By: Tony Harman, High School PLTW
This year, I got to join in two amazing learning opportunities at EdCampKC and the What Great Educators Do Differently conference. Both days left me with a lot to think about and reflect on, but one topic showed up at both - how we can transform how our students’ learn. The two conversations shared a lot of fantastic resources and places to learn about, such as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, the U School and the Workshop School in Philadelphia, and Coppell High School in Dallas, Texas, that will be invaluable as we work to transform ESHS. For me personally, all of this took on new meaning when combined with another incredible experience I had this year - attending TEDxKC.
If you’ve never heard of a TED talk, they are short, impactful talks given by all types of people with one thing in common - each one has a powerful message to share.
This year’s theme for TEDxKC was “Can I ask you a better question?”, and throughout the night, the speakers talked about how asking better questions had changed how they viewed their situation. Whether it was looking at data visualization as art or changing how we relate to people different than us, each story had the same theme - asking better questions lead to better answers. This idea, combined with the idea of transforming our school, is what has really excited me.
How can we transform our students’ learning? We know that changes like a new schedule or new physical spaces won’t matter much if that is all we do. The same old work in a new space doesn't magically become better, so if we really want to transform learning for our students, we have to change the questions we ask our students. Instead of asking “What is…?”, we need to ask, “What if…?” We need to be open to asking our students questions that we don't know the answer to, to allowing them to reject a question and replace it with a better one. I’ve taken my first steps down this path by changing how I approach projects. Instead of presenting a project as a list of what the students need to accomplish, I present them with a question, such as “How could we build a hydrogen-powered boat?” This question then drives all of the work my students do - the learning happens as my students develop their own personal answer rather than by following a series of steps to my answer. My next steps would be to open this even further to allow my students to come up with their own questions they want to answer. I’m not sure what this will look like yet, but I know creativity and passion comes from within my students, not just from me.
So how do we transform our students’ learning? Let me ask a better question - how do we unleash our students to transform their own learning?
This is a resource build by the ESSD40 staff for to aid in transforming teaching and learning.
Inspire. Empower. Challenge.
Learning Out loud