Open Source Bridges and #CFGChat

April 18, 2014

I am a Geography and History teacher who just so happens to love Geography and History. Over the past few months, I have been assisting in the start-up of my community’s first district high school, which will open in late August with seven educators and approximately 100 9th grade students. Bonsall High School is a New Tech Network-affiliated school, focused on project-based learning and career/college readiness within a student-driven culture.

Since I came onboard to help take this educational concept to academic reality, I have noticed a general theme that fits with almost every interaction related to my own professional development and development of our school: education is becoming open source. Whether it is the accessible technology, the flexibility of curriculum design via CCSS, or the sharing of ideas that I’ve seen in such a willing manner, I believe that the professional field of education is actually leading the way in the new global paradigm of information sharing.

A Nigerian proverb states, “…in the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams.”

I see very specific examples of bridge-building everyday. Student-directed learning. Co-designed curriculum. Educational doctoral fellows excitedly sharing accessible research with classroom teachers (hi there!). Lots and lots of “what do you thinks” and “how can we work on this togethers.”

What is personally most exciting and fulfilling is that I am very new to this mode of education, yet I feel encouraged to share my own ideas, silly or not. The point is that we all have bridges that can be built within us and for our world…all we need is the opportunity to connect with one another. Even the all-important and elusive concept of access (money and time) is evolving. Due to social media hubs such as Twitter providing real-time resources from an expensive conference, crowd-sourced community TEDx events being available for anytime inspiration, and project-based learning community experts coming into the classroom to work with students, educational access is moving in the right direction.

Within that philosophy, I am very excited to co-launch a new weekly Twitter chat this coming Wednesday, April 16. Critical Friends Group Chat (#CFGChat) will debut at 6PM PT/9PM ET, co-hosted by Mr. Riley Johnson of New Tech Academy @ Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, IN. As a newbie to project-based learning, I was fortunate enough to visit New Tech @ Wayne recently. This school hums to the tune of project-based learning success, and Riley is one of the many great teachers there who facilitate making it all happen.

Critical Friends Group, developed by the National School Reform Faculty, is such a simple yet wonderful concept. It is comprised of:

1. Project Introduction
2. I Likes…
3. I Wonders…
4. Next Steps…
5. Teacher Comment/Follow-up

This protocol dramatically increases collaboration (i.e. open source bridges…gotta keep with my post theme!), saves time, and fuels academic passion. So, we’re bringing it to Twitter!

The idea is that we will facilitate crowd-sourced PBL ideation and real-time feedback, in order to help educators anywhere develop awesome curriculum. This curriculum will then be shared for all to benefit. What we want now are your project ideas. What is a concept that you have so wanted to put together into a powerful PBL lesson, but have only outlined it in your head, or have hesitated bringing to fruition? That’s what we want! Each week, we will take a look at 1-2 specific PBL project outlines (which will be posted prior to the chat at through the lens of the Critical Friends Group protocol. These project outlines will be given real-time feedback by anyone/everyone who is taking part in the chat!

#CFGChat is just one example of an attempt to build an “open source” bridge. There are so many of these bridges popping up within our educational profession, and this makes it a fascinating time to be in the classroom and working with young people. It is my hope that you will join us and take part in the adventure, beginning this Wednesday at 6PM PT/9PM ET.

The was originally posted on Daniel Costa’s Blog at ” At All Costa”