Twenty-four, eighth-grade synergists are working in six discreet groups – their projects originated from the data-mining of over 300 observation-journal blog posts that they collected. The projects are:
- Graffiti (is it art, vandalism, both? how can we use it for good?)
- Nancy Creek (what can we know and understand about the creek that runs through our campus?)
- Crusade for Cleanliness (how could organizational-flow changes enhance the stewardship in our dining hall?)
- Obesity (how can we improve the alarming issue of obesity in American youth?)
- Sleep (what impact on school do our sleep habits create?)
- Habitat for Humanity Spring Fling (how could a school fair raise money and awareness for homelessness?)
Because Jill Gough, one of the two Synergy facilitator-coaches, was presenting at the Learning Forward Annual Conference on Monday, Dec. 5, she was in Anaheim, CA. The other facilitator-coach, Bo Adams, was in Atlanta, GA. Having grown accustomed to and convinced of the viability of team-teaching in such a project-based course, Bo and Jill felt some anxiety about having only one facilitator present to serve best the six groups during this critical phase of their project development.
[In your mind’s ear, cue that quintessential cartoon superhero intro theme.] Never fear…video conferencing is here!
As we think about preparing students for a work world that will most likely include significant use of such tools as iChat, Facetime, Skype, and other video “conferencers,” then it seems natural to practice such work processes. Perhaps students already use such tools socially, but school could help coach the use of such tools for more formal, business-like purposes. Additionally, we should all be thinking more about how we can invite various co-teachers into our classrooms – to break down the walls that seem to preserve the arcane model of one adult per group of classroom students. Practice leads to enhanced proficiency. On Monday, Dec. 5, Synergy engaged in some additional practice of tearing down those 20th century classroom walls. Who knows who else we might next invite to teach with us…from the exterior of our learning space’s four physical walls.
As one student-learner can be heard exclaiming in the video: “This is so next level!”
[This post is cross-published at Experiments in Learning by Doing.]
I think your eighth grade student is onto something…I fully support “Next Level Skills” being used in place of “21st Century Skills.” I think it’s a closer fit to what they are anyway.
Bo, I loved reading this post this evening as I was contemplating a similar experience that I happened upon today. I walked into a Fourth Grade class as they were Skyping with a school in the Dominican Republic. A Trinity student is there on a mission trip and she had arranged for her Atlanta class to Skype with her DR class — there was singing, Spanish, English, and sharing of interests and stories. Having exchanged written letters in the past, students in both places had the opportunity to “meet” each other as face-to-face as possible. I wondered about the girl’s experience in DR. What if the teacher had given her a folder of worksheets to complete? What if your Synergy students needed Jill’s advice and insight and had to wait until she returned and got “caught up” with all that she had missed while she was away?
As adults, we must be modeling how to leverage these technologies for social purposes AND for learning. And, really, in both of these happenings today, the social and the learning were blurred. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing!
In February on my annual Upper School Interim trip to the Philippines, one of my co-chaperones is one of our fifth grade teachers. So on the day that we (our group of 14 Upper School students) spend up in the rain forest, the fifth grade back in San Diego will be doing a rain forest project. At the end of the day we are going to Skype in from the Philippines and have an international discussion about what the group saw on the ground and what the fifth graders saw in their classroom 8000 miles away. Very cool, and also very easy to do!