Tony Gurr

You up for a CHALLENGE?

In Our Schools, Technology on 03/03/2011 at 2:20 pm

Yesterday, I watched with interest the unveiling of the “Mükemmel Sınıf Projesi” in Sürmene, Trabzon. The idea of changing the “shape” and “spirit” of schools – really got my attention – as did the idea of a “Zilsiz Okul”.

The project was inspired by “Sasha and Maria’s classrooms” (Obama’s children). The logic – if Obama’s kids can sit in 5-star classrooms, why can’t ours?

The classrooms of the schools involved in the project have been brought into the 21st Century and a lot of money has been spent on SmartBoards, PCs and projectors. The rooms themselves have been upgraded, as have corridors and bathroom facilities.

I was impressed.

The only thing that was missing from all the press releases and TV news items was a discussion of what the kids of Sürmene would actually “do” in these classrooms.

This is where I come in – well, this is where my two cents comes in.

Sürmene – I have a challenge for you! And, it is more than another “Her Çocuk Bir Enstrüman Çalacak Projesi”.

Let’s change the way these kids “learn” in our new Mükemmel Sınıflar.

Now, there’s a really big challenge.

Apple has been running its Classroom’s of Tomorrow (ACOT2) for some time now. This also uses a great deal of technology but what is perhaps more important is the application of Challenge Based Learning (CBT).

As if we needed more acronyms in education!

Seriously, however, the primacy of “what the kids do” over the “tools” they use is the secret to success in these projects.

As teachers, we all know that it is today more important to focus on engaging kids in real-world activities and learning that closes the gap between “school learning” and “real learning”. Change in the real-world is also modifying the emerging learning styles we all use and how we all learn. We also know that technological innovations are reengineering the ability sets that kids need to learn – and that these new sets of abilities cut across the boundaries of traditional “school subjects”.

“Challenge” is the key.

We all love challenges, we all love the rush we get when we overcome challenges – and when we can demonstrate what we have created or co-created with others. This is especially true for kids.

This is where CBL comes in.

Apple describe their approach in this way:

Challenge Based Learning is an engaging multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems. Challenge Based Learning is collaborative and hands-on, asking students to work with other students, their teachers, and experts in their communities and around the world to develop deeper knowledge of the subjects students are studying, accept and solve challenges, take action, share their experience, and enter into a global discussion about important issues.

You can find more details on the approach in the “ACOT2 White Paper” – and it offers some great, practical project ideas.

Does it work?

Apple says it does and offers a wide range of teacher “voices” as testimonials.

Actually, many teachers will see elements of Project-Based Learning or even Problem-Based Learning in the various components of CBL. ELT specialists will see elements of Task-Based Learning.

Educators familiar with PBL and TBL know it works!

I don’t really care what acroynym we use – “real learning” is “real learning” – and what the kids “do” in a Mükemmel Sınıf is far more important than the “toys” they get to play with.

Giving kids a challenge is what creates the type of learning they need today – for tomorrow.


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