The shift to remote learning presents challenges to students, teachers, and parents. Like many teachers, I have learned to use more technology in the classroom even with success of a blended approach. Still, when the time to move the learning entirely online arrived I was left scrambling like many colleagues. Here is the learning project with my students that worked better than any others so far and the two main reasons for the success.
The Learning Experience
I assigned the students to learn something new, of their choice, using an organic online learning model and to document the process during their experience.
I shared a video with students to explain the learning model and what was expected of them.
Reason #1: We adopted an already present online learning model
Online learning communities have been around since the beginning of the Internet with many being dynamic and sophisticated. Several years ago I observed that there was an organic learning model in many online learning communities. Members in learning communities actively participate in consuming, creating, curating, and collaborating. A few platforms like YouTube and Pinterest have this concept baked right into their features allowing members to fluidly engage in this process.
When we focus our mind on an idea and absorb information we are consuming. With the advent of the Internet information is ubiquitous and we are able to engage at any time. Often we superficially consume information to know or understand. When you consume information knowing you will use it to create, you also begin to analyze and deconstruct the process.
Creating is defined as bringing something into existence or causing something to happen as a result of our actions. Creating can be baking, making art, giving a speech, or fixing a diesel engine.
Curating is selecting, organizing, and presenting items in a meaningful way. As more information and resources are readily available, it is important to learn how to provide context and share with others in ways that matter.
Learning is social. Collaborating is working jointly on a project. When we fully engage in consuming, creating, and curating, collaboration is entwined deeply during all of these stages.
Reason #2: I joined the students in the learning experience
The second reason that I think this project worked so well, was that I joined the students in the experience. I committed to baking the Levain-style chocolate chip cookies while engaging in the complete learning model. This was beneficial for me to be able to guide the students with modeling and empathize with them as I provided feedback.
Students were asked to document and reflect on their learning using journals, photos, vidoes, or any combination. More than photos or video, the writing revealed the most insights from the learning experience. Our school uses a digital tool called Adobe Spark and I chose it to model for the students the process and reflection. You can see my process documented.
Things I really like about this experience:
- Students were able to learn something that they cared about. This model gave them the structure to begin the endeavor.
- The model is replicable to learn new things on their own.
- The experience helped them to make realizations about their own learning. (Meta learning.)
- Students combined declarative and procedural knowledge.
Students shared they learned about overcoming challenges, to try more than a few times, and how good it felt to succeed.
Many of my students watch soothing videos of cooking and baking in their downtime. When I ask what they have baked, they often say nothing. One student chose baking brownies with her mother using a recipe she found online. In her reflection she stated she did not realize that baking took so long. Before this project, she watched many baking videos that are time-elapsed, and lacked real understanding of exactly what baking entailed. Deep learning can come from combining the process of consuming, creating, curating, and collaborating.
Students shared they:
- Wrote an original song
- Made glazed donuts
- Learned to play “blank” on the piano
- Rebuilt a motorcycle carburetor
- Animated a character
- Repaired a pillow with sewing
- Painted with Bob Ross
- Made a homemade pesto with home grown basil
- Played a song on the ukulele while singing
- Learned about developing rental property
- Mastered understanding of Sin, Cosin, and Tangent angles
- Baked a chocolate eclair dessert
The Cult of Pedagogy has an excellent article “Dogfooding: How Often Do You Do Your Own Assignments?” that goes deeply into the importance of doing the learning experiences yourself. I did this with teachers and students collaborating together on a transmedia storytelling project. Hands down one of the best professional development experiences I have facilitated.
Meta learning , learning about your own learning, will get you further in your practice than learning style theories.
School is often focused on declarative knowledge and teachers are always pushing toward adding conceptual and procedural. This 3-D model of Bloom’s Taxonomy can help you in planning learning.