Sunday, September 18, 2016

Learning as a Story

Imagine you’re in science class. After a few days of studying cells, the teacher asks you to make a digital slideshow with some online tech tool. Let’s say it has to combine pictures, minimal text and some narration.

Think about what types of projects students would submit.

It’s a safe bet we’d get a lot of pictures of models of cells with some narration telling what the parts are and what they do. It’s the updated version of a PowerPoint presentation, which too often is an uninspiring display of information.

For the teacher, these final products serve as an assessment of what was learned. Nothing more, just the facts. 

That’s an important aspect of final products, but can we do better? Lately I’ve been encouraging teachers to push for more than just the final learning. I suggest we have students document the process.

In project-based learning, this often looks like a series of pictures showing the project coming together. What I’m thinking now, though, is something much more personal.

What if we asked students to document their learning experience throughout the process

Yes, in that science lesson it would still include those important parts of a cell. But what if we asked them to keep a record of what they looked forward to or what they were curious about before the lesson started?

How about their challenges, surprises and disappointments?

What new questions came up throughout the learning experience?

And then the most important part, which we rarely seem to have time for:  What did they learn about themselves and their place in the world?

What I’m hoping is we can see (and share) the learning experience as a story. Would it be a story students like to discover? Would it be worth telling? What effect would it have on school culture if learning stories were told as if they mattered?

Could we start with a learning story of our own that's worth sharing?

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