There’s the people talking about the potential of digitally connected project-based education, and then there’s the people actively exploring it. Nevin Jenkins and his team of teachers, students, community partners, parents, and family are doing great work. Every day they are moving the possible a little bit further in Warrensville Heights, Ohio. I can’t wait to visit the planetarium, but even more than that, I can’t wait to follow along and eventually join in.
The joining in part is what’s missing in this stage of the education groupthink on social media right now. While we prattle on about empathy in design thinking we all too often stop short of the actual engagement stages of the design process. It’s not enough to hear about a project like this and feel empathy for what Nevin and his team are trying to do. It’s not enough to click “like” and scroll on down the feed.The planetarium in Warrensville Heights is a prototype for a kind of learning: project based and digitally connected.
What is most needed at the prototype phase is assessment, questioning, praise-giving, and probing. My mentors, Barb Israel and Melanie Wightman, called it “coming together over the work”. I’d invite more educators to engage with Nevin and his team. Share the video with people in your personal learning network and ask them what they think about it. Ask how possible it would be to do something like this in your school or district. Perhaps use it as a conversation point around the idea of positive community partnerships. Maybe show it at the start of a staff meeting and have a discussion about this kind of learning. What if you could help connect his students with mentors in the field, donate supplies, or provide this project with a wider audience? The point is that this video isn’t only there for us to watch, it’s an invitation to join in at the frontier of a new kind of learning.
It’s fitting that the team in Warrensville Heights has kids and adults thinking more about outer-space. In a sense, they are all astronauts, exploring the potential of the vast new frontiers in learning afforded them by new tools and a network of support.