Soft Skills & Messy Learning

IMG_7853 2At first glance, nothing looked “messy” in Señora Eisinger’s junior high Spanish class. I had arrived to help students connect their Canvas (Learning Management System) accounts with Office365, in particular, to a OneNote Class Notebook through which Señora and her students would connect digitally and collaborate over the coming year. When I entered, students were seated and still, reviewing the day’s objectives. All was peaceful. All was traditional and comfortable. All was quiet.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 9.33.57 AMDigital connection and collaboration, though, don’t lend themselves to quiet, traditional practice – and they are rarely peaceful to set up! There’s the matter of accounts – Are you logged into Canvas? Good. Now log into OneDrive on your iPad. Oops – No, that must be your personal account – you need to find your school account. What? You don’t see your Canvas course for Spanish class? Okay. Click here. Your page won’t load? Forget the wifi and sign in again.

Everyone had a different issue. Señora Eisinger and I ran from desk to desk, trying to troubleshoot each individual problem.

Then something beautiful happened. The first student to complete the process jumped out of her desk and began to help a neighbor. Pretty soon, students were huddled in small groups, helping one another with the connection process. The room was noisy; the desks were askew. And yet, 21st century learning was happening. In their troubleshooting to connect accounts, students were working together to solve a real classroom issue. These young teens were practicing the soft skills that today’s employers desire: the ability to work as a team, communicate clearly, and come up with creative solutions.

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By the end of class, 99% of students had opened their Spanish digital notebooks on their iPads, and were exploring content – thanks to the louder and messier process of teamwork and creative problem-solving. And now that the digital connections are made, these savvy students can move on to collaborating about more weighty issues. Now, about that earthquake in Mexico City last week…