Lisa Nielsen, creator of the Innovative Educator blog, has written a really relevant post for those of us who are evolving within a performance based learning system. This post focuses on why high school students are so disenchanted with school and offers a list of great suggestions to turn this culture of disconnection around.
I’ve been trying to put this into practice in my own classroom. The performance based system encourages this but sometimes students need a little push to see how their own strengths and fascinations can be worked into classroom projects.
I feel compelled to share the story of Brendon, an 11 yr old tech student of mine. Brendon has had a little trouble working in our “lively” classroom and while perfectly willing to attempt the work, he had little follow through. Because he did not attend the school’s field trip for his grade I had some time to work one on one with him. He shared some tech discoveries with me and while watching him describe these to me I saw the emergence of a totally different student- vibrant, engaged, intelligent and totally focused on what he was doing.
What he had discovered was an add-on to GoogleApps called Floorplanner. It’s a home design tool that stores your designs and attaches them to your googledocs for easy access. It’s not so much the tool as what he did with it.
Brendon designed an emergency room for a hospital. Not just a square room but a 3D floorplan with a variety of different doors (he explained his criteria as well as his choices for each), an ambulance bay, a reception area and treatment rooms. He considered the traffic flow within each of the areas and arranged furniture to help keep things moving.
Keep in mind he’s 11.
Was this a part of his cyberbullying project- the work we were “supposed to be” doing? Not literally. The project involved writing a short digital story showing their understanding of cyberbullying and a way to solve a problem.
It was apparent early on that there was a lot of heavy intellectual lifting going on and that to stop him at this point would be counterproductive. We talked about how this emergency room model could fit into the story- together we decided it could be used as the setting for the story.
Will his story be great? No telling. Will his engagement in the project be higher because he had the latitude to “start at the end?” Hopefully. I’ve resolved to err on the side of relevance on this one.