Keeping it REAL

Students interact with challenges that address a real-world problem, creating a workable solution and presenting this to an authentic audience.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

LEGO - But not as you know it

LEGO, It's a great toy, and is definitely more than just a children's toy. When LEGO was first established around 1932, the company only had two employees, the company owner along with his twelve year old son. They started making step ladders, ironing boards and wooden toys to sell. They worked alone until 1939, when they started hiring more people, and their first LEGO Factory had ten employees. They went on making wooden toys, for children to play with. It wasn't until 1949 when we saw the plastic LEGO Bricks which we enjoy building with to this day. From then on, the company evolved into a massive success, and continued to make their "Automatic Binding Bricks". To this day, LEGO is used by many adults along with children, and building competitions are held regularly for people of certain ages.

LEGO in the early days
We have all seen the everyday LEGO Bricks, and I am sure (no matter how old you are) you have used them before, whether that be by yourself, or with someone else, LEGO is always fun to use. Back in the day, yes, your creations may have had wheels, or something to allow it to move, but the technology we see today obviously changes this a lot. 1998 was the year that we saw the LEGO "Mindstorms" kits released, and these have evolved a lot after its first release.

Mindstorms is essentially a robot, which you make out of LEGO. Back in 1998, it was essentially a LEGO brick with some plugs and wires, but these days, they can do what ever you want them to do. Today, the main brick can be programmed using your iPad and can do virtually anything you wish it to do.

The LEGO "Mindstorms"
programmable brick
This Term, Grade 7's are working on making a LEGO Mindstorm robot that is helpful for someone/something. Groups have thought of some great ideas of what to make their robot do. Some examples are:
  • Throwing balls for pets
  • Rubbing out whiteboards
  • Using a magnet to pick up small metal objects
  • Delivering drinks/sauce around a table
  • Stirring drinks
  • Alarm clocks
  • Picking objects up (Like a forklift)
And many other groups have had amazing ideas, and have built their robots with a high degree of detail.
It is amazing to see the amount of thought and effort that has been put into this topic by certain groups. It just takes one little idea to change the world, and Integrated Learning is a great starting block for this.

If you would like to see what some groups have been doing, you can check out their comments in the comments section below this post.

Written by:
Liam Eugarde-Grade 7 Integrated Learning Student

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Term 2 - The Big Challenge

Integrated Learning has been a great experience over the past 2 years for me, and starting the subject in Grade 6, made me even more excited about what to expect in Grade 7. Since Grade 6 was the first year iPads were required for us, we found this subject very exciting. I'm sure students would agree, that this subject allows us (as students) to interact with the community in ways we had never thought about before. This has showed in some of the latest Grade 7 projects, and upcoming Grade 6 projects.

First off, lets just focus on the Integrated Learning classroom, and the ways it is used. Thanks to the MYSA conference that Mr Ayling went to last year with some selected students, we now have some awesome whiteboard table tops in the classroom, which allow us to scribble down ideas, but on the tops of tables. Mr Ayling also found some computer monitor type screens that allow us to plug our iPads into them and share our work easily with our group. This year, we also walked into the classroom to see tables with some awesome iMac's on them. These have added a whole new level of excitement to Integrated Learning, and given us endless possibilities with what we can do and add to our projects.

Second of all, collaboration, group work, and large amounts of interaction with community members (Such as council members, and large organisations). Last term for Grade 7's really showed this, as certain groups' park renovation designs were picked to be presented in front of Council Members. Working as a group makes things easier in some respects, but also adds some challenges. Making large projects (especially ones to present to council) does require you to be in a group because doing it by yourself is near to impossible to pull off what you would as a group, since everyone has their own job in the group which makes the project come together a lot quicker.

Now for the big part, Grade 6 and 7's most recent and most successful projects.
Term one for Grade 6 was all about iPads and responsible use. They worked on solving problems brought up by parents. This term, grade 6 is working on how to reduce their community's "carbon footprints". This is basically how much carbon dioxide you produce as you live your life. They could do this in any way they liked. Some groups planted trees in their home or community, other groups raised money for organisations, and some also educated younger students and still more created websites or posters to educate a wider audience. The aim was to explain what "Carbon Footprints" actually are, and how to reduce them.
Grade 7's in Term 1 got to interact a lot with community members. They were asked to pick a park in their local community which then thought needed some "touchups" to improve it. Some designs which were picked especially by the class, were picked to be presented to members of the local Council. Mr Ayling is still in touch with the council members, and they are already taking into consideration some of the proposed renovations. This term, they are working on increasing people's awareness of Jesus and why he came to Earth by using the gospel of Luke in the bible.

Integrated Learning is a very fun subject, and I would definitely recommend it to any school that doesn't have a subject like this.
If you would like to see what type of projects that some of the students groups did, check in the comments made by the students below this post

Written by:
Liam Eugarde-Grade 7 Integrated Learning Student

Monday, July 8, 2013

Progress so far...

I thought, after one semester of trying out challenge-based learning that it would be a good time to stop and take stock of how things have gone. In this post I will share with you some of the things that my students have reported back, along with my own thoughts on the progress so far.

Challenge-based learning has certainly lived up to its name so far - it has been challenging. It is great to see what students can create when given time and space to do it. At the same time, it is hard to get used to the idea as it also means that sometimes students do not pull off the dream they had and both they and I need to be ready for that. That has been one of the more difficult things to get used to. As a teacher the norm is to work really hard so that all students are able to succeed in what they do. I don't think that changes in challenge-based learning but the word 'success' needs to be redefined.

As adults, we know that when we have a time limit and task to achieve, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. When it is children who have the time limit and the real task this is made more extreme by their inexperience and the fact they are still learning how to stay focused on a goal, how to work together and how to achieve what you set out to achieve.

What it comes down to is this: Success as a teacher in challenge-based learning can't be measured on whether every group is able to fully realise their goal. That is not going to happen unless all the goals are very safe, which in my opinion takes away from some of the benefits of the approach. So the question is, what does a successful challenge-based learning classroom look like? This is an important question for me as I want it to be successful but I also do not want to invent a definition of success that simply makes what I'm doing look successful. It is a question I have not found the answer to yet but one that I will continue to research, test, apply and seek to answer through the coming months.

So they are my thoughts. Let's flip it around and have a look at some of the things the students have said when they reviewed the term. Below is a 'Word Cloud' showing some of the things students stated when asked to list words that describe Integrated Learning, the name of our challenge-based learning subject.

I have also included below some graphs showing student responses to key questions. All up I think it backs up my feelings so far. The subject has gone fairly well. It has not been as successful as I would like, but certainly it has not been a complete failure either.

These graphs show that most students found what they were doing in Integrated Learning valuable and were happy with what their group were able to achieve through the unit. It was also nice to see that students felt that they were learning and improving in areas such as creativity, collaboration, research and goal setting - though I would have liked  to see a higher results in this final one.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Goals: What are they striving for?

Goals are a simple thing but I believe they are a major part of success as a learner, in fact for many areas of achievement. Setting goals gives us something to aim for and a bar to reach for. In the same way, in order for students to be as productive as possible it is important that each student has set themselves a goal to achieve in a lesson. Because of this, I have begun to start lessons by having the Director of each group to negotiate with each member what their individual goals are for the lesson. At the end of the lesson the group is then given time to analyse whether each person has achieved their goals.

By doing this, it seems students have approached their tasks with a renewed focus and have a new sense of pride with what they have achieved in the lesson. Hopefully some of my students will also add their thoughts and comments on what they feel about the new lesson structure and the fact we begin by setting goals.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stop underestimating our kids

One of the things I've found most frustrating through this project has been the unwillingness of organisations to let students get involved. Everyone is happy to organise someone to come and give a lecture to students or give them factsheets but no one so far has been willing to look at ways they can really get involved and make a difference.

I've called organisations, who then don't call back. I've emailed lots of organisations to receive no reply. Those that do reply have given options such as another organisation to try or the option for them to send a speaker out to the school but no one has helped get students actively involved in making a difference.

Challenge-based learning doesn't only require a change of thinking in the minds of students and educators, it requires a change of thinking for our whole society. There is still this idea that kids are empty vessels to fill up with information and ideas rather than people who can make a real difference, if given the right information and the opportunity to get involved.

I firmly believe our kids can change the world. Us adults just have to get behind them, empower them..... and let them.