which were not made clear to me. I am use to working at a very high level but I am also used to being held accountable by someone that has made it very clear to me what my job is. That is not to say that I have been given a simple checklist in my previous work but rather I have been given a framework and allowed to create systems based on my areas of expertise and by collaborating with other professionals.

The environment I am in this year is amazing in so many ways but expectations and what this school is all about is not clear.

What I do know for sure is this:
  • I would choose this journey again even if I knew then what I know now.
  • Students learn so much more through PBL.
  • I have learned an amazing amount of things this year.
Today was a busy day but a creative one for the students. It was nice to see them buzzing around and working on planning their projects.

Wednesday February 9


A good day. Mysterious package takes a good deal of time and after music I felt like I had completely used up my patience. I even took about 2 minutes after they left to sit quietly before going back to school. That was actually very helpful. Today we accomplished a good deal of work including our writing, mailing our package and skyping our friends in Wisconsin. I will check later to see the results of destination math and I feel guilty missing the math because of music.

Speaking of music, it went well with both older bands today. The second group did VERY well with all songs and they are progressing way ahead of schedule which is interesting as they have less overall musical experience.

We also got some work done on Social Studies for MS with the idea of using a venn diagram to compare and contrast differences and similarities between Inca and Maya civilizations.

Monday February 7


It's been awhile since we wrote on this blog. For me it is partially because I am now blogging on my PBL blog daily and partly because things have gotten extremely busy in a good way.

Today was a good day overall. Students are working on projects and they are all in different stages. This always becomes a challenge to manage. Some groups are practically wrapping up while others are still digging around and writing really high quality entries in OHpedia. It is interesting to see the quality and depth of student work. Certain students just really get into the process and create some amazing projects while others are just skimming the surface. However, what I do think is that even the ones skimming the surface will remember their content better than a traditional lesson. There seems to be something about the way that they have to interact with the content that makes it stick a bit more than the traditional style of content delivery.

I am pretty tired overall and need to go to a meeting.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday January 21

Another busy day with project work. It was amazing to see how each of the students are reacting tot he structured projects. Interestingly enough the ones that say that they do not understand PBL or know what they are working on are the same ones that are fighting against the structure. It is like they want to not have structure to allow them to have the excuse of not understanding the work. Once they get the structure they have to work and they fight against it. One student literally had Randy or me checking on him every fifteen minutes because he did not want to work.

The middle school wiki is starting shape up very nicely in terms of presentation. It looks clean and has good information on it. I do worry about plagiarism and am going to suggest to Randy that we do a mini lesson on not cutting an pasting things into the writing(unless they are quotes and cited correctly).

I am concerned about some of the high school groups. One group in particular is having personality issues. One individual in the group had conflicts with his last group as well. Two other groups are looking like one member is working on their portion of the project while the second member is sitting back and not doing too much. I am going to look into helping all of the groups navigate working together productively. One step I think I am going to see if Randy agrees with is a mini check in with all groups first thing on Monday. That will allow us to "see the work" and see who is working on which pieces. Another idea might be to have a critical friends protocol in place to view the work once it is finished. I wish that I had thought about having the groups set up some norms for working together before we actually started the project work. This is something that I want to add to future projects. The last idea that I have in this arena is to have them rate themselves and their partner privately. This might help us gain some feedback into how they are feeling and where we need to support them in their work.

Overall project days are really flying by quickly!

Productive day today with projects. I had the Mysterious Package group re-organize their blogs so that the tabs are subject specific. I hope this will help with organization and finding work as well as serving as a more efficient digital portfolio. Today was also the last day for the Florida Five and that will greatly change the dynamic for the students in terms of music, social and academic work. This will likely have it's own set of difficulties, but at the same time, provide opportunities for leadership with new students.

I worked with Mason on his project planning form and I think that I can be a big help in simplifying the process to make this OHpedia less daunting. I think the project will give the students a feeling of accomplishment when they are done.

Monday January 17th

Today was neat because it was nice to enter a slower pace for a bit and work more closely with high school. I am able to better see their perspective on the guided more traditional pbl.

We did some more navigation with elementary and it is neat to see them actually get better from last time. These lessons are especially interesting to me because of the incredibly strong tie between math and geography. I'm going to keep this a theme that they receive every so often. I would like to look more into repeating themes like this with math so they get repeating practice with inquiry so they can continually grow with their skills.

Today the structured pbl work moved forward nicely but I cannot help but watch the students stop thinking because structure squelches thinking. Structure is almost the enemy of PBL work if it is meant to be student centric. Students need to understand the process and be able to navigate their way through it. However, adding this step by step, check in before moving on is teaching students again that the facilitator/ teacher is the one that controls the learning. Sometimes we think we are just nuts to keep fighting the system because it is so ingrained. But I cannot help but wonder where is the passion or spark for learning that students have when they get to decide what to learn and explore?

The more structured the PBL process the more work it is to get the students to do high quality work. The trick of structure is that to the outside "eye in the sky" it looks good and makes sense. I mean who wouldn't want to see student check ins and structured points along the way that guarantee that the students are covering things? However, once the structure becomes the thing that is driving the process then it becomes a teacher centric project not a students centric process. Students need to understand the basic steps and process of PBL but they should not be pushed into a lock step process if true excitement and learning is to occur. The more structured the PBL is the more teacher directed it becomes and the closer it comes to the traditional lecture type classroom. It teaches students that they are not to be trusted to make judgements within their own learning. Students are taught to wait for the teacher/facilitator to tell the what to do. There is not meaning construction anymore but rather construction of an assignment that the teacher tells them to do.

I will push on because the light at the end of this structure PBL tunnel is that students will have been exposed to the process again and they will be able to choose their remaining projects for the year.

Friday January 14:

Amy: What a whirlwind of a day. We had four visitors this morning three of which are potential new facilitators. One was the assistant principal from Freeport High School which was really interesting. He was able to tell the kids why they block things like Youtube (lots of inappropriate things). We did a lot of PBL work the first block with some technical glitches but things were fine.

Second block we had a group of visitors from Alys beach. They were interested in what OH would be like if it were a bit bigger and possible relocated to Alys beach. It was a lot of fun talking to them about what we do and why it is the right way to go with education. Our conversation went until 1:00pm and then we went to lunch. Randy took on the bulk of kidwork today which I really really appreciated.

One thing that struck me today was how good it was to be able to talk to people about what we are doing and why we are doing it. We spend a lot of time mired in the daily work and often forget to look at all the amazing things that we are accomplishing. It was a day that reinforced that we are here for a reason.

Thursday January 13:


FLVS day #2. Wow the day seems to pass so slowly when it is FLVS day. If it is this way for me as a facilitator I wonder what it is like to the students? Don't get me wrong I had plenty of things to do but they were all mainly what I call passive facilitation. Thank goodness for Randy's field trip to the beach where the students were finishing their inquiry math lesson by using a sextant for navigation. The reason that I say thank goodness for Randy's field trip is because Anastasia came back with a really cool stinky jaw bone. She and I spent the about 15 minutes trying to figure out what it was and that was the absolute highlight of my day. We looked up images and saw some pretty icky but neat things. There is nothing better than the excitement that a student gets when they find something cool to explore.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I think that the older kids are getting a lot of work done which is good. Next week we will block out their second semester coursework and start with check ins.