1. There is a difference between application and authenticity in Project Based Learning.
There were two separate /conversations sessions I attended which helped me remember there is a big difference between scenarios/application in a lesson and true authenticity. The latter motivates practically all students while the earlier motivates some.
Good: Engaging lectures, video clips and allowing students to dialogue about what they are learning.
Better: Presenting the learning in real life scenarios, story problems, and possible situations and allowing students to collaborate in discovering answers to guiding questions.
Best: Pairing standards and learning with problems students learning from and solve for current practitioners in the field.
Instead of posing "what would a (fill in the profession) do?" students should actually ask them and then help them solve a problem or share their story. Here is a great example of the students from Kent Innovation High and how they told the stories of WWII veterans.
The big questions I'm bringing back to my work is:
Are we hooking critical thinking back to how it will be used in a work space some day? How can we have students practice as if they are professionals in the field? Even better, how can we have them do this with the actual professionals?
2. The business world wants something much different than higher education and our standardized testing regimes.
The talented organizers of NovaNow had the forethought of bringing in current business and human resource officials to speak during one of our breaks about what they are looking for in current and future applicants. Some eye-opening quotes from these experts were:
"What we want to know is do you know how to learn....that you want to learn something new"
" The most important work skills are an eagerness to solve problems, curiosity, attention to detail, and flexibility to change behaviors when they must be addressed."
"I don't look at G.P.A. or test scores when I do hiring of engineers or other team members..."
So, if 'soft skills' listed in the first two quotes are paramount to being hired and keeping jobs, and tests scores and long lists of content standards are our focus as teachers, when will we all get on the same page?
3. The Diatribe is amazing and so is purposeful emotional and self-regulatory support for students.
Also planned for the conference was a day two presentation by "The Diatribe", an eclectic group of slam poets and performance artists. These engaging performers captivated our room of educators and helped us to feel some of the emotions our students go through sometimes silently and sometimes outwardly in our schools. Their work is to come into schools and help students open up emotionally and become a community while also being a supportive safety net for them. Their message and passion helped to remind us all while we need to have procedures and protocols to support self-regulation through student-led projects, we also have to meet the Maslov or emotional needs of students first.
Interested in the work of The Diatribe? They are on Facebook and you can check them out below: