Sunday, October 23, 2016

RWL Project Progress Update

Real world learning is taking a standard or topic in school and having students apply it to an authentic experience. It’s when students can take the content being learned and create something that can be seen in real life. This past month, I have been working on a RWL project with my 8th grade Advanced Robotics class. This is an elective class, so it seemed like the perfect class to spend some time experimenting with something new.

The RWL project my students are working on right now involves mechanisms and the design process. My 8th graders have been paired with 2nd grade clients. Their design challenge is to build a working mechanical toy for their clients, based on their interests. This project involves a lot of collaboration with another teacher in our cohort, Kory Graham (@korytellers). Kory is having her 2nd graders, in their Innovations class at our primary school, learn all about gears and motion on their end.

One of the tools we have been using a lot for this project is Padlet. This has been a pivotal communication portal for the students. We have been able to have the 8th graders ask their interview questions, similar to design thinking empathy interviews. Have the 2nd graders answer these questions, and give updates throughout the project.

This platform is easy to use, my students were simply able to add their own block to the padlet “wall” without signing up. The video attachment is also very easy to use. Pictures of the collaboration are shown below.

The project has been going very well so far. Both sides are very excited to be working together. As far as sharing the final products, our classes do not meet at the same time during the day. So we will have to drop off the toys one day, let the 2nd graders play with the toys for a day, record their feedback, and then pick up the toys to bring them back to the middle school. Feedback will be given to the 8th graders by both myself and the 2nd graders.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Real World Learning Empathy Reflection

Empathy is an important part of design thinking. Learning about your client before you start designing solutions for them is very valuable. For my Real World Learning project, I interviewed four different students. Two male students, and two female students. One each from 8th grade and 6th grade. I decided to ask for volunteer students in my classes, I received many offers, but tried to go with a variety of student types. Some who were very active in class, and others who were quieter or not as engaged in class.

There are many things educators can learn from empathy interviews with students. I learned a lot about the personal interests of my students. All of them had strong family times, even if they were all from different upbringings. I believe the family/home life of a student strongly affects their learning tendencies in school. Another strong take-away I had was that all four students knew what they wanted to do when they grow up. They all have dream jobs, and great reasons why they want to do those jobs in the future. These passions also lead to how they think school is for them. One student enjoys science more because they want to become a marine biologist when they are older, while another really enjoys Industrial Tech, because they dream of becoming a farmer, like their dad.

Taking time of our busy schedules as teachers to interview students is difficult to think of doing, but afterwards, I feel that I can shape my lessons, projects, and activities in class so much more effectively for my students. Even though they are in middle school, the students are able to explain the ways they learn best. It was very informational to hear that they enjoy hands-on projects. Any time they get to get up and move/build/create in class is one of their favorite times. I can relate to this, even as an adult learner, I am definitely much more engaged when I am being active in my learning.

My process through design thinking is just beginning to happen, and already I feel it will lead to some awesome success in student creation. Now that I know how my students think and feel towards school, I can use this information to drive my Real World Learning project forward onto the next phase - Defining the Solution!