Thursday, June 5, 2014

Curiosity, Connection, and Creation

It's been exciting to have had the chance to partner with other Teachers this year as they explore Project Based Learning and Inquiry Learning. The enthusiasm around these approaches is growing locally and globally, and BC is poised to realize their benefit more fully in the near future with a draft curriculum currently being unveiled. One of the biggest hurdles I find Teachers up against, though, is the impression that new curriculum and new techniques are in opposition to current practice. I disagree. I see deeper learning as the best of our current best practice, and want to embrace PBL, IBL, and a "big idea" driven curriculum as a means to get there.

As I chat with other Educators about Student Learning it's my goal to celebrate the best aspects of the way we do Teaching and Learning. In terms of attitude I like to focus on that of curiosity. In terms of the process of learning I think we can sum it up as making connections.  As the result of learning, in my mind, we want some form of creation. I feel these themes, and variations of then are the cornerstones of Project Based Learning (PBL), Inquiry Based Learning, Problem Based Learning (PrBL) and Passion Based Learning initiatives like Genius Hour.
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I see curiosity as the attitude of learning. What I really appreciate about the question driven nature of approaches like PBL, PrBL and IBL is the use of a question both to focus a project or unit of study, and to keep the learner in a state of curiosity. I believe if we can teach students to ask good questions they will be better equip to think critically and find good answers. We will also set learners up to run with "big ideas" and conduct deep inquiry to fully explore them. So how do we cultivate curiosity?
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Learning gains momentum as connections are made. Connections to experience, to self, to others, to community, to cultures, to points of view, the connections we make as learners keep us engaged and pull us deeper into our learning experiences. We all make connections all the time. But, do we make enough connections in our daily learning with out students? Do we use a connection as an initial hook, or as a driver? Personally I want to be able to anchor all student learning on ideas my students can relate to. Our students should be asking "when are we going to use this?". We should have answers we feel good about. Big ideas should support us all by setting up connections that are real and relevant. PBL and IBL wrap units of study on an idea or a group of interconnected ideas, encouraging connections throughout the process. 
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Don't we all love looking back on our accomplishments? Don't we all love it when we can see our learning by what we've produced? Seeing the way students conduct themselves when sharing their learning is one of the things I enjoy most about PBL. Students feel good about their learning when they have something to show for it, and especially when they have something they have created that has value. How can we leverage culminating products to deepen the learning experience? Doesn't it make sense to do so?

Curiousity, connection, and creation - that's my big idea nutshell. What's yours? How have you embraced "big ideas", or how do you plan on doing so?