Monday, July 22, 2013

Mission Possible Workshop - Day One at NPR

Note : This week I am participating in the Mission Possible Teacher Workshop in Washington D.C. The week is hosted by Model Classroom and Pearson.  The focus for the week is project based learning centered around learning opportunities in Washington D.C.  Projects will take place at NPR, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the United States Holocaust Museum.

Today was Day 1 of the Mission Possible Workshop hosted by Model Classroom and Pearson.  As I met the other participating teachers and facilitators I knew I was in for a great week of learning.  I think it is always a good sign when you sit down for breakfast at a conference and you see QR codes on the table along with the official hashtag for the week!  (The hashtag by the way if you wish to follow us around this week is #Mpossible - we will be tweeting as much as possible.)

We started off the day with some exercises to get to know each other - sketching the person next to you to break down the awkwardness of getting to know someone new and interviewing a person for the first time using only questions. We also created a six word story to introduce a new friend.  All of these activities had a purpose which would later be used in our mission later in the day.

We headed out to our next classroom for the day - the newly constructed NPR offices in Washington DC.  Once at NPR we listened to Michele Norris - host of All Things Considered and originator of the Race Card Project and the Back Seat Book Club.  Prior to Michele Norris visit with us we listened to several audio examples of her interviews.  

I had not heard of the Race Card Project prior to last week’s preparation for the conference.  If you are not familiar with the project I encourage you to check out the website. The project asks people to write down an experience they have had with race or cultural identity in just six words.  Initially some might ask what can be accomplished in six words but reading a few examples demonstrates the power of just those six words.

I started following Michele Norris on Twitter ( @Michele_Norris ) roughly a week ago in advance of the conference.  During our visit today I asked her about the impact that social media has had on the Race Card Project.  She responded that it has made a huge difference because it has given the project more visibility and allowed it to grow globally.

As Michele Norris talked about how she interviews individuals for her show, she said something that I have been thinking about the rest of the day.  She said that her most important skill as an interviewer is not speaking or asking questions, it is listening to the person she is interviewing.  She also wondered if listening should be a skill taught in schools.  That was a great point.  How much time do we spend in our classroom to truly teach students how to listen?  And how can we as teachers improve the way in which we listen to our students?  This will be something I think about a lot before the school year starts.

We finished our day at NPR with a tour of their relatively new facility.  As a self proclaimed geek it was fascinating to see the inner workings of such an iconic news agency.  I have had a podcast since 2005 and enjoy the process of editing and producing audio.  The control rooms and the studios had the latest technology.

Before we finished the day we had a final challenge to accomplish as a group : select a question centered on civic engagement and interview individuals on the street recording their responses with audio or video.  Our group selected to ask people about the recent Zimmerman trial and if there is something they hope changes as a result of the verdict.  As we split into pairs and asked people on the streets of DC we needed to thoughtfully think about how we would introduce ourselves, ask for their permission to record their response and then listen as they responded to our initial question. 

The activity was interesting because of the responses we received from five different groups of people but it was also about the process.  We had to move a little outside our comfort zone - something we ask our students to do everything and probably don’t think enough about when we do as teachers.  

Day one was a great experience of learning.  I look forward to another day of experiential learning tomorrow as we visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

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