Inquiring & Learning Together

Fallingbrook's Journey with Digital Promise Learning Studio

Joining the Partnership

Fallingbrook Middle School joined the Digital Promise Learning Studio community in January, 2018. Learning Studio's are designed to engage students in powerful learning experiences where they are engaged, creating and taking ownership over their learning.

Learning Studios are a collaboration between Digital Promise, HP and Microsoft in order to allow students to design, create and invent. As a participating school, we were provided with a 3D printer, an HP Sprout and HP laptops. We were supported by HP and Fair Chance Learning as we received 2 days of professional development on not only how to use the equipment but, more importantly, how to use it effectively to engage students in meaningful learning opportunities.

In the Learning Studio, students develop important 21st Century skills:

  1. Technology, Engineering & Design Thinking

  2. 3D Thinking

  3. Invention Thinking and Maker Mindset

  4. Computational Thinking

  5. Visual Communication & Story-Telling

  6. Social Entrepreneurship

  7. Empathy, Collaboration and Communication

Through the support of Digital Promise (an international community based in Washington), we have the opportunity to be part of an online professional community connecting Learning Studios all over the world. This has been invaluable in learning how educators and students are using the tools globally and the potential from students to learn from others in other countries, continents, learning environments is invaluable.

There is no doubt that the learning opportunities provided by the Learning Studio will help students build 21st century competencies including Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Collaboration, Innovation and Creativity, Communication and Citizenship.

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Adopting a Learning Stance

One of our greatest successes so far is the tremendous support we have received from the staff at both Digital Promise and HP. We had a great day of training for 5 members of the Fallingbrook staff where we learned how to scan 2D and 3D objects using the HP Sprout (along with many other apps featured), use those objects in different formats, print 3D objects and brainstorm meaningful ways we could use this in curriculum at all grade levels in our school. We even had some time at the end to learn about micro:bits and coding.

The second day was spent sharing out knowledge with select groups of students. Our hope and intention being these students would become familiar with the technology and be able to share their knowledge while training their peers. Wow! It was amazing to see how engaging the tools were and how quickly and comfortably students used the different screens, functions and apps and what they were able to create in a matter of minutes. "This is fun!" "So cool!" "How'd you do that?" "Let's try this ..." were all phrases we heard time and time again no matter the grouping of students.

This experience reinforced the importance of the educator being a co-learner; problem-solver, listener, questioner, and collaborator when working with this technology with students.

Learning Studio Challenges: Building 21st Century Skills

Digital Promise focus on design based, experiential learning is epitomized in their project based challenges. These challenges are carefully crafted so that participants can make them their own while at the same time focusing on a current, relevant issue which will require participants to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills, collaboration and connection to a community. Past challenges have included Design for All and Play to Learn. Check out some of the amazing projects at the link below:
Digital Promise's spring challenge focused on Building Resilient Communities. We chose specifically to work with Ms. Yoo's class 6F in hopes of building capacity by involving students in their first year at Fallingbrook. It was our hope they would become familiar with the both the design process as well as the tools and Ms. Yoo's class enthusiastically tackled the challenge!

We introduced the idea by using the online tool, Nearpod, which helped to review and create a common understanding of community and resiliency as well as brainstorm ways which we could approach the challenge.

It soon became apparent that students were interested in two main areas - environment and mental health. After some reflection and thinking about which topic would truly create a more resilient environment in our school community, students and teachers agreed mental health would be the more effective topic to focus on.

Using the "Problem Tree" questioning exercise, students worked collaboratively to identify the "problem" (growing concerns of mental health decline among students at Fallingbrook Middle School), the "causes" (the roots/reasons the problems exists including stress, pressure from self, parents, friends and the role of social media) and the "effects" (consequences of the problem - low self esteem, negative self talk, bullying, apathy, etc)

It is important to note that all students were engaged in the discussion partly due to the honest contributions of the classroom teacher. The teacher provided some meaningful connections around the topic to students which provided a safe environment to question, share and reflect. Without this initial step, this project may not have had the same invested effort from all participants.

Through discussion, the tree allowed students to not only brainstorm the roots of the problem but provided a structure/metaphor for their understanding. After an open and honest discussion, students easily connected to the tree analogy. What was intended as a simple exercise in questioning became the foundation for understanding the issue we had chosen and its impact. Simply put, students were easily able to recognize a tree unhealthy roots would end up lacking growth or being rotten whereas a tree with healthy, sustainable roots, has the ability to grow and its potential is bottomless. Many students piggybacked on each other's ideas and felt genuinely connected to the topic.

Here is our brainstorm:

The tree diagram was posted in our Library Learning Commons for a week while 6F revisited it and we planned our next steps. Interestingly enough, there were lots of students from other grades and classes who asked what it was about and willingly wanted to share their own ideas and add to it. It was a light bulb moment to see all students, despite gender, grade, social grouping, cultural background, wanted to talk and give their own insights. Everyone had different things to say and everyone could easily relate to something that was already written on the tree. That sent home the message this was a topic worth pursuing.

Digging Deeper

Once we knew we were onto something and that members of the community were interested in the topic, students worked collaboratively to brainstorm more about topics surrounding pressure. Here is a sampling of some of their ideas:

The Plan

Students were excited to get started and had huge plans for the reveal - it was hard to contain all the ideas. We managed to compile the ideas into an interactive multi-media campaign with an accompanying documentary. We also recognized the need to conduct research and ensure our speculations around the state of mental health in our Fallingbrook community was indeed fragile. Finally, we needed to get testimonies from students to really tell the story about what was happening inside their minds.

In short, designing and creating this multi-media campaign was not about solving the problem, but instead shining light on the problem; encouraging reflection and discussion in hopes that this will remove the stigma around the issues and help teens that way.

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Data Collection & Analysis

It was clear we needed to have data in order to ensure this was a problem and how it was affecting students. A small team created a series of questions focusing on the happiness levels of students in life and at school as well as causes of stress. Small groups surveyed 2-3 classes of grade 6, 7 and 8 students. Next, the entire class worked hard to tally the results and transfer this information into graphs. The final step was for students to analyze the data and find statistics that supported the need to make our community more resilient by focusing on mental health.

Designing the Poster

Lots of thought went into the poster design! It was clear students wanted to emphasize that the 'roots' of an individual are often hidden, so we don't know the full story and things aren't always as they appear. One student suggested the slogan "____ hides a lot" and soon the ideas started flowing. The thought behind each poster is the slogan would introduce was is seen on the outside but the picture and accompanying statistic would show more of the picture. However, to get the full picture, the view would be required to 'interact' with the poster to hear the real message. These messages, of course, would be testimonies from Fallingbrook students.


While the poster was being designed, another team of students worked on testimonials that would accompany each poster. After the initial tree discussion, students from 6F were invited to reflect on their understanding of the tree diagram as well as how they connected with it. It was clear, at least in this group of students, many felt the pressure from their parents, friends and themselves to perform at a high level is all areas of their lives. Other students who had shown an interest in the tree diagram were also invited to reflect on how these themes connected to their lives. The honesty and clarity was astounding!

A team of students read through these confidential reflections and gathered first hand accounts to form small paragraphs on topics that had been identified by the poster group and the class discussion. This was no easy feat! Frustration sometimes came easily but the final product was worth every ounce of work!

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Poster Design

The evolution of the poster went through many, many drafts. We moved from a complete black and white design to incorporating simple colour to full colour. Students worked individually but were constantly conferencing in order to make their art as realistic and meaningful as possible. What resulted were amazing designs that make a viewer look and think and then look again!

Poster Creation

The final step utilized the Sprout and the Paint program. Two students became experts and taught a few others how to scan images, incorporate text and integrate the statistics from the data group.

While at the same time, a small group of students recorded the testimonials and uploaded them to YouTube and then embedded them in a QR Code.

The Final Product

These were all put together into the final poster design. 8 posters were created in total - 7 individually completed and 1 that was done collaboratively with all the artists contributing ideas. This one was intentionally left black and white.

Final Thoughts

The power of strong communication, patience, problem solving and critical thinking made this a success. This may not be a surprise but there were many times when students were left to their own devices to trouble shoot technology, redesign an image, overcome a misunderstanding, solve an issue and they did it without any problems. It was truly amazing to empower students to design, create and share.

The best part? Their excitement and pride as they saw the final product and experienced the interactive poster campaign first hand!

Next Steps ...

We recognize that we are still very much in the process of determining what to do next. How do we share this with the students, staff and parents of the Fallingbrook community? Who is the message best suited for? Is it students who may relate and connect to these issues and the feelings that accompany them or the adults who have the power to influence and impact how students deal with these pressures? How do we support students who are experiencing these stressors? As a school community, what action steps do we do next to help support these students?

We do plan to share this artwork with the school community but hope to also take it to a more public space in order to share our research and thinking on a topic that is important to all of us.