Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Fed-Ex Day

The other day I booked the library and adjoining computer lab for the classes I teach.  I borrowed the idea from a TED talks video I watched - Daniel Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation.  His talk is quite interesting in that it identifies the skill set workers (our students) will need for the future and tied it into a couple of progressive companies who offer their workers time... time to focus on anything they want with the catch being they have to deliver something the next day.  He referenced Google - who offer 20% of their workers time - and from that time google docs, google news and chrome were created.

Students could investigate any topic they wanted but had to present to either the whole class, small groups, or an adult.  I was curious to see how 14/15 year-olds would spend their time.  It was fascinating to see those who were extremely engaged basically disappear into the rabbit hole as they researched a passion or curiosity of theirs.  It was just as fascinating watching others flounder with the freedom and time.  Without direction from me they struggled.

Here are a list of topics they explored (they are as diverse as the students in each class) - card tricks, sleep efficiency, why Africa is poor, planning a surf trip to south Africa, Matisse, origami, Esperanto Language, unicycles, 3D animation, car engines, Anna Pavlova, ski resort trips, corruption in politics, buying an island, black holes, cities in England to visit...


1.  As expected students learned in very different ways (they were not told how to learn or how to record their evidence).  Most mixed the visual (video) with the written.  It reaffirms the need to provide both the visual and text during instruction.  The inclusion of video is vital to today's learner.

2.  I surveyed students afterwards and an overwhelming majority loved the freedom to investigate anything they wanted.  I don't think we provide enough freedom for students in our class.  The challenge is to create a structure or framework of outcomes and then to broaden the means in which they not only investigate the information but recall it and provide evidence of learning.

3.  The presentation of their learning proved to be the biggest challenge.  Moving forward I need to have clearer expectations in how this will function.  I suspect they have not had these type of coffee talk interactions at school.  This is a significant skill (not only in school but outside of it as well) - to be able to not only articulate your ideas to peers but to be an engaged / active listener.

Moving forward I plan to implement three or four of these a semester.  In our PLOs there are expectations such as: "critical thinking skills, including - questioning, summarizing, drawing conclusions, defending a position" and as well students are to "demonstrate effective research skills, including - accessing and assessing information, collecting and evaluating data..."  Students asked if this  lesson was "allowed".  I believe I can justify this day by applying the Skills and Processes piece from the Learning Outcomes... I want to develop the means to collect the data and use it as inspiration for moving forward.

Students' days are so structured, they seem similar to an assembly line of a factory.  Life and most of their occupations will not resemble many of their school experiences.  There are few manuals for the challenges that lay ahead of them.  Perhaps little moments like these will spark a curiosity, expose them to how they learn, or what they like.  Regardless this was a valuable experience and I plan to continue to develop it.

Post courtesy of Russ Reid

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