Forward thinking K-12 institutions are already teaching students about collaboration, design thinking, coding, STEM, and experiential learning. There are, however, other skills that we should consider equipping students with for their multiple career, multi-cultural, and diverse futures. These skills include the ability to negotiate, and the capacity to resolve conflict. Contained within this learning is a capacity for empathetic understanding, logical reasoning, problem solving, articulate presentation of position, and the capacity to change your mind based on evidence or argument presented to you.
Being able to negotiate and resolve conflict necessitates the fairly advanced skills of being able to listen for, understand, and explain the point of view of someone else. If you develop this skill, you are more likely to be able to empathize with that viewpoint as well. In being able to listen to and understand the thinking of others, students should realize the importance of clearly and logically presenting their own point of view to achieve maximum impact with their peer group. A person must be able to listen for understanding, as well as convincingly present ideas so that they can be clearly understood and added to the discussion and deliberative process. If a child can develop these skills, it follows that they can become more competent negotiators and resolvers of conflict.
Almost everything we need or want in life is attained from some form of presentation to, and/or negotiation with, another person. Shouldn’t we equip our children early with these powerful tools?
At the Boulder Center for Interactive Learning at Dawson (BCILD), we are working with a professional in the field of negotiation and conflict resolution to bring these skills in any easily implementable form to lower elementary students. Facilitating the development of these skills in young learners gives them both an opportunity to learn valuable life skills, and an opportunity to practice and implement them in their daily interactions.
Read this very innovative approach of Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) to promoting maker spaces in K-12:
Here is my latest thinking in the K-12 space:
As we aim to teach students how to solve complex problems through critical thinking and design thinking, we enable them to think as individuals but work collaboratively. This profound skill set truly enhances capacity to reason logically within the framework of an ability to comprehensively understand the challenge.
Our capacity as educators to see thinking is often challenging. One solution is to afford students an opportunity to work with physical manipulatives:
In integrating collaborative work in our approach to K-12 education, we are teaching students the benefit of listening, learning from others, coming to consensus on ideas, and other group dynamics. These are all essential skills in group problem solving exercises in school, and in adult project based work. What we should not lose sight of is both valuing the individual as a contributor, and building personal communication skills thereby promoting effective group dialogue and collaboration. It takes a very skilled teacher to nurture the individual as a person of abilities, aptitudes, and evolving capacity while at the same time teaching effective group dynamics. Productive group work is predicated upon individual skills in communication, and group skills in collaboration. We want children to know that their opinions and observations are highly valued, we want them to have the skills to communicate them effectively, and we develop collaborative skills to make project based learning effective.
In early development of these skills, it may well be the case that using physical manipulatives in the classroom facilitates the development of communication skills across curriculum topics. As personal skills in, for example, vocabulary, persuasion, reasoning, and advanced thinking develop, children could use manipulatives to assist them in communicating their ideas with peers. This is evidenced in the example of Kim Haines, 4th grade teacher at Dawson School in Lafayette, CO who used the INTOOBA Construction Kit in developing communication skills in listening, giving directions, providing clarification, and in either being a giver or receiver of information in her math class:
Essentially, teachers can observe individual thinking and development of these essential skills through the use of manipulatives while also noting the child’s functioning within a collaborative setting. Children here are supported in the learning of specific collaborative language through the use of their hands.
Teachers can use the INTOOBA Construction Kit in many ways in their classrooms. They can see how their students are thinking while teaching collaborative skills in mathematics:
4th grade learning HERE
INTOOBA Construction Kit has added instructional videos on You Tube:
Click HERE for You Tube
My article on thinking and collaboration: HERE
The Boulder Center for Interactive Learning at Dawson (BCILD) is building models for how schools can fully integrate themselves into their local communities. All sections of society benefit when K-12 schools think of themselves as an integral part of their local community, communities embrace schools, and students understand that their learning has real world relevance.
STEM in school HERE
Photos of student projects HERE