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 >

 


In my last blog about driving questions, we reviewed the purpose of the driving question as well as some tools to help you refine your driving questions. In addition, some sample, poorly written driving questions were given to have you practice. We will review them at the end of the blog and look for some exemplars from all of you.

There are many types of driving questions, but I like to break them down into three types.

Philosophical or Debatable: These types of questions are honestly debatable questions that have complex possible answers. Of course, all driving questions should be open-ended, but philosophical or debatable questions by nature require complex, rigorous thought, and of course corresponding student products. Be careful that you aren’t writing this type of question, but the answer obviously sways one way. If you have an agenda, and want students to get to a certain place, this isn’t the type of question to use.
Example: Can a dog live in the desert?

Product-Oriented: How do we create ______ to ______? This is a great type of driving question to use if you have a specific student product in mind. Notice that it isn’t just about the product, but the purpose as well.
Examples: How do we create a podcast to debunk myths and stereotypes of world religions? How do I create an epic poem about an important episode in my daily life?

Role-Oriented: Students love to take on roles and pretend to be things they are not, even high school students. In this type of driving question you give students an authentic or real-world role with a problem to solve or project to accomplish.
Examples: How do we as architects design an outdoor classroom for our school? How I as a scientist design an experiment to debunk and common scientific myth?

I’ve had teachers ask, “What is the difference between essential questions (à la Understanding By Design) and driving questions?” In my opinion, essential questions, when created to their utmost potential are driving questions. Driving questions are just essential questions that are high on caffeine. They demand authenticity and rigorous problem-solving, which essential questions can do, but don’t always. In addition, essential questions are often created to be more like enduring understands or learning targets. Those are great, but shouldn’t be confused with driving questions. Essential questions that sound like enduring understands are not exciting and do not DRIVE the learning, which brings me to my next point.

We spend time crafting and refining driving questions for the student. The student! Just because a question sounds interesting to you, it may not be to a student. Driving questions must be accessible to the students and engage them. I’m a big nerd, and so love learning. Enduring understandings and questions that mirror them appeal to me, but to the reluctant and marginalized students we are trying to reach, they are not. So remember, it’s all about the students. Try testing out the driving question you have created on a student and see how they react. Will every student jump up and down about it? No, but we can at least have students say, “I guess that sounds cool.”

One last point, be culturally responsive. Some driving questions may not be appropriate depending on the students you have in your classroom or in the location you teach. The driving question, “How do we create a game to cheat people out of their money without them knowing it?” may not be culturally responsive. A Hindi student might find that question offensive, because it is contrary to cultural values. However, the driving question “How do we create a fun chance game for the neighboring fourth grade classroom?” might be more culturally responsive. Just keep that in mind.

Rewriting Last Week’s Poorly Written Questions
Now let’s see how I might transform some of the bad driving questions from from last week:

What is epic poetry?
Can be rewritten as
How do I write an epic poem about an important episode in my life?
You will notice that the project will be more relevant and challenging. Yes, they will learn epic poetry, but in order to write about themselves.

How have native peoples been impacted by changes in the world?
Can be rewritten as
How do we create new policies to honor the culture of the Snoqualmie tribe while allowing for casinos?
Here the question is local. It also demands innovation for a complex task.

How does probability relate to games?
Can be rewritten as
How do we create a new gambling game to cheat people out of their money without them noticing?
Here the question is a bit subversive and quite engaging. Content about probability will be learned for an authentic purpose. A quick note, this question may not be culturally responsive, as it demands behavior that may be contrary to certain cultures. In that case, you might make the question, How do we create a chance game to engage elementary students?

Why is science important and how can it help save people?
Can be rewritten as
Should we allow for genetic engineering to prevent diseases and illnesses?
Here the question is contentious and debatable, and it is focused on specific topics so that the scope isn’t too large.

Well, there you go! Two blogs with tips, tricks, and tools to create great driving questions for your projects. Keep working at the “beast” of driving questions, and you will find yourself able to spout them off at will to your colleagues as they build their PBL projects.


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This post originally appeared on edReformer, a community of advocates, entrepreneurs, educators, policy makers, philanthropists and investors seeking to promote excellence and equity in education through innovatation.  edRefomer serves as a catalyst for innovation in education by encouraging and  promoting public and private investment in new learning tools, schools, and platforms. View Original >

 

Online education can help solve the issues of equity and access for students across the United States. We have heard fantastic stories of student success in graduating from high school due to access to online courses.

Last year, Susan Sawyers wrote an article for USAToday showcasing how some students are using online courses to graduate on time. It’s a great window into the potential and echoes many stories we hear from students, families, and community members who are experiencing online education. A diverse population of students was able to take classes to retrieve credit for classes they may have failed in the past.

 

Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain “physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.”

—Sedef Uzuner in Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review

Geneva Gay recently printed a new edition of her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Research, Theory and Practice, and it explains the many of the dispositions and practices teachers need to have. The next step is to ensure this sort of practice occurs consistent in online course instruction. We need to remember that simply having access to great online courses does not mean they will be culturally responsive, nor does it mean the teachers themselves will be. We need to ensure we train our online educators with the tools and skills it takes to interact with students of diverse populations, especially as more students begin taking more courses online. Culture of course includes a variety of identifies and aspects, from race, ethnicity and gender; to religion, socio-economic status and place. I would also propose that teachers need to utilize the online culture that we know exists with these students. All students have cultural strengths and resiliencies; we need to ensure we are using all these strengths, including the culture of online learning.

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This post originally appeared on Dropout Nation, a site focusing on America’s dropout crisis and education reform. This is an expansion of a commentary on education that began four years ago for the Indianapolis Star with Left Behind, a series of editorials editorialist RiShawn Biddle co-wrote detailing Indiana’s — and the nation’s — dropout crisis. View Original >

 

When Susan Sawyers wrote an article for USA Today showcasing how some students are using online course to graduate on time and avoid dropping out, it highlighted one of the important benefits of online education: Providing equity in and access to high quality education.  A diverse population of students can take classes in order to retrieve credit for classes they may have failed in the past without dealing with the barriers that led them astray in the first place.

At the same time, there are potential pitfalls. As Sedef Uzuner wrote recently, online and distance  learning environments as as prone to aggravating cultural differences as traditional classrooms because students are removed from native cultures and interacting with students from different ones. So teachers in the online space need to be as thoughtful about race, ethnicity, gender, religion and even socioeconomic status and land of birth as those in their counterparts in old-school classrooms.

So we need teachers in the online space to be culturally responsive in their instruction. What do I mean by that? Culturally Responsive Online Teachers identify and utilize cultural strengths and resiliencies through aligned online teaching best practices, while utilizing diverse discourse structures and curriculum. These resiliencies vary across culture and experience.

As an example, many of our students have the resiliency to be highly adaptive and agile. They can look at a subway system many and easily navigate from place to place in a variety of ways. Many of our students have the resiliency to communicate across cultures. The common language at school might be English, while Tagalog is spoken at home. Even online students have a culture that they live in. They access a different language. They navigate and evaluate data constantly. Why shouldn’t we utilize these resiliencies?

Geneva Gay recently printed a new edition of her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Research, Theory and Practice, and it explains the many of the dispositions and practices teachers need to have. The next step is to ensure this sort of practice occurs consistent in online course instruction. Learning Management systems and the online structures need to be just as diverse as the cultures they serve. The typical paradigm of “reading and doing” that many online courses have needs to change. We are in danger of replicating a system for the online world that has not served all students in the brick and mortar world. Structures need to be examined and built to allow for diverse discourses that align with online teaching best practices.

We need to ensure we train our online educators with the tools and skills it takes to interact with students of diverse populations, especially as more students begin taking more courses online. All students have cultural strengths and resiliencies; we need to ensure we are using all these strengths, including the culture of online learners.

 


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