How to Help Primary Students Become Innovators

How to Help Primary Students Become Innovators

Annie Barrows, EdTech Integration Specialist at Clarion School has written a wonderful article on the value of innovation for Primary students. Miss Barrows has won the GESS 2017 award for the Best Use of ICT/e-learning in the Classroom for her innovative technology program. She was also a finalist for the GESS innovation in Education Award for 2018.

Innovation. It is a buzzword in education, in the business world and in the UAE. But there is also some confusion over what it really means. To me, Innovation is quite simply defined as creative problem-solving. For the last ten years, helping students to become innovators has been my passion and driving force. Innovation is a skill that can, and absolutely needs to be taught to students. Schools need to start teaching this skill not just is high school, but in the primary years. We can’t just keep doing thins the same way and expect things to change and evolve, If we want our students to make the change, we need to change the way we teach to foster innovation.

My ideas and beliefs on innovation have been strongly influenced by leaders in the field. Tony Wagner and AJ Juliani being the top two. Tony Wagner is the author of: “Most likely to Succeed and Creating Innovators”. AJ Juliani is the creator of : Genius Hour and a leader in the filed of innovation in education. Some of their ideas are different, but they share common themes. We need to start by letting students “Play”. Expose students to different materials, tools. and technologies and just let them play. Let students find what they like to do, and what they are passionate about, Adults who are innovators know what their interests and talents are, and know how to use them to create, and accomplish things. Creating the opportunity for students to play and experiment to find their passion and interests is the pace to start.

After students have found their passion and interests, give your students at least an hour a week to spend working on a project of their choice. If its something they are interested in, they will want to do it. Students will do the necessary research, they will evaluate, compile data, they will make the calculation, they will learn the new skills needed, they will do the write – up. Students will do whatever is necessary if it’s something they are passionate about and something they want to work on. So devoting the time in your schedule to giving students the opportunity to work on a project of their choice, helps the students to develop their passions and see a purpose for their learning.

The final way to help students to innovate is to teach them to use design thinking, Design thinking is using the design process to create. There are different versions of this, but they all contain three main parts: plan, make, share. Depending on the age of your students, and amount of time they have to work, they may go through that cycle various times. To get students familiar with using the design process, begin by giving them design challenges.

One of my favorite design challenges was to have a third-grade class create something to make a chore they don’t like doing easier. Groups tarted bu coming up with a plan for what they wanted to build. After the plan was complete, students started building. After they had a good start, students showed their designs to another group and got some feedback. Taking the feedback into consideration, students went back to the drawing board and adapted their original plan. Students then had one more design sprint to finish their project. After projects were completed, students came together to share. Sharing is a critical part of the design process because it helps to give purpose and an audience for a project. One group built a small dishwashing machine. One group created a video with instructions on how to quickly make a bed in the morning. One group coded robots to help guide them on their route to school. Students were given a challenge and used the design process and their interests to create a solution.

Once students have had some practice with more structured design challenges, you can model how to find problems in your community to solve. Start by walking around the school together and identifying some problems. Innovators are not only problem solvers, but they are problem finders. Practice finding problems together, and then use design thinking to develop solutions to those problems. When working with a grade two class to come up with a problem they wanted to solve, they identified the problem of things constantly going missing and getting lost from their classroom. A simple, yet age-appropriate problem for second graders. When students are able to identify problems in their own community and use design thinking to develop solutions, innovation becomes a common practice in the school.

Innovation is a skill all schools need to be teaching their students, to prepare students for jobs and technologies that haven’t been invented yet. Schools can start by allowing students to play and explore to find what they are interested in, and what they are passionate about. Once students have found their passion, they need to be given time in the school day to use their talents to work on a project of their choice. This gives them an opportunity to see a purpose for their learning. The final piece to helping students become innovators is to teach them to use design thinking. When design thinking becomes habitual way of thinking, students are seeing their community around them as a place where they can use their talents and passions to solve problems. Creative problem- solving, is what innovation is all about.

Also featured on: https://www.edarabia.com/how-to-help-primary-students-become-innovators/ 

 

 

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Collaboration in Classroom Leads to Future Success at Workplaces

Collaboration in Classroom Leads to Future Success at Workplaces

When children are working together towards a common goal rather than competing against one another, they see themselves as part of a group and have a better sense of community.

Education today looks different than it did thirty years ago, and with technology moving ahead at lightning speeds and our world becoming more global, one skill is emerging as the key to the future: Collaboration. Clarion School is leading progressive teaching practice workshops in its weekly professional development sessions to foster collaboration for teachers and parents as part of its preparing students for the future.

No one knows exactly what colleges will teach, what offices will look like, or which fields will have the most career opportunities, but one think that is certain is that those who are most able to collaborate will be valued in any academic and professional environment. Working with others is important for many reasons, and the core skills involved are ones that can be practiced as early as preschool. Teamwork leads to more sophisticated learning, a respect for diversity and heightened communication skills, not to mention it creates more memorable learning experiences.

When children work in groups, they often come up with ideas that they would not imagine on their own. Facilitated by teachers, even very young children can brainstorm ideas and then build sophisticated projects around a central concept. They use the ideas of other students to inspire their own thinking, and they problem-solve together. When children are working together towards a common goal rather than competing against one another, they see themselves as part of a group and have a better sense of community.

When we see schools, companies and other institutions emphasizing diversity, it is not simply because it is a trendy thing to do. It turns out that people who have opportunities to collaborate with others who are different from them develop a stronger sense of empathy and are more open-minded in their approach to learning. They also learn different ways to do things that can benefit them in future collaborative environments. In the classroom, children who work collaboratively learn early on that there are many ways to learn and that everyone has areas of strength. Working with others builds their sense of self and makes them more compassionate towards others.

As students move through school, it becomes increasingly important that they become strong communicators, both in writing and in speaking. Collaboration helps them develop this skill early on. Children have to explain their thinking to classmates and practice listening to others. They have to synthesize information, come up with plans, delegate responsibilities and work together at every step of the process.  Learning to communicate in a group, even if it takes a great deal of teacher scaffolding in early years, means that children can grow to be thoughtful, flexible, confident collaborators.

Lastly, beyond the benefits of these skills, collaboration is usually quite enjoyable. When children are having fun, they engage more actively in the task at hand, and they remember the experience. Social interactions motivate children, and motivated children learn better. While we cannot predict the future, we know that a collaborative future is a bright one.

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Motivation: How to Inspire Learning

Intrinsic motivation has been studied for decades, with an increasing push and pull between how society structures education and how children naturally learn best.

As adults and parents, we could all point to moments in our week when we engage in a task because it is a required task, with external factors motivating us, and when we engage in a task because we are personally motivated to do so. Children have this experience, too. They know, from early on, that there are things that they have to do and things that they love to do.

Part of human development is learning to balance these two types of motivators, but often school settings, particularly those that place an emphasis on final products and test scores, value performance over process and can minimize the deep by undervaluing intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation has been studied for decades, with an increasing push and pull between how society structures education and how children naturally learn best. The problem is not simply that when you motivate children externally they lose some of the joy in learning process; it also undermines their self-confidence, and anxiety and insecurity enter into the spaces where curiosity and problem-solving should be developing.

As we begin to push back on the overscheduling of activities and cut back on homework for children in elementary school, we can make more room for learning based on intrinsic motivation. Project-based learning and interdisciplinary studies also create opportunities in the classroom for children to explore their own interests, build on their ideas and collaborate with others. As parents, we have all seen what our child looks like when he or she is extremely motivated by something. It could be a praying mantis discovered in a garden that occupies an afternoon of observation, then research, and finally an art project or story. It could be a yearlong passion for rockets that involves creating a rocket launch in the garden and testing the trajectory of various homemade rockets. Regardless of your child’s specific interest, you probably know what he or she looks like when exploring it. Time falls by the wayside, one thought leads to another, and ideas, questions and possible solutions begin to flow.

This is what a psychologist and university professor, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, has described as being in a state of flow when he published his research linking learning to intrinstic motivation. It is what Adam Grant describes in his research into creativity, and is what we see in the children who work in collaborative, progressive schools similar to those featured in the film, Most Likely to Succeed. If you are interested in learning more about the connection between motivation, learning and critical thinking skills, these names are great resources, as our description only scratches the surface.

With so much research on the importance of this type of learning state to develop problem-solving skills and a passion for learning, it is crucial that schools pay attention to their curriculum and identify opportunities for students. Every child is different in how they learn best, but the experience they have when they drive their own learning is universal. It is our job as educators to create a community that balances skills with a fulfilling journey of self-discovery.

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Responsive Classroom: A Home-School Connection

Responsive Classroom: A Home-School Connection

Responsive Classroom can also help at home. Rather than having rules, many families are adopting the concept of a family contract from these classroom communities.

At Clarion School, our teachers use a program called Responsive Classroom to build a positive classroom environment and a sense of community. Responsive Classroom is a program that helps teach children how to be part of a group. It gives them a sense of responsibility and belonging while also creating structure and consistency in their learning from day to day and year to year. Some of the main components of Responsive Classroom are easy to incorporate into your home life, too. Your children can become the teachers as they implement some of the activities into their daily lives.
Meeting is one of the main components of Responsive Classroom. During meeting, students greet one another and share something based on a specific topic. Sometimes they play games or do other fun activities. At home, you can practice doing different greetings each morning based on what your children have learned at school. Some examples that are easy to do at home are:

  • a foreign language greeting – each person in the group greets the person next to them by saying hello in a foreign language
  • a handshake/high five/fist bump greeting
  • the knock-knock greeting, using the typical knock-knock joke to say hello to someone

Activity is a favorite part of meeting. Children love learning new activities and choosing from them each morning. Often, these activities include songs and promote social interaction, memory and movement. Some examples are games that involve lists, like the Going on a Trip game where each person adds something to bring on the trip, making the list progressively harder, or songs with movement like Tony Chestnut. Have your child teach you some favorite activities and try them at home!
Some of the management tools from Responsive Classroom can also help at home. Rather than having rules, many families are adopting the concept of a family contract from these classroom communities. Rules that result in punishment can feel negative. Having a family contract of desired conduct, and then following up on bad behavior with logical consequences, is much more effective. In the classroom, all the children work personally on their hopes and dreams for the year. They then come together and discuss how they can best achieve these goals, and what type of classroom environment will help them. They come up with desired behaviors and group these into categories, which become the guidelines for classroom behavior. Some examples include “Take care of our belongings,” “Treat others as you want to be treated,” “Listen when others are speaking,” and “Put your best effort into your work.”
When these guidelines are broken, it can be easy to jump to punishment, but Responsive Classroom emphasizes logical consequences which are more effective and meaningful. They also give children a chance to make a positive difference and a better choice moving forward. If you ask your child about school, you may hear examples of these consequences. Here are a couple concrete examples:

  • A child knocks another child’s lunch tray to the ground. That child helps clean up and helps her classmate get more food.
  • A child is not being safe with scissors. That child makes a sign about scissor safety for the classroom.
  • A child is disruptive in line. That child walks with the teacher.

Logical consequences are growth opportunities rather than punishments. At home, it means changing language from negative language such as “go to your room” to more positive language of “let’s see how we can fix this.” Children feel empowered and good about themselves where punishments can do the opposite.
While the classroom setting and home setting have clear differences, some of these strategies can build communication in your family and create a more cooperative home environment. They also help children understand empathy and foster resilience and independence. Lastly, children will love sharing the skills they learn in school with their family!

 

 

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