Monday, September 2, 2013

School Redesign Project

I spent a good chunk of the summer planning an introductory Humanities group project that students would be working on in both their English and history classes with my Humanities partner. It was a cool project - it required internet research, original research (interviews, surveys, class observations, etc), and a presentation. Plus, getting students to think about how to make an aspect of school better works on the ‘I’d like my classroom to be a little subversive’ meter.

Several cool things came out of the project. In no particular order…

Major growth in creating presentations. Did some kids still have whole sentences (and even paragraphs in some cases) on slides? Yes. Were there groups that presented only with images? Yup. That growth was cool to see.

Instead of saying school sucks, kids were starting to say that we start school too early (7:45am) and that the start time should be moved back because cognitive research shows that kids don’t learn well that early in the morning.

I saw students present about alternative assessments, the miracles of Finnish education, and a new way to do teacher evaluations to name just a few cool things that came up. Super cool!

There were more, I know. I am hopeful that this has started some real thinking about school and what it could be for my kids. As one said Friday as we wrapped up presentations in one class, “Was the point of this project for us to go out and like try to change school? And the world?” YES. #EduWin.

I want to leave with one last awesome piece of this project. Every year at Back To School Night the members of the smaller learning community I am a part of at Hillsdale gather before BTSN and have a potluck with the parents and students that we have that year. These are always fun, and the food is always spectacular. This year, we had two groups of students volunteer to present their projects to the 150 or so students and parents there.

These kids showed a ton of courage, both groups that presented really rocked it. Step back for a second. Think about those teachers that aren’t interested in using technology in their classrooms to push student learning. They have lots of reasons. One of them, though, is the what if it doesn’t work when I’m trying to use it reason. Well, when Charlotte and Eli were presenting, the internet was really slow. And when they tried to advance their Google presentation, it didn’t respond. So they hit the arrow a second time. And the preso skipped forward two slides. Then they hit back to get to the correct slide. Nothing happened. Back got hit again. And promptly, the preso hopped back two slides.

What’d they do? Made jokes. Acted like it was no big deal. Made the audience laugh. And continued on. Didn’t freak out. Didn’t act like anything abnormal was happening.

It was later in the evening that I got to talk to Charlotte and thank her for presenting. She mentioned how she was freaking out during the preso when the internet decided to hate her. And then it hit me: I had just had two of my kids present in front of parents, have tech difficulties, and handle it so calmly that it didn’t strike me until two hours later WHAT AN AWESOME JOB THEY DID handling those tech difficulties.

Those tech difficulties that would send some teachers running. Or cause them to not integrate tech at all. Yeah, my 10th graders crushed it.

Victoria, Daniel, and Claire presenting about tracking