Reflecting on the edu180atl project
This past Friday marked the conclusion of the edu180atl project, which I helped to co-found with an extraordinary group of educators. The project featured one Atlanta resident each day sharing a photo and a 250-word reflection on the question “What did you learn today?” Megan has already described the history of the project and how it began with a tweet, so I thought I would talk a bit about my hopes for the project its future.
When we first started the edu180atl project, I thought it was going to be a total “game-changer”; I thought we’d recruit educational leaders from around Atlanta—superintendents, board of education members, maybe even a mayor or governor. I thought that these leaders would follow along in the project, and as they struggled to write their 250 word reflection on what they learned today, they’d realize that their reflection had nothing to do with high stakes testing, accountability, cheating scandals or any of the other buzzwords that seem to dominate discussions of the “crisis” in education today. Instead, these leaders would reflect on their moments of real learning, often filled with second chances, compassion and human connection. I even naively thought that this project would be so influential that a mayor, legislator, or governor might suddenly wake up and decide that our state’s current educational policies are headed dangerously off course, the media would pick this story up too, and all of a sudden, a little blog started by a few teachers would have transformed the education dialogue in metro Atlanta.
But that’s not what happened. Aside from a handful of headmasters and other school administrators, no “educational leaders” wrote for edu180atl this year. Instead, we got thoughtful, honest, and poignant reflections every day from people all across the metro area-teachers in the classrooms, their students, and parents. We got the honest story of learning I wanted this project to capture, and as I read these posts everyday, I found them sparking reflections on my own learning both large and small. And you see the sparks of a conversation change throughout the pages of edu180atl: questioning the value of the PSAT, the need to plan out a student’s high school career before even entering the 9th grade, and most importantly, capturing so many powerful moments of empathy, student learning, and even a delicious recipe mixed with lessons on parenting.
There’s a message here—I’m sure. Change rarely comes from on high, wrapped up neat packages, action steps or strategic plans. Instead, it almost always comes from below, through fits and starts, and lots of conversation. I think the edu180 platform is ideally suited for these types of conversations because it encourages ongoing self-reflection and dialogue.
Hopefully the edu180 platform will continue to spread—we’ve already invaded Canada. I think one of the most powerful ways edu180 might be able to grow is for individual schools to commit to an edu180 project. Wouldn’t it be interesting for a school to feature one learner’s reflection every day? Entire classes could take a block of days build a chain of learning reflecting on the previous day’s post. Editing a project like this might be a great task for a creative writing class. I’m now putting the finishing touches on a how-to guide that we will post on the edu180atl site that should make it very simple for any interested group to setup their own edu180 project.
The future of the edu180atl project is in great hands. Holly Chesser and a brand new board of editors are sure to push it into new directions, draw in new voices and keep the conversation about learning going. I’m excited to keep following this project from afar.