Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Student Designed Learning

After hearing an amazing presentation from NoTosh at BLC this summer, I decided to let my students design our curriculum this year.  Kind of scary? Yes. Worth it?  Totally. They seriously amazed me with their thoughts and ideas.  They want to learn WAY cooler things than the state of Texas recommends for them. 

So here is how I set it up….On the first day of school they had to submit an idea or question of what they really wanted to learn in anatomy class this year to a
google moderator group chat.  On the second day, we took those questions and sorted by topic and then removed the ones that were really just questions they could Google easily.  Some of the Googleable questions were reworked by different groups until they came up with a lot of pretty amazing ideas.  

Here are a few examples of questions my students developed :

How does the brain differentiate between dreams and reality?

Can a serial killers brain be reprogrammed?

Can we create a better system of distributing vaccinations 
in an efficient and accessible manner?

How can we encourage unhealthy people to make better dietary 
choices to improve their overall health?

How can medication be developed to decrease the chance of side 
effects while still helping the patient?

Can we create an alternative to radiation treatment?

No offense to the state of Texas, but these questions are way better than anything a committee of grown-ups could develop.  And they created these in less than 52 minutes...with minimal effort...while they were tweeting...and texting their friends...and playing Candy Crush.  They are capable of so much more than we expect from them.  

I have the questions sorted now into 6 major themes and one category of ‘other’.  The first days of each six weeks will be devoted to taking one of the themes and looking at their questions for that topic and developing our six weeks plan around what they actually want to learn. They take the topics and discover a way to connect to society or a current health and wellness issue. 

Sounds way more exciting than “summarize the human growth and development cycle” or “evaluate models according to their limitations in representing biological objects”.  

We did this in an old fashion kind of way - (especially considering that all 150 of my students are carrying around a brand new school issued iPad) But we were kind of just making it up as we went along so post it notes was the way to go!

So far, we have developed a MOOC in iTunes U [Health Without Borders] with over 27,000 subscribers learning from my class and their creations.   Students have the ability to choose what they teach, how they teach it, and the products have been outstanding so far.   


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