I have watched it for embarrassingly long periods of times, following various pieces, searching for sources of particularly engaging sounds, with the same fixed gaze I've seen students use with their iPhones.
There were other things there--a ridiculously cool motorcycle, a Tyrannosaurus rex, and a piece of a mastodon--but the sculpture spoke to me. And in a few days, I get to chat with it again.
If I could bring that awe into my classroom, I'd never have a late student again...
I have the great fortune to be invited back to Discovery's Beyond the Textbook Forum 2013, a chance to help generate ideas for their Techbook, surrounded by some of the best heads in the business. I think they ask me to shore up the Luddite end of the spectrum--I may be the only one in the building who does not own a cell phone.
I enjoy going for a few reasons, not the least being the incredible generosity of the Discovery folks and the wonderful conversations that flow through the discussions. Steve Dembo, the ringleader, is a mensch, and last year's crowd was full of folks who could simultaneously hold strong opinions and listen at the same time.
You don't get that often in traditional professional development.
There is no question I get a lot out of the deal--I get jazzed by ideas and kinetic sculptures, and I return to my classroom with more bounce in my step. What do I hope to give in return?
I want every child in every classroom to feel the same awe I feel when my brain is engaged with the world, the wonder I feel each time I walk along the bay or into the atrium of the Discovery building. When they do, incredible things happen.
The image above comes from the Discovery Education page extolling the benefits of the Techbook--it is simple and profound, a child's hands holding a small plant in a upful of soil, a microcosm of our living universe.
A picture of a plant cannot teach a child much about a plant's (or a child's) place in the world. Textbooks cannot deliver the world, and I have serious doubts electronic textbooks can either, even with flashy images and moving music. But that's not what Discovery is trying to do.
Last year we experienced their vision firsthand--we rotated through various hands on stations under the watchful eye of Patti Duncan. Things got a little out of hand when we jammed up the more interesting tables and abandoned some others.
Given the constraints imposed on public education today, the impending NGCC standards, the obsession with tests, not sure how far the Techbook can stretch classroom boundaries.
But I wouldn't bet against a company that made Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters household names, melding passion and science into entertainment.
I have a few ideas I will share, but here's your chance to contribute yours. Think big, think broadly, and let me know what you want me to bring to the table.
Disclosure: Discovery is covering my expenses for the conference.