An Ideal Learning Day

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Today I finally got out for the first Young Creators learning day. This is the core activity I wanted to do on a regular basis over summer break, but so far it has been a busy summer. My daughter (pictured above) and I took the train downtown to the Apple store. She has been doing a lot of digital art on her new iPad, using an app called Procreate, but had run into some tech issues. One of the things I love about Apple are their free sessions offered regularly at their store on topics like iPhone photography, sketching on an iPad, and other tips and tricks for customers to do more with their Apple products. It’s brilliant product marketing, but I’m OK with that because I’ve largely drunk the kool-aid that Apple cares about education and promoting creativity with their products. The sketching class was too basic for my daughter, but at the end, she got to hang with one of their employees who was also a digital artist, and he helped her troubleshoot the issues and recommended a few other apps to try out.

From there, we strolled down to the main branch of the Chicago Public Library, where on the first floor is one of their hidden jewels, the YouMedia space for teens. In there can be found a wealth of workstations covering DIY Maker areas such as music production, digital art, STEM & robotics, 3D printing, video games, and fashion crafting. Teens are largely able to hang out, work on their own thing, collaborate if they wish, while having experienced mentors around to help them if they need or want it. Adults aren’t allowed to interfere either, so while she was there I headed upstairs to catch up on e-mails and read the paper.

I had hoped to invite and meet other like-minded families, but it was only us today. I know this will be a long-term proposition of building a community with similar ideas and vision, but for today, it was a great way to spend a few hours with my daughter. My goal is to schedule more of these, at least once a week, and invite others to join in.

Young Creators Studio

This summer I’m launching a new initiative which I’m calling Young Creators Studio (YCS). It’s an outgrowth and evolution of several ideas I’ve fomented over the past few years. I’ve been involved with groups that have promoted project-based learning, self-directed learning, out-of-school learning, maker labs, un-schooling, home-schooling, and so forth. I’ve tried to synthesize what I appreciate about all these “movements”. Most recently I sponsored a showing of an education documentary called Most Likely to Succeed, about an innovative charter school in California that among other things, has no homework, grades, or standardized tests. I am also the parent of two creative, curious kids who are doing amazing things on their own (and I am not just saying that because I’m their dad!). Allowing kids time and space to create things they are naturally interested in doing seems to me the essential tagline behind all those other important aspects of progressive education. And working with these kids, whether they are in mainstream public schools, charter schools, private ones, online ones, or are home-schooled is the main thing. Providing the infrastructure, mentors, and environment for these kids to flourish may be the best way to serve as an example to transform how we think about education.

To kick things off, I’m organizing a small book discussion group on Ted Dintersmith’s new book, What Schools Could Be.  Ted produced the MLTS documentary a few years ago and is the real-deal advocate for innovation in education. Here’s a talk he gave recently in the suburbs of Chicago.

Give it a watch if you aren’t able to obtain his book or see the film. Happy Summer!