Today during our faculty meeting we watched "Most Likely to Succeed." (http://mltsfilm.org/) A documentary about High Tech High that takes a different approach to education. They don't have traditional classes, or use textbooks, but students work together on integrated projects to demonstrate their understanding and teachers are facilitators of the learning helping students learn how to be life-long learners. The school doesn't give grades they have a public display night. This is a true PBL setting, team of teachers who guide the students to develop.
This is the third discussion about innovation that is happening in education that I have experienced in the last month. First at ECET2, where educators talked about developing ourselves as leaders and how our passion for learning and changing education system from the ground up. Then at NCGS Global forum, where many of the themes talked about innovation and having to develop students who will be changing careers a few times and many of the careers are not even invented yet. (Side note not a new concept I heard this 18 years ago my first year teaching at PA Technology Educators conference).
And now this documentary, about a school who took PBL to the extreme, giving teachers freedom and autonomy to explore developing students who are creative, innovated, and thinkers. The thought is exciting to think about not teaching to a test, to have discussions with students about what they are learning, to get them to be creative, motivated to explore, and find their own voices.
As I watched the movie, I watched the student groups develop into the classes; the teachers were on the sidelines. They were not jumping in to solve the problems. They were letting the kids struggle to find the solutions. This is not easy. Some of the students did not finish their projects in time, they need to be able to fail and fail big. The teachers didn't solve the problems but worked with the students to learn from the fail and how to over come.
So this leads me to question what can I do? What do I do already? The one class I teach DET is like this already. The students get to make something that has to be using hardware and software. What they make is up to them. I have gotten some really cool prototypes out of the class and I hope to see students take it further. I also teach robotics where they work within the confines of the FTC challenge to build a robot. Both of these, have very few tests, but students are still learning computers, science, math and writing. In addition to how to work together, how to speak in public, how to research and the design process. Students in the class all write reflective pieces and I know I need to do a better job of making them reflect. We all don't reflect often enough. I need to leave time for that. I also have to make more of their final products public. That public event is key. The more public the better. I need to figure out how to do that better.
I am now reflecting on my other classes. Can I reduce some of the items that I make them do, to give more open ended project? Can I find a way to get them to work together more? I see that they learn more when they are in small groups, how can I foster that?
I need to let go and turn the work over to them more. I need to foster them to be creative, to find solutions to things together. I need to let them work together to gain an understanding, while all will still have an individual section they should be working more in groups. I do a lot of it but I should be doing more. As I move into the third trimester classes can I revamp my classes so that I can do more of the collaboration, more open ended projects, can I get them to integrate more classes into mine. Can I work within my confine of the traditional schooling to do some non-traditional education?
I hope so, my school is already open to the ideas (I did mention I watched this movie at a faculty meeting right?). I just need to move forward and let the students grow. I have seen that it can work, 8th grade course showed me that. It started this blog. I started to let go of the classroom and turn it over to the students. I find it most rewarding when I do that. The students rise to the challenge they do learn, it might not be traditional learning, but the learning is happening. I need to do it more. Model the thinking out side of the box, the working together, the exploration that we want them to develop. Our school takes time out of the schedule in a few weeks to do a week long integrated project with the freshman and sophomores. I am now looking more forward to that week with the freshman that I have been an integral part of the planning. I hope that we can give our students a small part of the amazing work that was shown in the movie. I hope that we can also continue to push the shift of Education to see more integrated project based learning as the norm.....