Thursday, April 24, 2014

Redefine Your Classroom

After attending BLC13 last summer, I wrote this post about Design Thinking that explained how I tried to implement what I learned from Alan November and No Tosh.  After allowing my students to design the classroom and curriculum for an entire school year, these are my thoughts...

Ask students what they want to learn and fit your curriculum around their interests.  
Do a survey during the first week of school and find ways to tie into what they actually want to learn in your class.  When we feel our thoughts and interests are respected, we listen and learn more.  Here is what I got when I just said, “What do you want to learn this year in Anatomy and Physiology?"          Google Moderator - Anatomy 2013

      Take what they want to learn and ask how we can impact the community or society?
      What can we do with our knowledge to benefit others?  How can we make our society better?

      Give them choices on how to show their knowledge. 
      Let them be creative and innovative instead of telling them what to do.   When you limit them to one app or one final product, you take away their ability to be creative.  Our world needs more innovate problem solvers, so why not start in school?  Give them a problem to solve, ask them to support their work with knowledge, and let them develop a plan to solve the problem in anyway they see fit.  When you remove the guidelines, they will exceed your expectations.

     Bring in experts more knowledgeable than you.  
     Use community professionals or Skype in the Classroom to find people to help your students learn.  Allow students to collaborate with other students around the world to gain insight and feedback.  See this example from Mental Health in 60 Seconds

      Publish their work in a global setting.  
 Your class can build a course in iTunes U, co-author an iBook using Book Creator or  iBook Author, or create a class YouTube Channel.  Have student teams compete for publication, teach them how to research, and show them fair use of images and information.  See this example of a student run MOOC in iTunes U called Health Without Borders.  This project is completely student designed, student created, and student managed.  Our high school class in Texas is teaching over 33,000 students from around the world.

How can you redefine your classroom?

Mental Health in 60 Seconds

One of the big topics my class wanted to learn this year had to do with mental illness.  Many questions were asked in the interest survey about depression, anxiety, and psychiatric conditions.  While none of these topics are in my course objectives, the actions of neurotransmitters and brain chemistry are.  Here are a couple of their thoughts:

So here is how the project went:

1.    What do you want to learn about Mental Health?  Students performed a gallery walk and anonymously asked questions about the conditions they felt were most common in their age group. 

2.   How can we take what we have learned and impact society?  Students discussed various ways to remove the stigma of mental health conditions in society.  They felt if they could create media and publish it, they could attempt to remove the negative perception of some of these conditions.

3.   How will you create this?  Students were given the opportunity to create their product in anyway they felt would be effective.  We decided on a PSA style approach and called our project Mental Health in 60 Seconds.

4.   I found a licensed psychologist on Skype in the Classroom, Dr. Fu, who will speak to my class via Skype on nationwide trends in mental health.  My students will compose a list of questions they have prior to the Skype call and we will do a basic Q&A with someone more knowledgeable than us.  We are also going to join the TEDMED Google Hangout on Mental Health on May 6!

5.   How will we share what we create?  We are creating an online portfolio of the best projects submitted.  Students will compete for the most creative, scientifically accurate, and impactful PSA to be published to this website.  The website will be linked to our Anatomy iTunes U course, which has an audience of over 113,000 subscribers.  Maybe their work will truly impact someone with one of these conditions.  Maybe their work will provide empathy in society and help remove stigmas associated with mental health.

So what did they learn? They had to research using scientific journals and find current scientific information to support their claims.  They had to understanding how neurotransmitters worked and the structure of the synapse.  They had to understand the various areas of the brain and the functioning of neurons.  While these are my state objectives, they learned much more than this.  They learned guidelines for publishing work online, empathy for others, and how to create a concise, collaborative product with a group.  They also learned how to be culturally sensitive, since our course is international.  They were engaged during the entire process, since in reality, this project was their idea in the first place, not an assignment given by a teacher. 

Check out our portfolio of student created PSA's, Mental Health in 60 Seconds