They Call it Multi-Tasking

They Call it Multi-Tasking

 

In the modern times we live in, so infused with demands on our attention and action, we often seem to be juggling many tasks simultaneously. Research on the brain still suggests that we may do many things with our mind and body, but we do them quickly one at a time in serial fashion. We switch from one thing to another and if our plate is full, we may have many things to switch to and accomplish. Our modern lives often have many layers of complexity. Working through complexity requires a variety of balancing strategies or ways of being. In these times of serious medical danger, these times of crisis, I have been thinking about how our daily stay at home tasks as educators compare to those we regularly accomplish in the face to face context. In this thinking, I imagine a line dividing the crisis and the work of being educators.

 

This line of division is surely a simple visual and mental construct, nonetheless, that’s what I have been thinking. Crisis here, educating there. Left, right, right left, whichever way works. Surely, a venn diagram comes to mind where these tasks connect and are mutually supportive if not the same, but just the same, I’m sticking with the large vertical line division for the moment.

 

Staying home and washing our hands are our greatest tasks in this crisis. At least the two that connect us all the most. The two we all can try to do. Basically, in this crisis, we can try not to spread a virus or have the virus be spread to us. Of course, there are many, many more tasks we are doing in this crisis that help people. The list is long for sure.

 

As an educator, I have been focused on three basic tasks; connecting with children and families, engaging children and families in meaningful learning, and improving the learning over time. These three are linear in a sense and prioritized as well. Once accomplished they quickly become cyclical and less linear. There are some equations that seem to make sense with these three variables. The more connected we are with families, it’s logical that we can better engage children with learning. The more connected we are, it’s logical that they can provide valuable feedback to support our improving the learning as well as supporting their own improving their own stay at home learning.

 

In connecting and engaging to learn in this crisis/stay at home context, we are focused on three simple modes; online connecting and learning, connecting by phone calls, and connecting by providing documents and supplies that are useful for both the connecting and learning. Each mode has its crisis challenges and each mode has its learning challenges. Each mode also can be improved overtime as we reflect on the outcomes, tasks, and processes and especially as children and families provide feedback on their value. After just two weeks of school closures and the stay at home context, this feedback is likely irregular and sporadic. Still, the feedback is a starting point for improvement. 

 

One of the things that has always given me confidence as a learner and educator is the ability to learn and improve. When tackling new things, new tasks, new jobs, new challenges, we can be sure of one thing; we are likely to need a lot of improvement initially. This improvement always comes from learning and by doing. We plan, we do, we study what we did, then we act on what we learned and we plan, do study, act again. This PDSA cycle from improvement science can be very methodical for some and very intuitive and flow-like for others. Recent times have highlighted engineering like processes of trials, tests, trial and error, failure analysis, etc…. And this is useful. Other ways of improving might seem more artistic as many makers experience the feeling of excitement and creativity and drive while making a piece of art, and then upon completion and reflection many artists begin critiquing and focusing on the faults of the artwork even to the point of only seeing the faults and under-appreciating the better qualities of the outcome. This then leads them to the next work, and next work, and next work and to the process of making that drives them. This is another way towards improvement.

 

One thing that is common in crises, is their dynamic nature. They change often and quickly sometimes. They are also self generative in a sense. They tend to create crises of their own. You have a crisis that leads to another crisis or subsets of mini-crises or things that before the crisis didn’t seem like a crisis turn into a crisis. As I wrote this last line a whole slew of mini-crisis come to mind and if they weren’t funny at some level they would be tears producing and sometimes they still are, moving into that half cry, half laugh zone. 

 

One thing to ponder while educating in a crisis is how much to go the venn diagram common quadrant way rather than maintaining a clear division between the crisis and the connecting, learning, and learning to improve. This brings up the should I? Or when should I? Integrate the crisis into the learning questions. In pondering these questions I suppose I have foreshadowed my initial thoughts on the topic by drawing a clear division between the two tasks. That said, I think making wash your hands videos with kids dancing and singing and sharing is just what the doctor ordered. 

 

In crisis, having universal principles and frameworks to live and work by are very useful. Among my universals as an educator and organizational leader is to believe in, trust, support, and encourage teachers as intellectuals, as professionals, as colleagues, as artists/scientists, as connectors, and as individuals. In this two weeks of school closure context, I think it’s critical to work by this universal. In most cases, no matter how constructivist, student centered, and personalizable learning environments are, teachers are the central figures for kids and they know themselves better than anyone. They need to be supported to make the decisions to achieve the tasks at hand. 

 

As we work through this next week of school closures and into another unknown period of Spring Break for two weeks during these stay at home times, I’ll continue to reflect and share thoughts on the crisis and on our work as educators. Even in these technology enhanced times, how humans interact with other humans and the natural world will continue to be the river of life on the planet.    

 

Niki / JP Collaborative MIT- Rio Blog

It was great to hear from a local student today who has made her way to MIT – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology – a world class university and seat of science on the planet. From Oxnard to Boston, this blog connects a superintendent of the Rio School District to a freshman (1st year woman student) at MIT who reached out to the District to help in these coronavirus times. Here goes a shot at some Q&A that might be interesting on several levels;

Q1: Tell us about yourself. How did you choose MIT and how has the freshman year been?

I have recently graduated from Rio Mesa High School, class of 2019, and am now a first-year at MIT, class of 2023.

When I was applying for colleges, I knew that I wanted to major in engineering. I had applied to all schools as an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Major, so my dream school was MIT. (Big emphasis on dream) (…although coming to MIT has shown me that my interests extend to many other majors so I’m leaning towards declaring as Computer Science with a minor in Anthropology or Brain and Cognitive Sciences).

It wasn’t about me choosing MIT. It was more of MIT choosing me.

The week prior to 3/14, PI day, I made all sorts of plans to volunteer with different organizations to distract myself from the rejection letter that was sure to come. PI day then came. I got out my laptop as soon as I got home from school. My friends and teachers were so supportive. They kept asking me if I had gotten in yet. They were so sure. I went to the decisions page three minutes before it was supposed to come out, so I completely skipped the introduction page and what do you know, I got in! It felt surreal for the next several months. I reread the page every so often, pinching myself, logging onto different platforms to see if it actually happened. Since I didn’t believe this outcome was possible, as soon as I told my parents that day, I left to go help put up posters and update websites for my internship as promised and missed the pizza party that my interviewer threw for alumni and newly adMITted students in our area.

Having said that, there was no way that I would NOT choose MIT.

I am more than happy to say that MIT has not let me down and have even exceeded my expectations.

My freshman year has been amazing, and it saddens me to a great extent that it was cut short.

Grades during our first year is on a pass no record policy. This means that we get credit for our registered classes as long as we pass, and if we fail, there is no record that we ever attempted to take that class and can try again another semester. MIT does this to teach us the balance between academics, health, and extracurricular activities. I learned that we don’t have to sacrifice any.

During the short-lived three quarters of my academic year, I have grown both personally and academically.

Academically, I completed Bioethics, Multivariable Calculus, Physics: Mechanics, Introduction to Biology, Introduction to Professional Success in Biological Engineering, and a freshman seminar called Mens et Manus: The Joy of MIT, where I was given the opportunity to visualize real-time music with frequency and isolate antibiotic-producing bacteria from soil samples I got from the middle of campus (including fluorescent-bacteria)! Currently, I am working towards completing Introduction to Python, Culture and Identity of Israel, Anthropology: Meaning of Life, Physics: Electricity and Magnetism, and Mathematics for Computer Science.

MIT also requires PE, so last semester, I took an archery class, which was such a blast! In regards to fitness, I felt like I couldn’t give up sports, but I wanted to venture out to try something new. I was the intramural team captain for badminton and ultimate frisbee for my dorm, Simmons Hall, and have played other IM sports with friends in Simmons. I am also a proud member of sMITe, MIT’s Women Ultimate Frisbee Team!

In terms of extracurriculars, I learned to find and keep with few projects and groups I love the most so I can put my best efforts into those rather than overextend myself to several. Currently, I am an Off-Campus Outreach Chair for Society of Women Engineers, and the chapter photographer deputy for my sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.

Additionally, there have just been so many opportunities of growth through career fairs, workshops, and just gathering with friends to complete problem sets that take hours to finish half a problem. I’m also researching in Israel through the MISTI program this summer, fingers crossed, as long as it doesn’t get cancelled because of COVID-19.

Overall, the best part of MIT has been the strong friendships and communities I have joined: sMITe, Simmons, my lounge, Kappa Alpha Theta, SWE, First-Year Leadership Program, and more! I can’t wait for sophomore year!

Q2: Tell us about this multischool initiative you are involved with in these coronatimes? 

I have lived in Ventura County my entire life. It has provided me great friendships, fond memories and experiences and has shaped me to who I’ve become today. Therefore, when COVID-19 hit with the school shutdowns, I sought ways to meaningfully support my home community.

Luckily, I had friends who were thinking the same.

I am a part of CovEd, an undergrad-led initiative in response to the COVID-19 crisis to connect low-income K-12 students with undergraduate and postgraduate students for free virtual tutoring during these months. Our vision is to encourage and empower students who may be struggling with online schooling because of limited access to resources and technology or because of a difficult home situation. We also hope to minimize the extra work placed on teachers because of the transition to online classes.

We currently have more than 300 mentor volunteers so far from universities like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT, and are continuing to expand through our university networks. You can find us on MIT’s Rapid Innovation Dashboard as CovEd!(https://innovation.mit.edu/rapid_inno_dash_c19/)

Here is our sign up form for students, teachers, or parents to fill out. Once it is filled out, we will match the student with one of our volunteers, who will reach out to the student by email to schedule the first session!

CovEd Academic Support Registration Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeQbfc4hukSn67JZIRbXQDBXFM3iWPuHl4k51LIGFsUU64_Gw/viewform

I’m currently leading outreach for this in Ventura County to help reach as many students in need as possible. But, please share our flyer with anyone who might be interested in signing up! We would appreciate any help you can give us in our outreach process!

Let me know if you have any questions at nikikim@mit.edu. I would be happy to further discuss how we can best support our community!

Q3: What are the goals that CovEd hope to accomplish? Any ideas on how you will measure the work you all do?

Our goal is to encourage and empower students who may be struggling with online schooling because of limited access to resources and technology or because of a difficult home situation. We hope to reach students and motivate them during times as such. We also hope to minimize the extra work placed on teachers because of the transition to online classes. When the worst of this virus is over, we just hope that students are able to return to school without having fallen too far behind and teachers up and ready for the normal learning process again without having been burnt out.

We have sign-up forms that could provide a tangible measure of our work. However, it is less of measuring how much we could do for as many people as possible, but rather the quality and depth of positive change we could make to assist the well being of our community in need. 

Learning Links for March 23-27