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#NWPAM12 lightning talk slides & text

#NWPAM12 lightning talk slides & text

Written by Chad Sansing
November 16, 2012

Hello! My name is Chad Sansing. I teach humanities at the Community Public Charter School, and I am an unabashed fan of joyful learning. It can be connected learning or self-directed learning. It can peer-to-peer learning or co-learning. It can be tacit or explicit; it can result from modeling or invention. It can happen inside schools; it can happen outside them. It can happen because of schools; it can happen despite them. I just love learning that fulfills our common, human need for fun.

This year at our school, we’re attempting to cultivate a culture of self-reflection. As part of that work, my kids and I spend all of class every Friday designing badges that represent the most powerful learning we remember from the last week. We journal what we remember learning; then we pick our favorite pieces of learning. We sketch 2-3 possible designs to badge that learning; then we pick our favorite designs. We make our badges online using a pixel art application; then we embed our badges in our digital portfolios.

Sometimes we play just to play. We run; we gambol; we frolic. We rejoice in life. However, sometimes we play with more purpose, and I’d like to characterize our work with badges as such – as play with purpose. Why is this work play? Because through its use of agency, choice, and creativity, it takes on the enjoyment and recreation that are characteristic of play. Our badging is more sandbox than post-mortem. In attempting to graduate a critical, but creative, populous, I believe all self-reflection should be taught as such.

How is our work purposeful? Apart from helping us build a culture of self-reflection, our badging employs “useful constraints” to help students make independent value judgments about what parts of class are most important. This is a flipped classroom: one in which learners judge the learning; one in which a teacher learns about what works from students’ affinities and art, rather than from suspect and ultimately naive and subjective grades. This work uses common, democratic tools to give kids voice and to give me an opportunity to gauge myself against my students’ values.

Our badging also assumes the aura of play through recreation, through the break it offers us from traditional instruction and assessment. While I push the design process we use to make badges, I don’t approve or try to disprove what students say about their learning or include in their badges. I trust the process. I trust students to be metacognitive; I see their writing become art and code. This is core self-esteem, self-trust, and self-directed learning: kids who understand what they learn, kids who understand which learning matters to them, and kids who understand how to compose and publish their learning.

So I am a fan of badging; I’d applaud any shift our schools and society make towards a more common-sense, phenomenological, and democratic assessment of learning. More important than what our schools and society might do, however, is what we do, and badges give us another chance to write with our students, to make with our students, and to measure ourselves by what we help our kids discover in themselves. Badging. Design. Play. Making. Writing. These are all synonyms for learning and should be playfully, purposefully remixed as such. Thank you.

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