Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Problem With Not Having Problems

Do you ever get sucked in, totally absorbed, ridiculously excited about total nerd shows? I'm not talking about The Voice here, people! The other night I couldn't stop watching this documentary on KCPT focused on solving the problem of preserving the shark population, while protecting the public from shark attacks. How do we protect humans without injuring or killing sharks? What struck me about the show was the process of problem solving and how different it is from the problem solving that often occurs in schools.

Image Source
1. Do you have a clearly defined problem?  Do you (the teacher) already know the answer?  One idea that really made me pause during the show is that we have all these field experts who genuinely don't know what to do about this problem.  They've tried a variety of methods to keep public safety, but there is still a big problem.  How can we give students more problems in school that don't already have a solution or a single correct answer?  Additionally, how can we actually use problems that exist in the real world and provide students opportunities to share their ideas in a public platform?

2. How do we develop individual expertise and collaboration?  Solving the shark problem involved collaboration among marine biologists, lifeguards, politicians, pilots, marine technology experts, and more.  Each individual possessed a specific expertise, but solving the problem required collaboration among all of them.  How are we preparing students to have deep expertise in a given field?  How are we creating cross-curricular opportunities to learn, explore, and problem solve?  How are we helping students learn to collaborate?

3. Do our students know how to collaborate across cultures?  While the shark story started in Australia, the team quickly partnered with experts in San Diego, California, to gain new perspectives, learn other options, and test solutions.  More and more, the opportunities to collaborate globally are expanding.  How are schools preparing students to find people in other parts of the globe that may have expertise on a problem that needs solving locally?  How are we teaching students about efficient ways to communicate globally?

4. Are we encouraging students to fail forward? These marine biologists developed a multitude of solutions to the problem, and they failed several times before they succeeded.  How do we create the culture of failing forward in our schools?

5. Are we leveraging technology?  The most simple and effective part of the shark solution was to use Twitter to quickly notify beach-goers of shark sightings and alerts.  Are we teaching students to think about Twitter in ways other than a social platform?  Using high-definition cameras, the team developed a method of spotting sharks despite changing weather and ocean conditions.  Obviously these are very specialized tools, but are we giving students access to basic digital tools and teaching them how to use them?

Clearly I have more questions than answers, but I know we must be FIERCE in our pursuit to create opportunities for students to learn in these contexts. There's nothing nerdy about that.

No comments:

Post a Comment