Designing Student Projects for Global Readiness

This post originally appeared on GettingSmart, a community for news, stories and leadership on innovations in learning and teaching. Users engage by reading, watching, listening, and sharing thought leading perspectives in feature blogs and publications on K-12, HigherEd and lifelong learning. View Original >



It’s time to widen the scope of what project-based learning (PBL) can really do. We’ve used PBL to engage our students. We’ve used PBL to help students learn important content and address learning standards. We’ve used PBL to address 21st-century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and communication. We’ve even used PBL to focus on professional practice and reflection.

These are all important goals and foci, but we need to continue to think and reflect on the power of PBL and how it can do even more for our students and for ourselves. The publication “Preparing Students for a Project-Based World” emphasizes that PBL is preparation for the world beyond the classroom, including issues of equity and the global economy.

What sticks out to me is one important word: world. If it’s a Project-Based World, shouldn’t we use PBL to continue to engage with the world beyond the boundaries of countries and cultures?

I think we need to take the attitude and mindset expressed by Sébastien Turbot who ran projects at the Paris School of International Affairs.

What is Global Readiness?
When students are global ready, they are able to meet specific competencies that allow them to be successful in the world around them. However, global readiness is more than simply being able to collaborate or communicate.

Instead, these skills are connected to important nuances of cultures, perspectives and equity. It isn’t just that students can collaborate with another person, but that they can partner and work within a global community and take action.

Students develop empathy and global sensibilities, as well as connect with people of different cultures and communities across our world. Global readiness really facilitates a complex mindshift from “me” to “us.”

Asia Society has Global Competency Outcomes and Rubrics to support teachers in creating and/or selecting goals to have students work on. These might include students “listening to and communicating effectively with diverse people,” “explaining the impact of cultural interactions” or “identifying and creating opportunities for personal and collaborative action to improve conditions.”

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills also has K-12 Indicators for Global Readiness that focus on the themes of Understanding, Investigating, Connecting and Integrating. Educators and schools should consider how to embed these indicators into the curriculum as students learn content.

It’s not about working on all the skills, it’s about the intentionality of what skills, when to address them and how to foster and assess them. All students of all grade levels can and should work toward global readiness.

PBL Can Change the World
Consider this project in process from math teacher Ginger Habel at the Shanghai American School. Students were challenged to design a playground for an actual school in Nairobi, Kenya.

Students had to learn scale, measurement and other various math skills to effectively complete the task. They also had to work around challenges that the school faced including flooding and that part of the school is also located on a hill.

Students selected supplies that were easily available for students to purchase there, and made sure the design was solid and had a feasible budget. Students shared their design with their classes and with the school in Nairobi as well.

Some students also created an Exploratory (a student-run learning time) to help raise money needed for the project. Not only were students impacting other students and communities, but they were examining various perspectives and cultures, as well as collaborating and communicating effectively to address an authentic task. Although the first iteration of this project occurred last year, Ginger hopes to continue to work on this project with her students this year as well.

PBL is the “how” for addressing global readiness. Global readiness calls for students to partner across the globe to solve problems in authentic ways. PBL requires authenticity, whether that’s investigating authentic problems, using authentic tools or meeting an authentic need.

PBL also facilitates technology integration, and global readiness calls for students to use technology to learn different perspectives and select media to communicate with diverse audiences. Students must learn content to address global competencies just as PBL projects are clearly aligned to content standards and outcomes.

As you begin to unpack the various global readiness indicators, you see a clear tie to the essential elements of PBL. Not only is there clear alignment, but by focusing global readiness on the “what” and the “how” of PBL, we can bring the world into the classroom and bring students out to the world.

In addition to using PBL for student engagement, we can create projects that are not only meaningful to students but have the potential to change the world.

A Global-Ready Curriculum

 

p21logoThis post originally appeared on Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), the leading national organization advocating for 21st century readiness for every student. P21 brings together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers who believe our education system must equip students with rigorous academic coursework and the skills to be successful employees and citizens. View Original >

 



I am amazed by the students of my school and their ability to tap into multiple cultures. Recently I shadowed a student through part of her day. She was speaking Korean, her Native language, to her friends in the hall, English in the Social Studies classroom, practicing Mandarin with her Chinese teacher, and giving a presentation in French. It reminded me of resilience of students and the unique experience of an international education.

Although I have only recently joined the community of an International School on a more permanent basis, I have worked with many international schools in the past, and I even attended a 6-12 public school as a student with a focus on international topics. I took French my entire time there, and teachers sought to include global topics, questions, and themes into the curriculum. Most recently, I visited a school in Tokyo, Japan that had currently finished a curriculum audit and was working towards setting goals and next steps for their school and to meet accreditation expectations. They are exploring questions such as “How do we provide an international experience?” and “What does global and international education look like?” This school is not only trying create an experience that is uniquely international for students, but also supports and prepares them to be ready for that global world they are already living in.

Integrating Global Competencies
P21 has published Global Competence Indicators for grades K-12. They focus on the themes of “Understanding,” “Investigating,” “Connecting,” and “Integrating.” These indicators can easily be integrated into existing curriculum, just as many schools are already adopting 21st Century competencies of collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving. One strategy we worked on was having departments look at the indicators, identify which ones are already in the curriculum and which additions might be appropriate to teach alongside content standards such as the Common Core.

It is critical that if schools intend to adopt these competencies, then they must make a concerted effort to unpack the indicators, just as educators unpack standards. Unpacking allows teachers to identify the level of thinking students need to know, and the content and skills they will need as well. (To do this, I prefer using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge). As educators unpack the standards, they need to be wary of just looking at the verb, the context is important, as it might change the level of thinking. Unpacking also allows educators and schools to identify priority standards. The same is true for these global competencies. Educators and schools should not attempt to teach and assess all the global competencies, but instead select ones that are priorities and have currency in their curriculum. International Schools particularly have an opportunity to leverage this work as it is part of their identity and mission.

Use PBL as the Model
Just as project-based learning is being used to deliver content and develop skills from the Common Core, Next Generation School Standards and college and career readiness, PBL is a perfect method to teach and assess global competencies. Global competencies call for investigation and inquiry, a deep understanding of content and different perspectives, and taking action. With these competencies in mind, teachers can create highly authentic projects that require students to partner with the cultures of the world, reflect on their place in that world, and advocate appropriately.

My friend Rich Lehrer did a fantastic project where his students connected with students in Brazil, Africa and India to build efficient stoves. They not only learned engineering, energy and other science concepts but also about serious health hazards facing people around the world. They didn’t just build the stove for someone else, they students worked together across cultures and languages to build the stoves together, to learn perspective and to learn from each other. What I truly appreciated was that is wasn’t charity work – it was a partnership. Students learned from each other not only traditional content, but global competencies as well.

International schools consider global competencies as part of the “What” of their curriculum and project-based Learning as the “How.” Together they create students that will not only be global-ready, but engaged in the many cultures of which they are members.

Banned Books, Censorship – and PBL?

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


86517934
Current events, real-life scenarios, relevant texts — all of these things are opportunities to engage in a PBL project. An English teacher by training, I always wanted to find ways to engage students by creating the excitement and need to read. Texts are ripe with provocative characters, real-world themes and lessons, and just overall amazing writing. I love literature, reading, and all that comes with it. I know that my excitement might engage my students, but I also know that I need to find more authentic reasons for students to read.

That’s why I thought it would be a great to try out a PBL project and kick it off with Banned Books Week. I knew this might create a real-life, authentic reason to read. I knew that in order for the project to be effective, it would need to create a real need to read. I also knew that I wanted to provide my students with more voice and choice in texts, as well as products that they could produce. Here’s what happened — and what you can consider as you try out this project.

Overall Project Design
I have implemented this project in several secondary grade levels. When a PBL project heavily involves reading, the key thing is to read the text inside of the project, not before. That’s one major benefit to using PBL with texts — you create the need to read. In this case, I launched with an activity where I handed out provocative song lyrics (with some of the text blacked out) from a variety of decades. I used lyrics by Elvis Presley, Billie Holiday, the Beatles, Lady Gaga, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and more, all banned for various reasons. I asked students to read the lyrics out loud, pausing silently over the blacked-out words. After this, I asked students how they felt. Many were angry and some thought it was ridiculous, but all were curious as to why. This created the launching point and driving question that we co-constructed: “Should we ban books and other literature in schools?” Over the next few weeks, we would read sample banned books and literature, and research a variety of news stories and related policies to come up with our answers.

Voice and Choice in Texts
While I knew that we could focus the project on one book, I wanted to allow students some voice and choice in what they read. I selected a list of five books, all of them challenged in the past and banned in various places — although first of all, I made sure that none of them were banned in my state or district. In addition, I sent a letter home to parents letting them know that students would have choice in their reading to ensure that that parents and guardians felt comfortable. I also made sure that the texts were within the grade and reading level for which they’d been banned. Students formed teams based on common readings and created reading schedules. We also used literature circles as a scaffolding structure for reading.

Voice and Choice in Products
I knew that I wanted this project to engage students in writing persuasively as well, so I asked that they all write a letter to an audience of their choice where they thought their ideas could make a difference. Some chose the principal, others a local newspaper, and still others the District Curriculum Committee. They also created team presentations using media of their choice, and made these presentations to a panel of parents, district leaders, and other teachers. I was able to assess students on all areas of literacy, including writing, speaking, and reading.

Overall Benefits
Students were highly engaged in the project and really wanted to know more by asking deeper questions. By offering more voice and choice, not only was I able to assess them on multiple standards, but also to honor their interests. Students felt safe expressing their opinions and confident from their reading of the text and their research. They were able to show critical thinking skills through citing evidence, attacking counter-arguments, and finding middle ground. The project was moderate in length, about three or four weeks, but it yielded great learning and engagement.

Try It Yourself
As you try out this project for yourself, consider the scope of voice and choice. Your version of the project could focus on one text or many, depending on the driving question. You can also limit the products that students create. Make sure to use formative assessments to give students the instruction they need. This will allow for more small-group, targeted instruction in reading and writing. You might also integrate other subject areas as they fit, such as art or social studies. After all, PBL projects are meant to be shared and modified for the larger community.

I encourage you to explore Banned Book Week or the topic of censorship with you students — in safe yet engaging ways.

STEM Teaches Failure as an Opportunity to Learn

 

This post originally appeared on InService, the ASCD community blog. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, including professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. View Original >


http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-child-learning-difficulty-image2591459
With all the push for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education, I think sometimes what we really want out of STEM education gets lost. STEM education came out of the need for more students in the fields of STEM. As scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, we want more students to find passions in these content areas and ultimately become leaders in the field. However, we can often get too focused on the content. We must remember that the pillar of STEM education isn’t just the content but also the mindsets behind it. 21st century skills are a critical component to STEM education. We want students who think critically, creatively, and collaboratively within the content areas of STEM. You can’t have one without the other. In fact, one of the critical mindsets that STEM education can foster is using failure as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Design Challenges
One of the key components of STEM education is design challenges. With these design challenges, students might work individually and in teams to solve problems ranging from robotic challenges to bridge designing to physics puzzles. By default, students will try out ideas that do not work completely. This is where great learning can occur. Because a STEM design challenge is set up with multiple opportunities to test ideas in a safe way, failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn. The design process takes time and therefore provides multiple opportunities to try and fail. In other academic environments, students often only get one shot at an assignment, which creates a fear of failure. With STEM design challenges, there is safety in failure.

Deeper Learning through Failure
When we “fail forward” we ask more questions—that is, we move forward and delve deeper into the inquiry process. For example, when students first design a bridge and it crashes to the ground due to weight issues, they will inevitably ask, “Why did this happen?” “How much weight did it hold?” “What new idea might I try out?” These questions require students to not just know that the idea wasn’t quite on track but also to understand why it wasn’t on track. These failures in STEM design challenges foster deeper learning through questioning. Students will then need to seek out further instructional resources from experts in the field, books and online readings, and their teacher. Failure fosters more learning; it doesn’t hinder it.

Failure in the Real World
We know that students learn more when they see how their learning connects to the real world. Often in STEM education, we partner with experts in the field to learn from them. Sometimes these experts aid in a design challenge or provide feedback and information on an assignment. For these STEM experts, failure is a natural part of their work. They are constantly failing and innovating. By working with STEM experts in the real world, our students can experience this type of failure and discover that it is just a natural part of both learning and life.

When we consider the components of the ASCD Whole Child Approach, we can see a clear and strong connection between STEM education and the safe, engaged, and challenged tenets. Students who recognize failure as an opportunity to learn experience a safe place to learn. They are engaged because failure opens up multiple paths and opportunities to learn in real-world contexts. And finally, they are challenged because STEM design challenges require complex thinking and problem solving.

Teachers are Learning Designers

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


Late in 2012, I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post that articulated what I really feel should be and is a role of great teachers. Great teachers are “learning designers” who seek to create a space where all students are empowered to learn. I was further inspired to rearticulate this idea when I saw this video from Sir Ken Robinson:

Empower Yourself
For so long, teachers have been disempowered to design. With prescribed curriculum, overly strict pacing guides and the like, teachers have been given little to no opportunity to innovate and design for learning. Personally, this was and is my favorite part about teaching — the opportunity to design and be creative, to design learning that meets the needs of my students, to try new things — and perhaps the opportunity to fail. Great learning models and structures have the space for teachers to design for their students while still remaining within the framework. Whether it’s a driving question for a PBL project, a mini-task in an LDC unit, an instructional scaffold for a UbD unit, or a assessment for a GBL unit, teachers still have — and must have — the space that empowers them to design. If we want our students to be empowered, then we must model this empowerment to be a learning designer. If you haven’t designed or been given the space to, this will be difficult. Look for spaces that can challenge your design thinking about what a learning space can be.

Stop Blaming Kids
There is one pitfall in Sir Ken Robinson’s metaphor of teachers as gardeners and students as fruit. If you misunderstand this metaphor, you might think that it puts a heavier onus on students. It does not. If your students, like plants, are struggling to grow, perhaps it isn’t them. Most likely it’s the conditions that are being created for students. Now of course, there are many conditions creating opportunity for growth that may be beyond our control. In fact, you might conduct a Realms and Concern Influence protocol with other staff members to see what you can influence about a particular student. That being said, there is always something that teachers can do or design to create the seeds for growth. Look for opportunities to design rather than fearing roadblocks.

Revise and Reflect
As I mentioned earlier, if students are struggling, it’s a great opportunity to revise and reflect on the learning design. Ask yourself:

Are more voice and choice or self-directed learning needed?
Should there be some differentiation?
Perhaps there could have been more formative assessments?

These are just some of the questions I ponder when students are not successful, but there are a whole lot more. These are also some of the questions that colleagues ask me, which goes to show that revision and reflection is a collaborative process as well as an individual one. Related to this, don’t be afraid to fail. Consider it “failing forward,” and continue designing amazing learning experiences for students. Also consider using protocols to help you reflect on your work in a safe space with colleagues.

Teachers, be empowered to become learning designers for all students. We need to look for these opportunities to design, but we also need to reflect on the current learning designs in our classrooms. Just as our world and our students are always changing, so must our designs for learning!

Pin It on Pinterest