“[Challenge-based learning] is a framework for teachers to take their curriculum standards and put it into relevant problems for children to solve,” Apple iPad instructor Nancy Kuznicki said.
“It engages students in real-life situations. They start with the big idea and they kind of generate an essential question, but then they attempt to find a solution.”
The iProduct-toting global generation have been challenged. Schools are asking students to take their knowledge of technology and apply it for the betterment of their communities. Technology is a major component of challenge based learning. Communication across vast distances, research and record keeping can be completed at the touch of a finger.
A $30,000 grant offered through the Bank of Cleveland purchased E. L. Ross 30 new iPads and a portable iPad cart. One training session for the teachers was also included. A total of 24 teachers were present for the two-day 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. lessons.
Kuznicki guided teachers through apps and websites to incorporate in their teachings.
“I didn’t really teach [teachers] the apps. As we went through I would say, ‘And now we are going to go here...’ and it just made an easy transition,” Kuznicki said. “You really do not want teachers teaching students technology.”
According to Kuznicki, technology should be incorporated into daily classroom lessons. She said class time could then be focused on the subject’s standards versus technology lessons. Teachers followed Kuznicki’s lessons on iPads purchased last year from Title 1 funds.
Kuznicki also asked teachers to view themselves as facilitators.
“Students are working and they have their direction,” Kuznicki said. “A teacher’s job is to come in when a student is struggling and to build up the skills they need to push through.”
E. L. Ross Principal Lisa Earby said the iPads were purchased to be actively used.
“I wanted them to be researching apps they could use in the classroom and become comfortable with them,” Earby said. “A lot of them use iPads in the classroom for student enrichment and games.”
Students will have their first taste of challenge based learning this semester through mini-projects. Earby said a large, school-wide project will most likely be planned for next school year.
Ideas for projects were brain-stormed during the two-day iPad training.
“They come up with something that needs to be solved. One group did ‘How to have a healthier school.’ Another was ‘How we can honor diversity within our school and community,’” Earby said. “Students would then come up with the central questions based on their focus. Then students will research the topic and integrate the information to find a solution.”
E. L. Ross might even partner with another school for a larger challenge-based learning project.
“We would like to partner with another school — not necessarily local. We would like to partner with a school across the country,” Earby said. “It would be good to get kids out of their school and community to interact with other people.”
Collaboration outside of Cleveland offers students a taste of their future. These students will one day solve real-life problems with others from all walks of life. A project could even be set up with a class from another country.
Kuznicki said she has seen a great response from students to challenge-based learning.
“I’ve seen students work through an issue and they just want to do more and more,” Kuznicki said. “They are still learning the same material, like math, English and higher order thinking skills. It is just in a different framework.”
Earby said teachers are going to work hard to introduce the new framework.
“It is easy to be excited now, but when you get back to the daily grind in the classroom, it is really hard to keep the excitement level up and put the knowledge into practice,” Earby said. “This is the tip of the iceberg. Our technology department is on board with us and we are going to continue to work hard.”