Here is my latest thinking in the K-12 space:
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:
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
Design Thinking, Critical Thinking and other forms of collaborative group work have become popular methods of inquiry in many classrooms. Vital to the success of this work is the ability and willingness of students to: share ideas freely, be open to compromise, be willing to let a strongly held belief go in order to further group progress and consensus, and to realize that different inputs lead invariably to different results.
Using the INTOOBA Construction Kit, I have created a largely non verbal classroom exercise where these topics can be investigated. Establishing non verbal parameters dramatically illustrate how students can communicate the abovementioned concepts through thought and action.
Click HERE for INTOOBA Construction Kit
The purpose of this exercise is to show young learners how they can develop collaborative skills for group project work. Students learn:
• how to appreciate the input of others
• how to give up firmly held ideas to reach consensus
• that different inputs/circumstances/variables lead to different outcomes
Teachers can see how students actively tackle ideas through group manipulative work.
This exercise is done in three non verbal stages, followed by a discussion of the process and outcomes.
The teacher gives students, in groups of 2-6, a task to complete. Using the INTOOBA Construction Kit, students can build a spacecraft, a chair, a bridge. The teacher puts the manipulative material in front of the students, and explains that this process occurs in three non verbal steps.
Step 1: Student starts by picking up a manipulative and adding a piece to it; it is then passed to the next student in rotation until the task is complete. Students may only add one piece to the construction. Upon completion, a visual image of the product is captured for future comparison.
Step 2: The same process is repeated. Only this time, the student may take a turn either by adding a manipulative to, or taking one off, the construction. Capture image.
Step 3: In this final round, students may do either or both adding and subtracting a piece. Capture image.
Class discussion to follow:
• What did it feel like not to be able to communicate verbally?
• What did it feel like if your item was removed by a subsequent participant?
• What did it feel like to remove a piece?
• Discuss how the three outcomes varied and why.
Explorers are taking to the high seas again in two new Kon Tiki rafts. This represents a wonderful learning opportunity for K-12 students in the areas of science, travel, exploration, rafts, history!
Click HERE for Kon Tiki 2!
6th grade students at Dawson School in Lafayette, CO collaborated with Western Disposal, a local business, in a community problem solving by design exercise to find an actionable solution to trash management: Click HERE for article.
This effort illustrates how school students can partner with local businesses to try to find solutions to local community challenges. BCILD is committed to helping schools integrate critical thinking, design thinking, and other problem solving techniques into classrooms through increased interactions with local community members.