It's official. We've kicked off 5 weeks of personalized learning for my Level 3 Digital Design students. They are working on HitRecord.com, choosing their own challenges and projects to work on within an online collaborative production company. The company is run by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who starred on Third Rock from the Sun and 500 Days of Summer. Students are working on everything ranging from voice-over work to animation to creative writing. It's exciting and scary, not just for me, but for the students as well. Here's one student's short blog post on the idea of learning in such an unstructured, student-drive way.
Can you say "100% engaged?" I'm incredibly eager to watch this unfold. I can already see that certain students need help staying focused and getting down to work during each class period, but they are in the minority. Out of 19 students in the class I would say this is true for 2 students. I am telling them the most successful people in life, the busiest, the CEO's of the world, do so well because of a process called "Time Chunking." So, instead of chastising them for goofing off, we talk about ways that we can learn the skill of time chunking and what advantage they have when they put their focus on one task for an extended period of time. Efficiency goes way up and so does knowledge gained.
On the first day of independent work time today, they came in, opened up their computers and dove right in. Students are at different places in the process, but all or working.
Three Strategies for Creating Structure
The first document I provided for my students was a Template of the document I used this summer when I was doing my own independent learning on HitRecord, called "Choosing a Project." I also provided the example of my own document for them, so they could understand the kinds of information that would be helpful in the document.
The second document is a template for creating a Personal Learning Plan (PLP), a process I was asked to do during my Master's studies in Innovative Learning this summer for Touro University. Here, again, I provided the example of my own work for students to examine.
The third strategy comes in two parts, an ongoing blog to document their work and thoughts, as well as weekly one-on-one meetings with me to assess how they are progressing, what they are learning and how they feel about their work. I plan on creating a template to help facilitate the conversation so that we can arrive at assessments for oral and written communication (10% of the grade), collaboration (10%), agency (40%) and knowledge and thinking (30%). Notice that Agency is a huge part of the grade for this project because of how student driven it is.
Interestingly, most students are picking projects that they know will challenge them. When students choose projects that they feel would be too easy for them, they seem to be bringing that my attention when we look at their PLP together, as if they want me to push them harder. The moment I ask if that will be too easy for them, they change their minds and begin looking for a new, more challenging project. The very real consequence of being bored with the work sits squarely on their shoulders, a motivating factor that should not be discounted.
The very real consequence of being bored with the work sits squarely on their shoulders...
I'm really eager to see where this takes each of them and whether this will be a meaningful journey. My gut says that this could be quite amazing. I wonder what we will learn!