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The Cultural Landscapes Collaboratory


Why the CoLab?

Dr. Ralph Córdova co-founded the Cultural Landscapes Collaboratory (The CoLab) in 2003. It arose out of an intersection of work being done at the South Coast Writing Project at University of California Santa Barbara, deep inquiry and social justice work with an national and international group of educators, and place-based pedagogies.


A participatory community, the CoLab emerged in the work we, diverse educators in the U.S. and Finland, were doing to address the growing disconnect between in-school and out-of-school learning settings. We named and examined those practices so that we could systemically scale-up the CoLab network. In doing so, we began to see our teaching settings as particular Cultural Landscapes for Learning.


Over the years, we drew on complementary theories that informed practices and we quickly recognized that no one could learn them all at once. We also recognized, that development of expertise took time, intentional focus, and a community in which to practice them.  And this growth, or constant learning and refining of teaching practices, we learned occurred most powerfully in educators who shared particular habits of action centered around 3 Durable Practices:  Intentional Collaborating, Intentional Interdisciplinary Instruction, and, Intentional Critically Reflecting.


These 3 Durable Practices became our habits of mind helping us break open the siloed lives of students, educators and community-based locations, By inquiring into their work, innovations emerged that brought new relevance that bridged existing knowledge with new insights. And this process of innovating, we call ResponsiveDesign.










How Can You Innovate and Strengthen your Setting?

As classroom-based teachers whose practices are at the forefront of 21st century pedagogical innovations, we know how to nurture learning communities centered around literacy-learning practices. And this applies to all content areas, where teachers and students Intentionally Collaborate, Intentionally Interdisciplinarily Instruct, and, Intentionally Critically Reflect by harnessing ResponsiveDesign.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. At the core of habits of mind that the 21st century learner must embody is the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn with immediacy. 

What is ResponsiveDesign?

ResponsiveDesign is a human-centered theory of action arising out of the space where ethnographic perspectives, literacy theories and perspectives from art & design overlap. The Interactional Ethnographic perspective of the Santa Barbara Classroom Discourse Group helps us conceptualize any space, like classrooms, museums and homes, as cultures-in-the-making. This anthropological and linguistic perspective of co-constructing intentional learning spaces is the DNA in ResponsiveDesign's explore, envision, enact. When educators harness ResponsiveDesign they invoke its DNA to Deep-Dive & Document, Notice & Name, Analyze & Announce. 


The CoLab's DNA has also been shaped, over time, in and through creative collaborations across National Writing Project sites, museums and informal community-based institutions, and, diverse private and public K-12 schools.


In 2009, CoLab began to interact with and learn from Stanford University’s d.School and faculty. We learned how they think about design-thinking as a generative and methodical approach for innovation and developing growth-mindsets. We recognized that CoLab's approach was simpatico with design-thinking, drawing from parts of it, but not exactly the same. Our ethnographic orienting theories, and complementing explanatory theories from the fields of language, literacy and culture (social-constructionist views of how learning happens) help us intentionally create, while concurrently studying, courageously-confident learning communities.


Courageously-Confident Learners:


Think Creatively

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

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