Thursday, June 13, 2013

Com-Passion Based Learning

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"

Education needs to change!!! We are no longer in the Industrial Age. Our students are disengaged and unconcerned.  The format of our schools and the content which our teachers are required to teach are becoming irrelevant and ineffective.  Students should be going to schools to learn; better yet, to learn how to learn.  Students should not be going to school to memorize a plethora of facts which help make them good Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit players.  The internet has changed that game.  Anyone with a computer and an internet connection has access to any necessary facts.  We need our students to learn how to find these facts, what to do with them, how to think critically and creatively, and to develop enthusiasm to take their learning to the next level.  Please watch or read anything by Sir Kenneth Robinson for inspiration.

Many new innovative methodologies have surfaced in recent years, mainly due to a grassroots movement of educators and community members who are passionate about improving education.  One of my favorite is the concept of 20-Time and Genius Hour which are forms of PASSION-BASED learning.  You can find many great examples and facts about this type of learning through social media.  Innovators such as +Joy Kirr , +A.J. Juliani , +Denise Krebs , +K Petty , +Angela Maiers+Hugh McDonald+Kevin Brookhouser+Gallit Zvi and others provide great insight into this concept.  I highly suggest following and reading about these educators as they have a LOT to offer.  The concept of passion-based learning is awesome!  Students are allowed to learn about things that they are enthusiastic and passionate about.  Through this develops an unseen level of enthusiasm and the ability to teach interdisciplinary concepts, 21st Century skills, and more.  Unless we get the attention, motivation, and enthusiasm of our students back, our education system isn't educating anyone.

I would like to introduce you to a new concept:  Com-Passion based learning.  The philosophy is extremely similar to passion-based learning, in which students are allowed approximately 20% of their class time to innovate, create, investigate, and research something they are passionate about.  The goal is to provide a structured environment in order to give students autonomy.  The one difference with Com-Passion based learning is that students are expected to find something they are passionate about, but turn in into a project that "BENEFITS THEIR COMMUNITY".  This is where the "Com" comes in.  Examples of this could include a partnership with the Humane Society or Zoo for someone passionate about animals.  It could be a fundraiser or event created by someone passionate about a certain disorder, disease or social issue.  The sky is the limit.  Any topic can be selected, however, the goal is to create some way of improving the community through this topic.  The community could be defined as the "School Community", the "Local Community", the "State Community", the "National Community", or the "Global Community".  There are many ways that students can "benefit" the community, through projects related to awareness, service-learning, fund-raisin, research, volunteering, innovating, or providing opportunities for children or other groups.

+Daniel Pink, in Drive, one of the most inspiring book ever, explains how everyone is motivated by three intrinsic factors:  Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Passion-based learning, including 20-time and Genius Hour are wonderful opportunities to give students autonomy and eventually mastery of their topic (which help create enthusiasm and confidence).   I think that one could justify that purpose is also implemented in these forms of learning (because it is such a wonderful opportunity to teach real-life 21st Century skills).  I would like to challenge anyone and everyone to take the purpose to the next level, by incorporating it more into these projects.

This year three other teachers and I were granted the opportunity to start a pilot program at Oshkosh North High School.  We all held the belief that we wanted to provide more authentic, real-life, relevant learning conditions for our students while still incorporating content and rigor.  The first year was a success, in my opinion, and it will only get better.  We were able to teach so many 21st century skills and make the content truly interdisciplinary.  It was awesome!  The most inspiring part, however, was the feelings of empowerment, benevolence, altruism, and purpose that our students were able to develop.  Each project that we did was intended to help the community in some way.  Each project presented a difficult learning adventure for our students, which created a lot of frustration.  At the end of the projects, however, when the final product came together, the sense of accomplishment and pride in the students was one that I have never seen before in the world of education.  The experience was life-changing.

My intention is blog about this topic.  I want to share some of the specific stories and projects that we did.  I want to share some of the activities that worked, some of the things that didn't work, and some of the obstacles that we overcame.  I want to provide ideas and support for anyone interested in implementing this at any level.  I WANT TO HELP!!!  I strongly believe that education need to change, and I want to work with others that hold this belief.  I am excited to learn from others who are trying innovative projects and activities in their classrooms.  I am a lifelong learner with an open mind and I want to improve each and every day!

*** I plan to begin blogging about Com-Passion based learning and my experiences, stories, pitfalls, and resources.  Please follow at if interested!  I would love any suggestions or feedback.

Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, ideas, etc....  Also check out our program.  We were allowed to have 75 students at the 9th and 10th grade level.  Students would be with us for a 3-hour block and receive science, literacy, social studies, and leadership credits.  Students had to apply, and in the end we had a lottery to select the students who got in.  The diversity in our program was awesome!  We had people in the program because they wanted more opportunities to go above and beyond what they are able to in traditional education but we also had students who were in the program because they were doing poorly in traditional education and wanted to learn differently.  After our successful year, we were given permission to expand to the 11th and 12th grades for next year.

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Keep in touch!!!

Oliver Schinkten

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