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.

IMG_7847

 

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…

 

 

 

Final Exam…In the OR?

HeckleyFinalcollageCramming for finals. Memorizing hundreds of useless (now Google-able) facts that were promptly forgotten. Most all of us can recount at least one nightmarish exam saga in our high school or college past!

Assessment of learning is changing, though. It’s becoming more authentic, more reflective of the real world, and much, much more meaningful. Consider the final exam that Hamilton Southeastern High School science teacher Ashley Heckly designed for the seniors in her Biomedical Innovations class this week. In Mrs. Heckly’s own words…

fullsizeoutput_7b6Biomedical Innovations is designed for students to work through open-ended problems focused on health challenges of the 21st century. After having students work in groups throughout the year, an independent paper and pencil type of final did not feel right. Instead, I decided to transform the presentation lab into six operating rooms where students would work through the final as a group. The final was composed of six “surgeries” based on problems we studied throughout the year. The students recorded their answers to each problem on the paper body. To complete the experience, students dressed in their lab coats and received hospital ID badges, scrub hats, masks, booties, and gloves.

To get the full exam experience, don’t miss this one minute video recap!

Student Choice Makes Learning Meaningful

Nance2
Riverside Intermediate fifth graders in Jenny Nance’s Humanities class have just finished a unit studying Native American regions. In planning the lessons and activities, Mrs. Nance was committed to offering options to engage all of her students–to tap the various interests, talents, and abilities of her young learners. Nance’s overarching goal: for every student to engage with and understand Native American history and culture in an enduring way.

Nance1The resulting project combined research, teamwork, creativity, presentation and choice, and was a smash hit with the fifth graders! Following mini-lesson introductions to the unit’s topics, student teams were formed. Through research and discovery, each team became the class experts on one native american region. Students were given choice in how they’d present their learning to the class–dramatic presentations, Minecraft creations, artworks and life-sized displays were all used to convey important facts and concepts to classmates. Throughout the presentations, Mrs. Nance served as Guide, helping to weave essential elements of all regions into a unified whole.

Active, student-driven learning – that’s HSE21!