Projects, Problems and Challenges

img_8209Activities within a classroom are designed to give learners the best opportunity to acquire  knowledge and apply understanding. In the same vein that we teach that mathematical strategies are comparable to a technician’s tool belt, to be used at an appropriate time to solve certain equations. By giving students exposure to all three styles of learning can be easy to scaffold.  Here are some examples from my Primary School classrooms:

Project-based learning (PBL): Bottle tops for Bruno. In essence, our Primary Round Square Club (PRSC) joined with a local charitable organization to collect PET bottle tops. In turn, we donated these bottle tops to another local company which melts them for manufacturing other products. That company then purchases a wheelchair for children with severe disabilities, in this case, a boy named Bruno. Our entire school became involved in the initiative, with the PRSC and my Grade Fives leading and organizing everything. Bottle tops had been collecting for months and on the donation day our team set up in one of the main halls of the school. On the beamer above our heads, our Donation Table & graphs on Google Sheets was live updating data as students handed in their donations. Set up in 15 different donation booths, students were able to track their contribution to their class grade level and against the overall total. The PRSC & 5th grade students used Chromebooks to collaborate to create the graphs and tables needed to show the content to our school community. The initiative spawned a mini-Arts festival as a million bottle tops can be spread liberally across the school. Applied to Maths, data handling lessons flourished as manipulatives of all shapes, sizes and colors flooded classrooms for two weeks. From Kindergarten to Grade Five, Art galleries sprung up, which students used as an opportunity to post an perspective video where they explained why they made various artistic choices.

img_8179Challenge-based learning (CBL) – is closely aligned with the inquiry based approach used in the IB’s Primary Years Programme. Our students have a Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry which they use to explore concepts. Our current unit’s Central Idea is “Different strategies can be used to resolve conflict and maintain peace” while our Lines of Inquiry are: 1) People’s points of view may differ and this may influence their actions. 2) There are different causes and resolutions of conflict. 3) People make decisions whether to repair and restore relationships where harm has taken place. A good explanation of Kath Murdoch‘s inquiry cycle can be found on her blog which is an excellent source to help deal with the bigger questions of how to implement inquiry and challenge-based learning.

Problem-based learning (PBL): commonly exhibited by the students in the classroom in a variety of opportunities. This example centers around their new educational blogs. Students were given iPads and accounts on Easy Blog Jr. Initial lessons helped the students to understand how to log on and navigate their new platform. From the very start, their questions dictated the learning path of the class as they wanted to share interesting discoveries of what is possible on the blog. In Math, construction of 3D shapes spurred students to ask how to take a photo to keep a copy of their structure. Another time, students recorded themselves reading aloud their independently written stories to conclude our storytelling unit. That desire spurred video editing and uploading those final pieces to their blog. Each time the students have encountered an obstacle, they have shown developing thinking skills to find solutions and share their understanding within the group.

In reality, the three styles of learning are not used exclusively from one another. In fact, healthy classrooms apply each one effectively to suitable opportunities. Without a doubt, the students benefit from repeated exposure throughout their school careers in order to master these vital life skills.

Triumverate of EdTech

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When examining the use of devices to support learning in the classroom, it is helpful to divide the context into three major categories. Hardware, software and whether it is effective way to complete the task.

Our classroom has a Smart Board with speakers, visualizer, professional presenter, two digital cameras, a tripod and a class set of iPads. Students are given daily opportunities to use these devices in order to master the skills needed to use them effectively. All students can manipulate the Smart Board, adding shapes, text, images or record themselves solving Math problems. Students are able to manipulate the visualizer including the zoom, focus and all-important document positioning skills which are all needed to communicate their message. The students are able to use basic photography & filming techniques on digital cameras and recognize when to use a tripod. While speaking in front of the class or in assembly, they use the presenter tool properly. Our iPads are the source of our main digital diet, so we have undergone extensive training on the platform this year. In addition to skills based learning, aspects of digital citizenship are also explored when caring for the equipment.

The implementation of the device is an entirely different set of skills for both teacher and learner. As highlighted throughout Digging Out of a Digital Hole and specifically in the text of Projects, Problems & Challenges the most important question for technology integration is its effectiveness. Similar to the using the SAMR model and Problem Based Learning strategies; the question becomes how does this positively transform the task? Technology is not always the answer. The early days of chalk was followed by a long reign of paper and pencil but has now given way to an unprecedented digital epoch. Devices are used to document how students access, analyze and interpret information How they communicate their understanding and how they connect. Principles of design are embedded within the content of the curriculum while presentation skills are not just limited to the layout and format of the work. Students are always formally or informally collaborating with partners; coupled with developing presentation techniques especially in front of the class. The teacher’s role is provide the opportunity for the student to take the next step.

Students use devices to access our class created Global Book Project and skills based sites such as Hour of Code or Mathletics. Within the lesson they use Explain Everything to record their reflections and questions. Grade Two then upload using Easy Blog Jr. Grade Five would access my curriculum site which contained rich resources helping to deepen students understanding of their Unit of Inquiry.

Our goals for the new year in Grade Two will be focusing on apps which will target: spelling, phonics and other features of language. We also will be implementing e-Portfolios. Exciting time with lots to look forward to on the horizon.