Problem solving is the most important 21st Century Skill that I hope my students retain for the future. 21st Century teachers spend less time creating presentations and more time crafting powerful learning activities in which students collaborate and think for themselves. Student assessment shows that material is covered with more depth and retention the first time around, saving time and energy in the long run. Students use higher level thinking skills and by doing so experience those awesome aha moments in education that every teacher dreams about seeing. By allowing my students to explore and design, I show that I believe in their abilities and validate each student’s contribution to the class. Students work harder when they are actively engaged in a project and believe that someone has high expectations for their work.
In technology-infused discovery activities, Internet research, virtual manipulatives, and multimedia resources allow students to explore unanswered questions. For example, sophomores will learn to use Monterey to help organize their research and annotate articles as they work on a topic of their choice. The online software program will replace notecards, notebooks, and copy machine folders of research, and help students access what they are studying in a more timely manner.
Creating the presentation will provide a choice of multi-media programs: Animoto, i-Movie, cell phone videoes, digital pictures, screenshots of graphs and drawings, music clips, clips of interviews or aha moments that students discovered while doing the research are just a few possibilities.
Students may also use online programs for creating citations and bibliographies.
Discovery activities give students real-world, problem-solving experience and ownership. Problem solving active learning allows them to bring their observations into the subsequent lesson, discussion, or creation activity as prior knowledge.
Class assessment of student presentations and projects created, self assessments by individual or group members, and teacher assessments of what the student(s) accomplished through the project can be a positive learning experience. Students may see what weak areas they need to improve in the next problem solving activity. They may also bask in the spotlight created by the success of what they have accomplished.