Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What is E(ffective) Learning?

Framework for Learning
The NCREL, enGauge 21st Century Skills is the guiding framework for our phases of learning. Instead of each term having a new topic/ proverb, we have broken up the year into three phases where we will explore a range of "21st Century" skills: Innovative thinking, digital-age literacy and effective communication.

Block One: Innovative Thinking
Provocation: If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place...
Lisa Squire discusses how project-based learning can engage learners and honour student voice. In Learning Common 2, we started by immersing our learners in a range of experiences relating to innovative thinking. We documented much of this process through our weekly common blog. We wanted the students to experience how people design products and the processes they can use and apply to their own products. First we immersed them through a series of experience including:
- Visiting to The Mind Lab where we explored robotics through making rodent traps and simple how simple circuits work through making music using a MaKey MaKey kit and programming via Scratch,
- Tim from Mindkits came in and showed us how easy it is to programme a robot,
- Visiting Hobsonville Point Secondary School where some students had a master class with Steve Mouldey (Robotics) and Pete McGhie (Cooking),
- Ria from Learning Common 3 took a master-class in programming robots using lego mindstorm,
- students grew and cooked from the school garden,
- Sharyn and Daniel lead cooking master-classes.

As you can see from the immersion activities, we were going down two roads: robotics and cooking. In the beginning, we didn't plan this path, but through our students showing interests in these areas, we delved deeper and deeper. Students began branching off into these groups and then grouped to investigate our provocation. Erin and I researched around project-based learning and found some key readings to help with the process:
- Buck Institution for Education PBL Resources
- Edutopia: Project Based Learning
- Seven essentials for Project Based Learning
- Project Based Learning Explained

Through our research we shared with our learners the design process (including a planning sheet and criteria) for their invention. 

The groups where created and the students began planning their projects.  Erin and I divvied up the groups and helped them gather resources and further learn what they needed for their inventions. We had regular (daily for some groups) check-ins with the notes from these conferences emailed home to parents. We had a range of projects including walking beds, solar powered go karts and several different themed restaurants, cleaning robots, baby helper robots and a house that had a moving floor.  

Reading, writing, maths and everything in between were centred around their projects - what did they need to be successful?  Having our check-ins meant we could be responsive to their needs. 

As part of the process, we knew we were going to share this learning. Early on when the process was shared, we discussed the possibility that some groups may not have a product at the end as they may go back and forth between the first couple of steps (generating ideas, research, testing).  We discussed the importance of being able to share this learning.  Some groups documented their journey along the way, some groups chose to do this in the final week.  All had a presentation to share with their families when it came to our celebration of learning evening. 

Wonderings/ reflections
- Very product driven process;
- 1 - 2 prototypes created - what would have happened if they had created several and had a lot more feedback around this process;
- Saturation: our kids lived and breathed their projects for 4 - 5 weeks - was this too long?
- Kids were definitely interested in their projects, but I am not sure if they were that passionate about them - how can we nurture student passions?
- How much deep thinking was actually involved in these projects?

Block Two: Digital-Age Literacy
"At Hobsonville Point, I ask staff firstly to design learning, not plan. I ask them to think about the natural links between a big concept, the dispositions we want our students to grow and then create clear connections to the NZC learning areas" Daniel Birch posing the question are we being responsive?

With these wonderings/ reflections at the forefront of our mind, Erin and I took a slightly different approach and looked further into Design Thinking (what's the difference between PBL and Design Thinking?)

Ewan McIntosh's ICOT'13 keynote shares the notion that we should be creating problem finders, rather than problem solvers and how can we teach just in time rather than just in case? The team at No Tosh have also been a rich source of information with Ewan McIntosh's Digital Media and Learning Blog and Tom Barrett's The Curious Creative.

We have also checked out The D. School out of Stanford the IDEO and the Nueva Design Thinking Institue all with a vast collection of resources. Hobsonville Point Secondary School has also been a huge source of inspiration. Claire Amos discusses this concept, including an Introduction to Design Thinking. Steve Mouldey shares his experience of problem finding and student ownership.

So with all this in mind, we go forth to co-design a beautifully messy thinking this space!
Provocation: When I see you through my eyes, I think we are different. When I see you through my heart, I know we are the same.

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