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Apple workshop review

Posted by phourigan on April 29, 2010

This workshop was at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, which for those who don’t live in Pennsylvania are institutes that help support the public school systems.  It was free, which is remarkable, given the amount of talent that was there for presentation.

Much of the content revolved around what’s called Challenge Based Learning (CBL) which is where education in this country needs to go.  Instead of a teacher standing in the front of the room dispensing information, the keys to the kingdom are passed to students within a framework that empowers them to problem solve and use their creativity.

Kids who hate school hate it because it’s boring.  It’s boring because they’re not engaged.  They’re not engaged because the teacher stands at the front of the class and talks too much.  CBL turns Lecture into Discovery.  Who wouldn’t want to go to a school where every day is like Myth Busters?

Apple had some great examples of the kind of discovery that kids are capable of when a project is framed using CBL.  I raised my hand and expressed a sentiment that always gnaws at me when people talk about project based curriculum: when push comes to shove and teachers want to know what a student has really learned, we throw out projects and team assignments, clear off the desks and administer an exam.  It’s something we’ve done for decades and it’s a hard habit to get away from.  My concern is that when we pay lip service to projects and Challenges, we’re going to fall back on the exam because we (teachers) don’t know how to evaluate a CBL project, especially if the students take it in a direction we’re not familiar with or comfortable with.

Luckily, at the very base level, students who do well with CBL typically do well on standardized tests and APs.  Students who don’t may have their abilities revealed in non-traditional ways, which colleges find appealing.  Plus, they develop problem solving skills that they normally would not be allowed to develop.

The trick is to convince the teachers that a shift is not only worthwhile, but required.  The great irony is that teachers are standing in the way of truly innovative education.

I plan to attend many more of these free sessions at the BCIU.


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