This is the sixth in a continuation of guest blogs by the CREATE Lab Team.
By MaryLu Hutchins
Qualitative work has always been the hallmark of good schools. With the advent of shared digital data, numerical data points have taken a larger role in learning systems. Subsequently, multiple policy attempts to impose a modified business model of effort and yield pushed the educational use of numerical data often resulting in constrained applications. The Fluency project attempts to re-emphasize the qualitative language of learning, because learning about: 1.) self, 2.) caring for and about others, and 3.) function(s) in larger systems (including educational systems as a primary factor) is and has always been an intensely human experience. Complementing numbers with narratives serves as a force for creating equity across all school settings. The beauty of The Fluency project may be in balancing the process by honoring the importance of both quantitative and qualitative understandings in educational contexts.
The Fluency Project often challenges narrowed purposes of educational measurement by promoting concepts and practices to establish, foster, and prioritize student agency. This is supported by instructional decision-making that co-powers students by combining technology as a contributor to, and a nurturer of, student voice. The Fluency Project is unique to the education world because we seek participant commitment via long-term dedication to personal professional growth, which we believe may result in more opportunities for establishing both student choice and voice in learning processes. It is also uncommon to the technological world as we prioritize being responsive to student needs and serving identified needs with opportunities to embrace technology rather than reacting to, and reinforcing, a competitive motivation for technology implementation.
We are working in service of others, whether to extend the CREATE name to empower teaching and learning, affirm the value of the potential of “learners as producers” in our larger society, open the minds of children to possibility, and/or encourage teachers to take risks with using technologies to help students understand their unlimited capacities. Specifically, we expose teachers to CREATE emergent technologies as well as non-CREATE tech exploration, including but not limited to, students functioning as citizen and social scientist researchers. While researching ideas and solving problems, students develop stronger identities, learn dynamic roles, and begin to think of others responsively. Furthermore as active learners, students are encouraged to present their synthesized works to specifically chosen audiences. In the process, teachers are learning how students use multiple thinking strategies in the spirit of inquiry, which is open-minded, and constructive learning work. John Dewey, the father of modern progressive education, shared this original vision and contemporary educators still seek to preserve wholeheartedness in learning.
In my practice as an educator, a deep and abiding respect for our full humanity outweighs all other forces. Commitment to our collective dream of educational equity is worthwhile and drives my effort. As teachers, we work far beyond the hours we should, we teach from the heart, and we affect the future. There is no “mission accomplished” in education. If we stop learning, we stop growing. When that happens, we are no longer effective in supporting learning for others, from Pre-Kindergarten to the university level. Perhaps, if everyone adopted the “no mission accomplished” attitude, The Fluency Project becomes our collective legacy.