Back to the Future
- by Carla Young, Nathalie McCarty, and Danya Croft
Back to the Future video, Brian Crosby demonstrates how his 4th grade class can learn through project-based learning even though most of his class speaks English as a second language. Crosby says, "It's hard to be able to imagine what could be if you don't know anything about what is. And if it's hard to imagine, where does your creativity spark from? And if you don't have a lot of imagination and creativity, where do you build passion from?" When we get into our schools to teach, we are going to have students that don't have the same understanding about the world around them as other students might have. We will need to be able to bridge the gap in a way that connects all of the students and engages them in the same quest to learn. In Crosby's class, he informs us that he has a 1 to 1 ratio of laptop computers for his students, several digital cameras, and an interactive whiteboard that allows for interactive learning in the classroom. The students in Crosby’s classroom are learning to do various things that they can incorporate into their class and use throughout their educational journey. He talks of a project where the class released a High-Altitude balloon into the air that had a camera attached that recorded what it was like to rise into the different layers of the earth's atmosphere. During the release of the balloon, the students observes what was happening and immediately went into the classroom to blog about what they observed. Crosby also had them create a Flickr presentation describing what happened to the balloon from the perspective of the balloon. It was called the High Hopes blog which centered on setting goals for themselves, their community, and the world around them. It allowed them the ability to connect with people from all over the world. Another connection Crosby allowed the students to make was to set up a Skype conference with Celeste, a girl suffering from leukemia. She was a classmate of the students, but she was unable to physically sit in class due to her vulnerability to infections. However, Celeste was able to participate in learning with her peers in a way that was safe for her and exciting for her classmates. By using modern resources like blogging, Flickr, and Skype, the students were more easily willing to stay engaged in what they were learning. Attention was better kept when they were given a project to research and blog about rather than taking notes for an entire class period. It also offered the students a sense of self assurance; let them know they were capable of doing the task at hand. Crosby shows that active learning empower students to want to learn and to seek out learning for themselves.
We feel that Crosby was exactly right when he said that, "A motivational experience shouldn't be limited to those from schools with high test scores, but should be the birthright for every child." We feel every child should have the opportunity to learn in an environment that allows for them to reach the peaks of their imaginations and possibly beyond. We feel that assigning projects is one of the best ways to challenge the mind and enlighten the senses. By engaging students in a multitude of ways and on a personal level, we are ensuring that our students will see the value in the 'why' and continue to search for the answers throughout the rest of their lives. Also, Crosby incorporates PBL in his classroom to prepare his students for what they have to look forward to once they are out in the “real world.” He strives to inspire his students and constantly pushes them to express their creativity.
The Blended Learning Cycle
-by Carla Young, Nathalie McCarty, and Danya Croft
The Blended Learning Cycle, Paul Andersen recognizes the power of the question and the power of learning in the science classroom. He explains that Blended Learning consists of the key components of mobile, online, and classroom learning. The Learning Cycle consists of the 5 E's: engage, explore/experiment, explain, expand, and evaluate. Andersen decided to combine the two learning styles to create the Blended Learning Cycle which has 6 parts known as Quivers: Question, Inquiry, Video, Elaboration, and Review. He says that the Learning Cycle starts out with an engaging question; something that the students do not understand in order to strike their curiosity on the subject. It will also bring their attention to the second part of the cycle which is investigation. Having the students investigate and research on their own is a good way for them to not only learn the material, but also retain it and hold their interest. Andersen explains that showing a video on the subject is a good way to introduce the material to the students without just giving the normal lecture. It will allow the teacher to engage with the students and interact with them one on one. Next, the students would be able to expand on the explanation with thoughts of what they have discovered. Finally, an evaluation could be done to gauge their level of understanding of the subject studied. Andersen explains that he sits down with each student to review with them and make sure that they have a good grasp on the material. If he is confident the student knows the material well enough, they will take the Summary Quiz; this is the last part of his cycle. Andersen’s philosophy in the classroom is, "Let's start with a question and figure it out." By allowing the students an active part in the learning process, Andersen is teaching the students how to learn for themselves. He is teaching the students how to go from not knowing to knowing with understanding.
Making Learning Visible
-by Carla Young, Nathalie McCarty, and Danya Croft
Making Thinking Visible, the 6th grade teacher, Mark Church, tries to teach the students how to convey their thoughts in a written form. He gives his 6th graders an assignment in which they are to watch a video explaining the beginnings of the origin of humans. Then, he has them get into groups and create a caption outlining its meaning which he will display on a bulletin board. After a couple of weeks of study, he will give them an opportunity to come back to the caption and change it based on the changes in their opinion from the beginning of the study to the end. Having the captions displayed and allowing the students to change them after they have learned more information on the subject, provides a good visual representation of the process they followed to get to their conclusion. It allows the students to not only learn the material comprehensively, but also visually. We think that this is a good way to get students to see the importance of expressing their thoughts in a visible way.