Workshop #3: Storytelling and Iteration

PUBLISHED: July 4, 2016 - 5:20 a.m. EST

THE BIG IDEA: Fellows have prototyped and tested a solution idea. Now they begin to develop the narrative of their classroom work. Fellows describe the setting, identify main characters, flesh out the central conflict, and outline the resolution. And they critique their narratives through carefully structured sharing and reflection protocols. Fellows also develop familiarity with the presentation and screencasting software used to digitize their WICs.

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What follows are the key learning activities and work processes that constitute Workshop #3:

1. Icebreaker and Opening Circle. Fellows start with a Five Word Story icebreaker. The purpose of this activity is to use listening skills to develop a cohesive story among all members of the Sci-Ed group. This icebreaker works as a round robin with each person contributing to the story five words at a time. Fellows debrief the process in the opening circle. What does it take to make a cohesive story? What was challenging about making a cohesive story? What feelings arose in attempting to tell a cohesive story?

Next, Fellows review group agreements. Fellows are sometimes eager  to “just get on with” the work, indicating a belief that talking may not be helpful. Nonetheless, revisiting agreements at each meeting is an essential group ritual in each Sci-Ed workshop. The task of structuring a story can challenge Fellows’ collaborative relationships in new ways. Therefore, it is especially important to review and revisit the agreements Fellows have made. These agreements form a frame for the group’s work and contain the space in which Fellows work safely. When agreements are broken, the ritual of always coming back to the agreements helps Fellows to productively address the breaks as a group.Some questions to pose when revisiting agreements:

What might the struggle with this agreement say about our (Master Fellows’) teaching of the workshop?

How is this (broken agreement) similar to what happens in our respective classrooms? What can be done?

How are our agreements similar to and different from “classroom rules”? How should we understand broken agreements?

2. How to Tell a Story. Master Fellows present the elements of telling a story and show models of storytelling from previous WICs. The purpose of this activity is to support Fellows in thinking about how to tell the narrative of their classroom experiences in an engaging way to an audience of other educators. Additionally, Master Fellows explain the anatomy of a WIC. The WIC includes: the context, the problem of practice (PoP), the solution, tips, and push my thinking. Fellows will “flesh” out their WICs around these anatomical features.Screenshot 2016-07-04 at 2.30.23 PM

The presentation about storytelling can provoke anxiety in Fellows as it makes the WICs and their creation process suddenly “real”. Fellows may need to time to process this information and should not be rushed to create storyboards until they have been able to work through their feelings, which we see as parallel to feelings students have in a democratic science classroom when we ask them to present their work to a live audience of their peers. Master Fellows are ready to conference individually or in small groups with Fellows experiencing anxiety.

3. Storyboarding (Make a Mess!). Fellows create storyboards of their in-process solutions to the PoPs developed during the previous Workshop. At this stage, storyboards might only get as far as explaining the context for a PoP. Fellows are explicitly told that this is normal; they are where they need to be. Pushing Fellows to develop a product at the expense of their process is counterproductive. Fellows are experts of their classroom experiences, but may have never had to translate these experiences into a crisp narrative about a solution to a PoP.  Fellows often need time to process.

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Moreover, after many years of Fellows storyboarding, Sci-Ed has learned that the amount of structure Fellows desire varies wildly. Some Fellows prefer to make a mess and then clean up (structure) the mess. Others prefer to structure their storyboards from the start. Sci-Ed has previously used vetting tools (rubrics) to support Fellows in the storyboarding process. However, we have found that these tools can engender binary “right/wrong” thinking about how to develop WICs.

4. Tell the Story and Peer Review. Fellows present their in-process narratives to the group in a “rapid publication” format. Each Fellow has 90 seconds to tell the story of their PoP. This is a purposeful time constraint that pushes Fellows to present only the most important parts of their stories. Through telling the story Fellows experience in real time areas of strength and weakness in their narratives; most have clear ideas of how they want to refine their story well before peer review.

After all Fellows have told their story, the group conducts a gallery walk and uses a “Plus and Delta” protocol to provide constructive peer feedback. On Post-its Fellows describe one aspect of a storyboard that they like and one aspect that they think could be strengthened. Fellows do not need to leave feedback on each storyboard. Fewer, stronger pieces of feedback are far more impactful than superficial feedback left on all storyboards.

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Finally, Once Fellows have provided feedback, they complete the AM feedback form and examine comments from peers. Master coaches use the AM feedback to better understand the wants and needs of Fellows in order to provide targeted support. Often Fellows realize that their PoP is too broad, or that their solution idea does not align to their PoP. Many realize that the context of their work is more important for understanding the PoP than they assumed. Because PoPs presented are specific to unique classroom environments, situating them as precisely in the classroom context is an important first step in establishing a clear story. Sci-Ed understands that variation among classrooms is real and that solutions to a PoP may not transfer from classroom to classroom. Assuming otherwise makes it impossible to understand what works and for whom under unique sets of classroom conditions. Without this knowledge, scaling up effective democratic pedagogy will never happen.

5. Screencasting Workshop. Fellows start the afternoon session of the Workshop with an opportunity to explore digitizing their storyboard. Fellow complete a tech proficiency survey during lunch to identify members of the group best able to facilitate this work. This year’s popular software options included:






As with the “Make a Mess” session, this is loosely structured work/play time. Generally, Fellows look over the feedback on their storyboard and then collaborate or work independently as they see fit. Fellows especially interested in screencasting will work with an experienced Master Fellow. Screencasting skills are necessary as Fellows submit a screencasted version of their WIC to the Sci-Ed library in addition to their live talk at the Showcase.

6. Computer Programming and Technology Workshops. At the end of workshop 3, Fellows engage in a second computer programming and technology workshop. For the 2015-16 cohort, Fellows chose  from robotics, Arduinos, or a second experience with CSS and HTML. Fellows exploring robotics experienced the curriculum that Sci-Ed Fellow Eric Green used with his middle school team that recently won first place at the NYC Lego League Championship Tournament. Fellows exploring Arduinos learned about electric circuits, breadboards, and computer coding from former Sci-Ed Fellow Michael Zitolo. Fellows exploring CSS and HTML completed their website creation with Sci-Ed Fellow Susie Kang.

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7. Closing Circle. Because the Sci-Ed Fellowship works via both explicit instruction and implicit modeling, when Fellows become students of the processes used in the Sci-Ed “class” and begin to study Sci-Ed processes as they unfold, they are better able to adopt similar processes in their own classrooms. This workshop pushes Fellows to be self-directed in their learning and this structure can surface strong reactions.

As with the previous Workshop, some guiding questions that help Fellows surface feelings about the Workshop include:

What DSTF moves did the Master Fellows make?

Which DSTF moves did you like/not like?

What was the impact of DSTF moves on you individually? On the group as a whole? On a subgroup of “students”?

How would you modify these DSTF moves in your classroom? Why?

Additionally, Fellows explore the implications of computer science and technology curricula on democratic learning experiences. What are the opportunities and challenges of teaching and learning about computers and technology in a democratic way? What DSTF moves were naturally embedded in the computer programming and technology workshops? Which DSTF moves seem difficult to incorporate? Why?

The discomfort inherent to public storytelling in this workshop can stimulate strong reactions in group members and may surface questions about leadership, group agreements, work structures, and evaluation criteria. The cohort at this point may be in a “storming” phase of development. Such feelings must be validated and worked through for the group to fully transition to the “norming” phase in which the group is cohesive and group members actively acknowledge and value the unique capacities of each member. The closing circle is the space for this work.

One final note is that at this point in the Sci-Ed Fellowship Master Fellows and the Leadership Team are proactively managing the workflow of the Fellows. During the time between Workshops, Fellows will upload artifacts to digital portfolios housed in Google DRIVE and Master Fellow coaches use these portfolios to provide support. Sci-Ed has learned that a carefully managed portfolio system ensures that Fellows do not lose any of the innovative ideas, diagrams, and notes that they have given and received during the first three workshops of the Fellowship. By managing Fellows’ workflow behind the scenes, Sci-Ed increase Fellows’ available bandwidth for productive collaborative work during workshops.

Key words: Storming, Forming, Computer Science, Storyboarding, PoP, Screencasting, Storytelling, WIC

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