At this point the project teams must stay very focused. It is typically a time when a group can risk falling behind in the process if they do not use every moment of class time well. Students are collaboratively writing reports on the child rights issues they are working on. They are also contacting organizations with updates and beginning to plan out their proposals in detail. All of these activities are based of a following of step by step directions in a Google doc that they access at the start of class in the computer lab. To get a sense of how busy they are you can look at the next lesson HERE.
Today my students were in the computer lab and explored the following BBC site regarding world population. It was a great math connection and generated lots of discussion. We were on the move with some other curriculum, but in terms of a provocation for doing a project it would be excellent. It was also an authentic chance to apply skills such as graph reading, interpreting big numbers, and posing questions. We connected the population issue to our current project on child rights by discussing corresponding data with higher levels of education and income resulting in women having fewer children.
At this point students often start feeling a bit as if they are lost in space since they are neither at a definitive starting point nor near anywhere near the end. I have them read through the following on their computer workstations. We will also create a project bulletin board as a place to fins updates.
Now that you have started the challenge of helping your organizations with protecting child rights, here’s what’s happening for the next 10 classes.
Research and Collaboration- Answer need to knows, team writes a short report on the problem their organization is helping with and creates an annotated bibliography of resources in Noodletools. Report directions HERE.
Develop Solutions/Proposals- Your team will plan proposals based on your research and create a Tri-fold display to share your proposal of what your organization can do to meet their goals. You may contact the organizations to share ideas if you need to.
Share and Revise- You will share your proposal with others, including the organizations a t the proposal fair. We will have one afternoon workshop instead of classes to practice.
Enact Proposals- the organizations will select the proposals they want to enact and CMS/AMS at that point can work together to help (this is after Nov.17th)
We have been building a feeling of inclusion on our teams by doing fun activities like building paper towers. The next steps includes getting clear on what the rights of a child are according to the Child Rights Convention of the United Nations. Students are still very engaged, but seem eager to start working on proposals of how they can help the different NGOs (a term they learned today) that we have partnered with. This year we will not need to slow down as much as in the past in order to teach research skills. We made sure to do this earlier in the year and also this group has honed their research skills over the past few years.
You can see where we are in the process below:
Parts of the Project: (we are currently on the part in purple)
Identify need to knows
Research and Collaboration
Share and Revise
Today was interesting because students had many different emotional reactions to the teams they had been assigned. Most groups made a smooth transition to being in their new teams, which will last for the project duration (three weeks). Such students immediately put to use their collaborative skills to move through the directions of creating team contracts and sharing the document using Google Docs. In each class there was at least one group or several individuals who asked, in a way that felt more like a demand, if they could switch groups. They had many reasons, some of the most dramatic being claims that they could not work in a mixed gender team because their parents would not allow them all to go over each others house. Wow, I am so glad I am challenging them to work through this. For some students this will be one of the biggest learning opportunities this project offers them. It was hard not to give-in as in one class the complaining was very disruptive, but it is important to hold the line in such a case. This is a time for the students to be open minded, not the teacher. (see previous post for teacher process of making teams)
There are several reasons I assign groups for a project like this. One is to create diversity as it is important for students to learn to work with many different people. The other is to balance strengths as I want to help set them up for success since it is a major assignment. Additionally, research regarding the skills students need in order to have an advantage when seeking employment supports requiring them to work through what they perceive to be communication challenges.
A project such as the Child Right's project not only allows students to help their community, it also offers them very important practice in the "Top 5" skills employers look for.
“Top 5” skills desired by employers in the coming decade:
1. Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written). The ability to effectively communicate is by far, the one skill mentioned most frequently by employers. Having the ability to listen, write, speak effectively and facilitate communication are absolutely critical.
2. Analytical & Research Skills. Your ability to assess a situation, seek multiple perspectives, gather more information if necessary, and identify key issues that need to be addressed are critically important.
3. Computer & Technical Literacy. Your ability to showcase your proficiency with technology and its applications are crucial in the information age.
4. Flexibility/Adaptability/Managing Multiple Priorities. Your ability to manage multiple assignments and tasks, set priorities, and adapt to changing conditions and work assignments is absolutely critical.
5. Interpersonal Abilities. This one is very similar to your ability to communicate, but is specific to the ability to relate to your peers/co-workers, inspire others to participate, and solve conflict with peers/co-workers.
As many teachers know, the task of creating teams is a puzzle. Trying to balance student satisfaction, honor their choice, balance gender, balance strengths, and match personalities is no easy order. Today I was reminded that student voice can be incorporated into this process. I had a handful of highly engaged and reflective students offer to help me draft up the teams. Their knowledge of each other helped a great deal with the personality bit. They also proved to have quick minds and grasped the concept the balancing act that was our challenge. Once we finalized the teams by arranging slips of paper a few of the volunteers entered them into a shared Google doc. Some students have expressed concnerns about teams, but my message to them is that part of the learning has to do with cooperation and developing the skills to work through team challenges. The next step is to have teams develop contracts whcih will help guide the teams in their responsi. A big thank you to the students that helped today.
Students have already started asking me how they can extend projects on education rights that they started last year while working on PBL in 7th grade. I can see an intrinsic drive which I assume comes from the relevancy of the challenge. One student was looking at an organizations website and said, "The site really could be much more interactive. I could help them improve it." And with that she was sending off an email to offer her thoughts and assistance to the organization contact person. This all feels exciting- the reason I work so hard to develop such a learning opportunity.
On Tuesday we hosted a panel of five leaders from local children’s rights organizations. A huge thank you to the panelists for their outstanding preparation and messages. Also, an AMAZING effort from the students who helped with taking notes on G Docs, Skype control, video, photography, and tech presentation! We had one panelist Skyped in from US, did a back channel question asking session using polleverywhere.com, and learned a ton. Students seamlessly transitioned into taking on the challenge of helping these organizations during my next class.
Here are two important docs for us as we move forward:
- Panel with CONTACT info HERE
- Child Rights Project Summary HERE
Students will choose which organization they will help. We will let each organization know the progress on this by the end of the week. We are also doing learning activities to help explore the supporting essential questions in the project summary.
Thanks for the support of the CMS IT and AV teams who had everything ready to go and working great. Thanks to Josefina and Marsha for making the room look so nice and having treats as well as gifts for our panel. A special thanks to parent Ericka Kunhardt for dedicating so much time to finding panelists and getting them organized.
Zach Post specializes in creating relevant learning opportunities to help students and teachers engage in their rapidly changing world. His focus is on leadership, technology integration, and collaboration. Currently, Mr. Post works at Saigon South International School in Vietnam. He has been an educator since 2001.