Sunday, 22 May 2011

It's not chaos! It's 21st century learning!

I thought of this video recently, during one of the Health and Career 8 classes I teach.  The class could only be described as "in a state of organized chaos" and I loved every minute.

During our current unit, students have been exploring the consequences of substance abuse.  Additionally, we have been discussing the influence of advertising in teen culture.  In a recent class, students were asked to create an ad, based on our substance abuse unit.  We discussed possible formats for them to use and messages for them to convey.  We established criteria together, and students were reminded of reputable websites that they could use when seeking additional information.

Excited teenagers and furniture were soon scattered everywhere.  Several groups began writing and rehearsing skits, debating about whether or not elements of their ads were effective.  Others got to work on the computers, researching statistics that would make an impact before creating their ads.  One group used an animation program to "storyboard" their plot with stick figures.  Artistic students circled around desks, drawing magazine-style ad pages with catchy slogans.  It was loud at times, but nobody was off task.  The students were learning, but not from a lecture.  They discussed, debated, questioned, and researched together.  While circling the room, I could see that every single student was actively participating in his or her chosen format.  Two groups chose to get together after school to create short films.  When I told them that they could have extra class time to film, as I didn't want them to have homework, their response surprised me. "It's not homework!  It's fun!"  Wow.

It takes a while to get to this place, but I love it.  It's so great to see every student engaged and involved in the task at hand.

As I walked around, talking to students, I realized how significantly my view of "classroom management" has shifted since I was in high school.  When I was a student, I probably would have thought that a class like this was chaotic and disorganized.  In my mind, "good classroom management" mean that all students were working on the same assignment at the same time with very little chatter.

Times have changed!  I have come to realize that when all students are actively participating, excitedly chattering, learning, questioning, and meeting the learning outcomes, it is not chaos; it's twenty-first century learning.

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