Inquiring & Learning Together
Fallingbrook's Journey with Digital Promise Learning Studio
Joining the Partnership
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:
Technology, Engineering & Design Thinking
Invention Thinking and Maker Mindset
Visual Communication & Story-Telling
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.
Adopting a Learning Stance
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
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:
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.
Data Collection & Analysis
Designing the Poster
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!
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
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 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.