The Flipped Classroom featured in the conference magazine, solving real problems in the Indonesian rain forests with Willie Smitts as the closing keynote, passion-based learning with Sir Ken Robinson as the conference opener …
The key themes echoed around ISTE12 in San Diego all looked at one central issue: How do we engage young people through the things that interest them? Yet discussions and keynotes rarely veered towards the key issue: What kinds of questions are we asking of our students, and what kinds of questions do we expect our students to answer?
So many of the “essential questions” sought out in project-based learning (PBL, EBL, CBL, and all the other BLs) are not that essential. They’re certainly essential in terms of curriculum coverage. Check. They’re certainly essential in terms of accountability systems being satisfied with an “alternative” way of learning the stuff’ that’s needed for the examinations. Check.
But virtually every “essential question” I observed in almost every example given in workshops, keynotes, and spotlights at one of the globe’s most central education-calendar events was nothing but lower order. So busy are we with the plea to “do things that motivate and engage the passions of learners” that we’re not investing the time, energy, or, frankly, the intellectual effort in really thinking through what questions we want to be asking our young people. And amongst the few people I heard talking about having students asking the questions, thinking around the type of question required is still nascent.
When we’re working with schools on our Design Thinking School programme, one of the easiest ways to explain what we’re looking for in the way a project is set is whether the statement or questions being asked can be Googled easily: Is this a Googleable or Not Googleable topic?
Every topic, every bit of learning, has content that can be Googled, and we don’t want teachers wasting precious enquiry time lecturing that content. We want students, instead, to be using class time to collaborate and debate around the questions that are Not Googleable, the rich higher-order thinking to which neither the textbook nor the teacher know the answers.
One of our schools in Brisbane, Star of the Sea Cleveland, took my throwaway phrase “Googleable / Not Googleable” to a very literal end when they pinned up two headings and got students to post-it each and every question in the class, categorising those which could be searched quickly (the lower-order questions) and those which they should dwell on in class time:
It’s one thing, the teacher working out what essential questions are worth asking. It’s another for the students themselves to take on the responsibility of fathoming what learning is worth learning in class, and what is simply Googleable when it’s needed.
Read more from our Brisbane school, and how the rest of this particular lesson worked out, on our shared blog.