As much as I was impressed by the innovation I saw at ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia, there is a local project that I’d like to highlight in my District that is just as powerful as some of initiatives I saw showcased there.
Ingredients for Success
- 1 highly motivated Intermediate teacher-team willing to try something completely different
- 1 administrator supporting the initiative and removing barriers that might impede success
- 1 collaborative peer group exploring ePortfolio and the All About Me Portfolio
- 2 dashes of inspiration (Bishop Strachan‘s similar initiative & George Couros’ presentation @YCDSB talking about Innovation week at Parkland School Division in Alberta)
- 1 bunch of grade 7/8 students using their creativity and passion as inspiration
Bake for 1 full week. Result is an amazing learning opportunity for students!
Marisa Benakis and Brad Blucher, two intermediate teachers at St. Jerome Catholic Elementary School decided to drop everything in order to create a unique learning experience for their intermediate students. In order to do this, they needed and got support from their Intermediate team and administrator, Michele Reume who gave them the go-ahead to eliminate all other subject periods. This meant that the whole school day for one full week would be entirely devoted to this self-directed learning opportunity. I’m not sure what SPLICE stands for exactly, but the learning initiative was awesome!
Goals of SPLICE (as articulated in the student handout)
- To learn more about a topic that interests you
- To push your creativity and innovative thinking skills
- To reflect upon yourself as a learner and the learning process
- To communicate your learning and experiences to others
Students could research or create absoultely anything of their choice and could work independently or up to groups of three. Most importantly, they had to capture the process in a reflection and share the learning with their peers.
These are just a few of the presentations I was privileged to see:
- A student created an All About Me scrapbook and showcased the process in film
- A group of students built a marshmallow launcher (after unsuccessfully trying to create a potato launcher)
- A student painted a canvas and created an accompanying short story
Many more projects can be seen in this storify.
One of the questions that is a burning one for educators is, how can you possibly assess or evaluate a project like this? Well, Benakis and Blucher addressed this in two ways. Firstly, students were evaluated on the quality of their oral presentation. And though you might be wondering, what if a student isn’t strong orally, I can assure you that when a student is presenting a project that is meaningful and personal to them, this is a non-issue.
There is also an explicit focus on Assessment AS Learning through these guided questions:
- What did you learn about yourself as a creator?
- What was difficult? What was interesting?
- What would you do differently?
When we chatted later, we agreed that if we really wanted to go into the Curriculum to evaluate the project, we would likely find lots of curriculum connections.
Connections to the Individual Program Pathways, All About Me Portfolio
Both Benakis and Blucher are involved in a District pilot exploring ways in which to implement the Creating Pathways to Success Policy Document; more specifically helping students address these four areas: Who Am I? What do I want to Become? What are my Opportunities? What is my plan for achieving my goals?
Interested in hosting your own Innovation or SPLICE week?
Contact @marisabenny or @blucherclass They are so passionate about the project and its success, they would be willing to assist anyone who is interested in trying it!