“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
With this quote in mind I approached this term with the strong desire to continue to push my students beyond the limits they put on themselves. The hunch for my TAI was based on learning dispositions and learning mindsets. I have a gnawing concern that students are losing their sense of wonder, and are developing fixed mindsets with sentences starting with “But…” Rather than having growth learning mindsets with sentences starting with “Yes, and…” Having worked with Tabitha Leonard, I followed the simple yet effective steps of inquiry, namely:
Exploring: Wondering and Questioning
At the start of my inquiry, this was my hunch: Students have become ho-hum about their work, and their choices with regards to tech innovations. My focus was on igniting energy and passion into a class that is lovely!… but pretty passive in their approach. They are bright and well-behaved, but they seem to like to just do what they’ve always done. It has worked for them in the past. These are our top achievers. So why should they think outside the square?
Extracting: Strategising and Evidencing
To get to the final product, they worked on the Design Process workbook. The idea was to ‘see’ their thoughts and solutions. We expect students to effectively and successfully collaborate. This type of project put that to the test. Here is a link to the full Pages document. I have adapted the Everyone can Create workbook to suit our needs. Below is a small taste of what it looks like.
Evaluating: Analysing and Reflecting
As with most projects like this, I had some students jump in, trouble shoot and get some pretty amazing work done. I had some that bleated and moaned about working outside of their comfort zone. But I was relentless in the pursuit of pushing the envelope. Here are examples of what they produced. Some of the work is not quite complete because we still have a couple of weeks to go before the end of the year. But their thinking process and the learning that took place along the way has been nothing short of amazing.
These examples are all based on the Design Process, with the goal being to come up with solutions to the sustainability goals. The above example was based on zero hunger. If you are interested in the full document here is a link: Link to Pages document
Here’s another project, this time based on life below water. The most classic of quotes from this group was this: “I was surprised to learn that…Going through the process of having a mind map and planning everything out is super useful.”
In addition to the previous examples, I had groups develop websites with tabs reflecting the design process, like this one and this one. I never told them to do it this way. But I did make it clear that simply answering the questions on a shared Google Doc was not good enough. So on reflection, if we want more from our students, we need to insist on more. More creativity, more experimentation and more thinking. Giving them scaffolds and easy options might get them over the line, but it does not teach them to think for themselves. It also does not teach them to be problem solvers and innovators.
The videos were all very different too. Like the one below where the student did all her own illustrations and animations on her MacBook. This was a first for her. I was worried about her posture because she spent lesson after lesson hunched over her computer, digitally drawing everything. But as I said to her, I could easily see this video in the media as a social awareness campaign. It has all the necessary elements, has a strong message, and is original.
Then there was this short doco below. What was pleasing about this one was the obvious depth of learning that had taken place by all those that were interviewed, not just the ones making the doco.
And then there was this animation based on gender inequality.
Finally, here is the work done by a pair in the class, based on sustainable use of water. I have to remind myself that this is the work of a couple of teenagers in term 4. The term notorious for little work and lots of antics. Link to full doc here
Needless to say the data reflects their work output. And the evidence is that learning is hard. Pushing people out of their comfort zones is uncomfortable. But once you’ve got over that, the learning outcomes are pretty cool.
In conclusion, I would totally love to do this unit again. It was excruciating to start with because I had some very needy people (dare I say staff and students) who refused to read, tap or try anything because it was new and foreign. But the best work has come from those that embraced the new. I have learnt a whole heap along the way, not only about collaboration across departments, but also about the 17 sustainability goals. (For example: “Recent studies have found that sunscreen chemicals in many popular products actually hurt corals. The main chemical culprits are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which convert sunburn-causing UV rays into harmless heat on human skin. But once these chemicals are in the water, they actually decrease corals’ defence against bleaching, damaging their DNA and hurting their development. It’s almost as though sunscreen for humans has the opposite effect for corals!”)
But most importantly, I’ve learnt that students will regain their sense of wonder and will create some amazing work if we grant them the time and space to do so.