July 4, 2011
I already knew when I saw Suzie Boss’s Ripped from the Headlines – Real Events Yield Relevant Projects listed on ISTE’s Wednesday session that I would be ending the conference with a bang. With Paul Allison (National Writing Project/Teachers Teaching Teachers), Katherine Schulten (NYT Learning Network) , and Matt Baird (Science Leadership Academy) joining Suzie, this “lecture session” quickly became an interactive discussion session.
Suzie opened the session with Poll Everywhere question on current events: What makes a headline project-worthy?
- messy problem – no “right” answer?
- relevance, high interest?
- ongoing issue or consequences (Weinergate, for instance, wouldn’t be lasting)?
- connection to curriculum/standards?
We flashbacked to 2010 and the BP gulf oil spill and meaningful learning – Q: How do you design meaningful curriculum around a current event? Paul Allison shared Voices on the Gulf – a wonderful, year-long, National-Writing-Project connected project. I was glad that he selected pieces created by Margaret Simon’s students. Having been involved with the Voices on the Gulf project, I really enjoyed watching Margaret’s students publish their thoughts and creative efforts around the oil spill to an authentic audience.
Suzie: “Students need to have empathy with people who are the front lines. Where can we help students develop empathy through current events selectively – without being ambulance chasers.
Matt jumped in, opening with the June 26 Doonesbury cartoon that addresses the “just Google it” issue. His point: “When you’re looking for projects that will have meaningful transformative experiences – they should be something students can’t google.” The focus should be on the process of learning as opposed to content – “you’ll get richer learning.” Microsoft Excel, for instance, rather than being taught as a stand-alone class, should be woven into an real topic, such as the Japan earthquake and tsunami. When students put together actuary tables of costs/benefits in their math class, it spilled over into Matt’s history class. Cost of lives had not been considered in equation. Headlines don’t always have to be national/international. With the BP oil spill, words such as “fracking” became increasingly woven into discussion. Philadelphia’s drinking water has changed to dead last. Are there any correlations? SLA Spanish classes, went to Dominican Republic to apply clean water ideas. Eleventh grader Humanities students had to come with elevator pitch – cross curriculum connections.
A Real Events Yield Relevant Projects approach to teaching and learning is about student voiceand choice, inquiry-driven learning. It’s about students getting “activated” – so they can go out and do something.
Question: How do you go from an event to a project?
- PBL process guides inquiring learning – going deeper than a current-events chat
- students make meaning, do or make something with what they have learned
- results in authentic products
For an example of the above, checkout Kim Coffino’s Quakestories wiki.
In the current test-driven climate, many K-12 classrooms have stopped weaving current events into the school day. Time to reverse this trend!