The Cultural Landscapes Collaboratory (The CoLab) is a concept that came to life in 2003 through creative collaborations across National Writing Project sites, museums and informal community-based institutions, and, diverse private and public K-12 schools with a shared focus. We drew on a basic conceptual understanding that our classrooms, students’ homes and neighborhoods, texts, art, community institutions could become Cultural Landscapes for Learning. From this shared perspective we began to transform learning settings into transformative spaces that nurture an innovator and growth mindset in teachers and students. Working together, over time, students, teachers, administrators and industry partners develop a tailor-made process for reliably producing creative solutions to nearly any challenge.
In 2009, CoLab began to interact with and learn from Stanford University’s d.School and faculty. We were particularly interested in how they thought about design-thinking as a generative and methodical approach for innovation and developing growth-mindsets. We quickly realized upon a research trip to the d.School that among faculty member and designer David Kelley’s (founder of IDEO and the d.School) extraordinary abilities is a basic understanding of the importance of naming things in order to think about them. Design-thinking is an ethnographic process that invites users to generate ideas, insights, and innovation.
The CoLab only exists in collaborative relationships, partnerships and shared endeavors among innovative thought communities that want to explore, envision & enact together. CoLab has no particular physical home, and in some ways is best understood by Seth Godin’s notion of an “Idea Virus” whereby diverse people (not institutions alone) come together and synergistically ideate, harnessing human-centered processes, work one-on-one to spur the emergence of grassroots and powerful locally-realized innovations. Together, people help each other make their respective “1/2″ ideas into whole or more powerful collective ideas that thrive, inform, and transform each other.
Co-founded by Drs. Ralph Córdova (founder of the Piasa Bluffs Writing Project) and of the University of Missouri Saint Louis, Paula Parson of Sabal Palms Writing Project, teacher-leaders Judy Hug, Debbie Mayes and Deanna Sakai of the South Coast Writing Project, and Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen of the University of Helsinki, the CoLab is a multiprofessional and geographically diverse learning community whose members hail from National Writing Project sites (Piasa Bluffs at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, South Coast at University California Santa Barbara and Gateway at University of Missouri Saint Louis), school districts (Belleville 118 and Northwester School District) and informal learning settings like museums (Saint Louis Art Museum and Santa Barbara Museum of Art).
Today, the CoLab is an innovative and forward-thinking community that convenes to teach each other, and each learner returns to their own Writing Projects, Institutions and Classrooms as leaders within their own community. We recognize and embrace that we live in an interconnected world of diverse communities and perspectives, thus the CoLab is a human-centered network whose vibrant body of work is theory-driven and theory-producing. Its works are grounded in the National Writing Project’s teachers teaching teachers model. The CoLab further informs this teacher-leadership perspective by a particular set of orienting ethnographic, literary and human-centered theories, originating within the Literacy & Inquiry in Networking Communities (LINC) at UC Santa Barbara. The CoLab seeks to understand, nurture and make visible how creative communities of practice become powerful innovators of 21st century solutions to daunting educational challenges.
We Embrace, Nurture and Harness Habits of Mind for 21st Century Learning
As classroom-based teachers whose practices are at the forefront of 21st century pedagogical innovations, we are experts in all areas of formal school-based, and, informal learning settings.
The second decade of the 21st century is arguably the landscape where educational innovations will transform how we conceive of and enact classroom based practices. In part, this push is shaped by the developing of Common Core State Standards, and, by the United State’s needs to prepare a new generation of learners who are world-citizens capable of complex collaboration, innovation and problem-solving within a global arena.
At the core of habits of mind that the 21st century learner must embody is the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn with immediacy. This requires that learners:
- Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
- Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
- Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and
maximize creative efforts
Work Creatively with & Learn from Others
- Develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others effectively
- Be open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives; incorporate group
input and feedback into the work
- Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real world
limits to adopting new ideas
- View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and
innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes
Implement, Test & Refine Innovations
- Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the field in which the innovation will occur