Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CBL Across the District- Part 2/ From Our Big Idea to Our Challenge

 I mentioned in the earlier post we are participating in a  Challenge Based Learning endeavor between a group of schools within our district. Before the holidays we chose the Big Idea of natural disasters. We felt the topic had the scalability we needed and desired. At that point, we did not want to define our Challenge any further than that, because there are just too many valuable problem solving skills built into each key element of the CBL process to skip any steps.  Below is a revised post I put into our private Edmodo group in hopes of helping others get started breaking down our big idea and moving into a challenge. 

I will be starting with all my groups right off the bat so I wanted to share a bit of what we are doing to break down The Big Idea of natural disasters. The first thing we are going to do is define what a natural disaster is and what is it is not. We will be starting by watching a basic video on Brain Pop (our school has a subscription) entitled "Natural Disasters-Sometimes Bad Things Happen". From there we will be working with a Frayer Model to define and make sure we all know what a natural disaster is. For Grades kindergarten through second we will be working on the Frayer Model together, but grade three and above will be working in triads or pairs to complete the Frayer Model.

Using our Frayer Models we will make a list of our examples of natural disasters on the board. We will then have a discussion about the fact that one of our goals in a CBL project is to help others and based on our location some of the natural disasters on our list might make better choices than others. I will ask the students to consider both their experiences and who our audience might be. We will then take a vote on which natural disaster we want to focus on. 

* A Portable Document File (pdf.) version of the Frayer Model could be put into an app like Notability on the iPad and students could record their responses that way.

After we have chosen a disaster we will be working on an "All Write Round Robin".

-First, take several pieces of chart paper each with one of the following questions in its center: What you know about ....? What you would like to know about......? What do you think we might need to know about ....? 
-Next, the students will be given different color writing utensils.This is done to track individual student's comments, thinking and involvement.
-Students then write down what thoughts they have about the question without talking. Letting students know that they can piggyback on thoughts and comments of others. 
-Students rotate between chart papers until all students have been at each piece of chart paper.
-We will discuss and consolidate "All Write Round Robin" information.  
-Finally, model and guide students to recognize patterns in this consolidated information. It is through those patterns that a challenge should begin to arise. 

*This same process could be done in a Google doc., Wiki or any online program that allows multiple editors. However, due to the fact that we are dealing with elementary school age students (some as young as five years old) I felt it best to use chart paper. 

 Please note: A variety of graphic organizers (including graphic organizing software and/or applications) can be used to help students to break down a big idea. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Challenge Based Learning (CBL)-Across the District/ Part 1

I am a TED geek! I will sit around and watch TED talks just for fun. Two of my favorite talks are from Dr. Brene Brown; The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame. I believe I have watched them both at least three or four time each.  Their principles came to mind last week during a conversation with my boss about the collaborative Challenge Based Learning (CBL) project we are currently involved in. This is a voluntary project that involves five educators who serve eight schools throughout The School District of Manatee County.  Since  the concept of CBL is new for the other educators involved there has been a bit of a learning curve with this process. Truthfully, I feel that the vulnerability and bravery that these educators have shown is quite heroic. It takes a lot of courage to volunteer for a project that forces you step out of your comfort zone and give up some control to your students. With CBL, the educator is asked to no longer be “The Sage on the Stage", but to becoming a guide for their students.  It takes a paradigm shift to leap into a project with no idea what your end product will look like and allow students to help guide decisions on every aspect of a project. Although, I feel this shift is necessary for student to truly become problem solvers it is a tough change for us, as educators, to make.

 So far we have worked with our students to define what a natural disaster is and what it is not. As well as, guiding them through the  task of identifying, generating and evaluating questions that both relate to our Big Idea and whose answers will lead us to helping others. I feel that although tough and a bit uncomfortable, guiding students as they fight their way from a Big Idea to a Challenge is such an important step and is chalked full of critical thinking skills. Plus, the world doesn’t hand us problems neatly tied up with a bow. Rather than just assigning their students a challenge these educators have remained in the process. The whole time being open and honest about the struggles that have occurred. I feel that for REAL learning to occur it is going to take this type of vulnerability and bravery.

Honestly, it would have been easier to give an hour and half presentation on CBL and walk away. It would have been safer for me and I could have left others thinking I had it all together. However, the very nature of CBL asked the educator to remain in process. I guess right now that means remaining active in this journey not just with my students, but with my peers as well.  I had not realized how much the process had become part of our routine and slowing down to explain it to others has been so beneficial. I have been forced to examine, evaluate, and revise some of the tools and conversations happening within our laboratory's four walls. At first, coming at CBL from this angle had me feeling a bit vulnerable but, WOW am I glad I have leaped here.

As I close, I would like to take the time to give a few shout outs. At the start of this endeavor, I happen to come in contact with some incredible educators from Wonga Park Primary School in Australia who are implementing CBL schoolwide. They have been wonderful about sharing resources and ideas. My personal thanks goes out to Adele Brice (@adelebrice on Twitter) for taking the time to send so many helpful documents. Adele you are fabulous!  Also, a HUGE thank you goes to my friend, Katie Morrow, from O'Neill, Nebraska for her constant encouragement and the many resources she has shared. Katie, you know I think you ROCK!  Finally, to Kim Hicks, Carolyn Wignet, Sandra Marks and Ms. Jacquline thanks for being so incredibly brave and venturing out on this journey. You all are so AMAZING and are quickly becoming some of my real life heroes.