How might we empower teachers to lead change in their schools that have the greatest impact on student learning?
Kyle Wagner, Founder of Transform Educational Consulting
For Kyle , the answer is in designing a 21st century curriculum that focuses on a project-based learning environment.
“Project Based learning is essentially a project that is going to drive how a teacher delivers a curriculum. So kids might be creating businesses, kids might be solving the local water pollution problem down the street, or tracking the movement of marine life. This idea of project-based learning, most often uses the design thinking process and is integrated.”
Kyle started his journey as a passionate educator with High Tech High in San Diego, a world renowned project-based learning school.
Not only does this teaching method connect students to their passions, but also helps connect them to the outside world by gaining hands-on experience into a complex problem.
Moreover, PBL is group-owned. Kids have ownership along with the teachers, they’re challenged to think individually, enabling them to work on their passions and build confidence through it.
To make this a success, teachers almost have to play the ‘role of designers’ and in order to do that, educators today need to have the ability to take risks and have the freedom to do so. “It’s important for a good educator to not think in buckets but to get out of the silos… de-silo and take risks!”
But not many educators today share that freedom. They are tasked to introduce innovative learning opportunities but at the same time are given a complex set of standards to cover; standardised tests, limited time to interact and exchange ideas; isolated classrooms, and finally, little to no training or support.
Understanding that this model needs disruption, Kyle emphasises that educators need to adopt a design mindset – be creative, test quick methods and continuously innovate.
Some ‘start-small’ steps educators can trial out in order to do this are:
- Bring in a “real-world” element by replacing just one unit of study/ chapter in the textbook and ask students to solve the challenge.
- Put the ownership in the students’ hands by giving students a few choices in assessment.
- Don’t be afraid to be creative. Instead of a paper and pencil test, give them the option to present the knowledge via a video or presentation.
“We need something different especially in education… Design-based learning.” As an educator himself, Kyle realises the importance of this. “From speaking to other teachers and gaining empathy for some of the key pains to constantly iterating your methodologies. Creating something that people really need, is the key.”
Even in times of adversity, educators needs to adapt and find new ways to solve problems.
Coronavirus being one of the most current situations.
With classes being temporarily suspended until April (and perhaps longer) due to the virus, digital learning has surfaced as a popular method for educators and students to adopt when stuck at home!
Although the transition from offline to online doesn’t come easily to many, today there are multiple ways to still maintain engagement with students like video conferencing and online collaborative classes.
According to Kyle, here are 2 ways educators can use digital learning to engage their students during these turbulent times:
- Try online and e-portfolios like ‘Seesaw’ to share work with a larger student audience – They help to unlock creative thinking for students.
- Introduce collaborative learning by using platforms like Google Docs to work together on something, writing a paper or story boarding a video/ documentary.
When asked what the feedback to digital learning has been, Kyle responds, “Teachers most value the community aspect. It’s the sharing of ideas and having the space to get creative that’s so important for them.”
In today’s digital age, students no longer respond to traditional sermons like pure theoretical learning and there is a need for change in the way teachers, educators, students and parents approach education.
Kyle concludes to say “We need to change the pedagogy first. True innovation is in the power of community – breaking down the silos and collaborating.”