TEXT SUMMARY OF MINI LESSON 6
In this lesson we are going to explore the why and how of Recording your Learning Opportunities. In our system a Learning Opportunity can take on many forms, lengths, topics, styles, etc. This is a terrific advantage if you are trying to go on a Learning Journey. You can able to learn in a wide variety of ways. A Learning Opportunity can be long or short. It can be on going or a one time thing. It can be teacher-led or completely self-directed. It can be active and hands-on or it could be reading a book. It can be by yourself or involving thousands of other learners. The world is your classroom. Experiences are your teacher.
That all sounds good, right?
Of course there is a down side. Kinda.
Because a Learning Opportunity can take almost any kind of shape, it is important that we somehow record what it is. With traditional classes we can make some simple assumptions (although there are occasionally exceptions to these).
- Traditional classes usually run the length of a semester or year.(WHEN)
- Traditional classes usually are teacher-led.(HOW)
- Traditional classes usually have other students in them.(WHO)
- Traditional classes are usually on a fairly limited range of topics.(WHAT)
- Traditional classes are usually graded. (Evidence of Learning)
- Traditional classes are usually taught in a classroom or online. (WHERE)
- Traditional classes are usually part of a set of requirements or optional electives. (WHY)
Because these assumptions are kind of baked into the traditional school program. They are somewhat easy to describe. If I say, "I took an American History class" or "I took an Algebra class" or "I took an Organic Chemistry class" you already have a pretty good idea of what that means. You can guess it was at a school, with a teacher and other students, it met regularly and lasted a semester (at least), and you probably received a grade and had homework and tests, quizzes, and maybe projects.
There isn't much of a need to record the details because they are already assumed.
But the same isn't true for a Learning Journey.
A Learning Journey consists of a bunch of various Learning Opportunities strung together based on your curiosity, interests, seeking adventure, discovering things about the world and yourself, aiming for short term and long term goals.
In a Learning Journey the various Learning Opportunities can take on all kinds of forms. You can't make the same kind of assumptions that you can with a traditional class.
- Learning Opportunities can be anywhere from 1 hour to 4 years (and even that is pretty flexible). They can start and stop. They can be ongoing. They can be a one-time thing (WHEN)
- Learning Opportunties can be teacher-led, student-led, group based, self-paced, leaderless, project-based, hands-on, authentic or any other kind of HOW you can think of.
- Learning Opportunties can be done alone, with a group, with a class, with strangers, with friends, and a bunch of other types of WHO.
- Learning Opportunities can be about a single topic, they can combine topics. They can be about developing skills and developing habits. They might dive super deep into a topic or they might explore the big picture of a bunch of topics. WHAT isn't a single thing. It is a lot of things. It isn't a checkbox it is an exploration.
- Learning Opportunties aren't necessarily graded (unless the students want to be graded). They leave behind Evidence of Learning but the Evidence of Learning is decided by the student. It is up to each student to decide what make sense for them.
- Learning Opportunities can take place in classrooms, in your home, in the "real world", while traveling, at a museum, at a job. With Learning Opportunities the whole world is your classroom.
- WHY someone might chose to participate in a Learning Opportunity is up to the learner. Maybe they are curious. Maybe they want to bring meaning and purpose to their lives. Maybe it sounded fun. Maybe they want to challenge themselves. Maybe they want to showcase their strengths. Maybe they have a goal they want to reach and this Learning Opportunity is a required step to reaching that goal. Whatever the WHY, the student is in charge of it.
Because no two Learning Opportunities will look alike, we need to keep a record of what we did.
If you just groaned to yourself... I get it.
It sounds like a lot of work, right?
I won't lie. It does take some effort. But it is worth the effort in the long run.
So let's examine why it might be worth it.
Human Memory isn't Perfect
Remember, you are going on a Learning Journey and at the end of that journey you are going to Tell Your Story. In order to properly tell your story you will need to remember all the little adventures along the way.
Recording your Learning Opportunity is like keeping a scrapbook of your adventures. And if you properly organize your scrapbook and store it in a somewhat structured format, you will be able to pull together a good story without having to overly rely on your human memory.
Using our Record tools is a fairly easy way of augmenting and structuring your memories so that they can be used later on to Tell Your Story.
Recording Enhances Learning
This might sound like "lies teachers tell you" but it's true. One way of integrating your Learning Opportunity into your Learning Journey is to do the work to Record it. It also helps reinforce the experience of learning, analyze the value of your participation, and connect the learning to other parts of your Learning Journey.
I know, I know. That sounds like a bunch of hooey. But it is true.
If you wanted a simple school experience where you just take the classes they tell you to take and never think much about it... you would have signed up for a traditional school.
We aren't like that. We want you to make intentional choices about what you learn. We want you to participate in the process of deciding what is right for you. That requires a little bit of extra work. The reward for that extra work is that you will have a much better idea of what works for you and what doesn't. You will have thought more deeply about your learning choices than 99% of students. When you pick your next Learning Opportunity you will have benefitted from thinking deeply about your previous Learning Opportunities. You will come to recognize the hidden skills and habits that you are developing. You will begin to see the hidden connections between topics. You will begin to seek out more adventurous and creative Learning Opportunities because you will become aware of what possibilities exist out there. You will begin to connect things you just completed to things that you did a year ago.
But ... it does require a little bit of work on your part.
Recording Makes for a Better Learning Journey
Again ... you might say, "really? I think you might be overselling this..."
You could be right.
But I don't think you are.
I think the process of Recording your Learning Opportunities is a secret way for us to hint at what adventures lie in front of you.
When you answer the questions in the Record Tool you aren't just selecting a description of your current Learning Opportunity, you are also being exposed to all the other possibilities of what you could do for your next Learning Opportunity.
When you pick the options that describe HOW you learned during this Learning Opportunities you also see all of the options for ways you could have learned.
When you pick the skills or habits that worked on, you will see all of the other skills and habits that you could consider working on next time.
When you give thought to WHY you elected to participate in this just completed Learning Opportunity you might give some thought to other reasons WHY you might do your next one.
It is a little sneaky but we like to say the entire u.school mission, philosophy, and methodology are embedded in the Record Tool.
Recording Makes for a Better Story
Finally, let's not forget, one of your goals is to get into college.
To do that, we are going to use Your Story.
Part of Your Story is a listing of the things you did on your Learning Journey. Recording those Learning Opportunities as you go on your Learning Journey is going to make that process a lot easier.
When looking at a student from a more traditional school a college admissions counselor can make some assumptions like the ones we talked about earlier. They can look at a transcript that lists course names, grades, and credits and it kinda makes sense because they can assume certain things about the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW of a traditional class.
When they look at your record they are not going to be able to make assumptions in the same way. You might have Learning Opportunities that last four years. You might have Learning Opportunities with no teacher. You might have Learning Opportunities that happen in small hunks over a long period of time. You might have Learning Opportunities that don't fit neatly into topics like Science, History, or Math.
By recording your Learning Opportunities using the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW method, you will be able to give a fuller and more detailed description that helps an admissions counselor understand what you were up to. They will be able to place the choices you made in your Learning Journey into the broader context of the story you are telling. They will better undertand WHY you made the choices you did. They will better understand that what might appear unusual on first glance was actually part of a much bigger adventure that you were taking.
Combining the information you record about each Learning Opportunity with the Evidence of Learning including Reflections that you are capturing will give you a rich and complex story to tell about your Learning Journey.
Trust me that your Story will be a lot easier to tell if you record the details and descriptions along the way instead of waiting until the end.
So let's go over the tools we have available to help you record your Learning Opportunities.
If you go to the Record and Reflect page of this Field Guide or select the Tools menu at the top of the Field Guide, you will be able to access one of the tools we have created to help you Record the details and descriptions of your Learning Opportunities.
These tools are meant to be used at the end of a Learning Opportunity but you are welcome to use them whenever it makes sense for you.
You will see that there are a few types of Record tools.
- The Record Tool is a form that allows you to select from a bunch of pre-written prompts as a way of recording a description of your Learning Opportunity. Admittedly this form contains a lot of words and might even be a bit intimidating at first. But it is designed to help you describe your Learning Opportunity using the language and structure embedded in the u.school philosophy. It can be said that the entirety of the u.school philosophy and method is embedded in this single form. Once you submit the form, a document will be created and shared with you based on your answers to the form.
- The Simplified Record Tool is a much simpler form. It doesn't include any of the pre-written prompts. It assumes that you just need a blank structure and you will fill in all of the details yourself. While it is less intimidating, it also asks you to do all of the work in thinking of ways to describe your Learning Opportunity. This form will also create a structured document that will be shared with you.
- Finally there is The Record Tool Questions. This tool is merely a set of guiding questions that you can use to create your own document from scratch.
You are welcome to use the tool that you are most comfortable with. The most important thing is to capture a Record of your Learning Opportunity.
But ... I will make a pitch for the full Record Tool and cover it in more detail below because, I believe, that using this tool will not only help you record a detailed account of each Learning Opportunity it will also give you ideas and hints for things you could do with your Learning Journey to push yourself more and to help you grow into a Self-Directed Learner who is caring, competent, and confident.
The Record Tool Explained
There a few required questions in the Record Tool. They are all on the first page of the form.
- Your Name
- Your Email
- Name your Learning Opportunity
These items are required because they are used to create the document at the end of the form. The document is named using your Name and the Name of your Learning Opportunity. The email address is used as the email address that the document will be shared with.
Everything else in the form is optional.
After the required questions the form walks you through describing your Learning Opportunity using the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW method.
For each section it gives you some guided prompts on how to think about WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW. You can usually select more than one option to describe your Learning Opportunity and there is almost always an option to pick Other and add a custom answer.
The WHAT answers are broken down into WHAT (Content) that uses language similar to class subjects to describe what you are learning about. Again, you are free to answer using multiple selections.
WHAT (Skills) looks at what skills you might be developing or practicing as part of this Learning Opportunity.
WHAT (Habits) looks specifically at Habits that are related to the u.school mission of "Growing Self-Directed Learners who are Caring, Confident, and Competent."
and WHAT (Mindsets) is a different way of thinking about what you are learning. Rather than thinking like school subjects, we ask you to consider the type of "thinking" that is involved in this Learning Opportunity.
Again, all of these sections are optional. Not all of them will come into play in every Learning Opportunity. But we want to give you the broadest set of tools to think about your Learning Opportunities and we also want to inspire your thinking as you continue on your Learning Journey. Perhaps you have never thought about Learning through a "Mindset" lens and it could possibly inspire you to pursue a Learning Opportunity that you might not have considered before.
The HOW sections ask you to think about the manner in which you are learning. Again, not all of these options will be relevant to every Learning Opportunity but we hope that it might inspire you to try new things as plan for future Learning Opportunities.
Within the Record Tools we give you an opportunity to describe and attach a link to your Evidence of Learning. That gives you an opportunity to directly link the Record of the Learning Opportunity with the Evidence of Learning related to this Learning Opportunity.
WHEN includes a question that asks you to total up the number of hours spent on this Learning Opportunity. This question can be helpful later on when you are totalling up the amount of time you spent on specific areas of your Learning Journey. We have a simple formula to translate this number into something approximating Credit Hours. So capturing that number will be helpful down the road.
The final question is WHY did you elect to participate in this Learning Opportunity. We give a few standard options to select from but we also give you room to elaborate on your answer. The question of WHY can be very revealing and help you tell a story about Yourself. Remember, like a Reflection, the question of WHY is about You. It is your chance to explore your goals and interests and push yourself to examine the directions you plan on going in.
The Record Document
Once you hit submit the form will be processed and a structured Google Document will be created. It will be named based on the way you answered the required questions and it will be shared with your email and any guides you elected to share it with.
The document is yours to keep and edit. You can download it to your local computer and edit it in your favorite word processor or you can keep it on your Google Drive. We feel it is important that you to "own" your records. This isn't a record owned by u.school, it is yours.
When it comes time to Tell Your Story, you can reference these records to help Tell the Story.
In the meantime, the Record Tool is also meant to be inspiring and future looking. It is meant to help you think about your Learning Journey and push you to challenge yourself and inspire new paths and opportunities.