Monday, October 4, 2010

Thinking Big

The theme of our fourth professional cluster group was Still Looking for a Big Idea?  Look to the Mission.  The main purpose of the PCGs is to foster the Challenge Based Learning model in order to develop Tony Wagner's Seven Survival Skills.

*The tip of the day was Rubistar, a handy site for whipping up customized rubrics.  I've become a fairly heavy user of rubrics with my Challenge Based Learning projects.  I find that they are very effective for group self-evaluations, particularly if they can be customized to fit the team's unique goals.  I also like to use them to evaluate slide presentations, since I lay out very clear guidelines for students to follow.

* I also presented a brief but important technology piece on sharing Google Docs.  I was pleased to show a recent example of a brainstorming session that I initiated.  The subject was "Reimagining Detroit."  This allowed for a natural segue to the main theme-- The Big Idea.

* Every Challenge Based Learning project begins with a "big idea."  After reviewing the  department notes on our staff wiki, it seemed to me that many of the discussions lacked a gripping challenge for students.  Rather, the discussions seemed to revolve around project possibilities that would result in pre-determined results that the departments were already trying to accomplish through traditional means.  I wanted to use the PCGs to brainstorm truly big ideas that would cut across disciplines and inspire a stronger sense of engagement.  I think that a good challenge should not carry a hidden agenda (i.e., students will gain "x" information or come to "y" conclusion).

So I decided attempt a break out from this stagnant brainstorming process.  In the PCG, I reviewed some big ideas that were generated om the interdisciplinary discussion threads on the wiki and suggested others that AI based based on our school mission.  We broke into pairs to brainstorm at least one original idea that could cut across at least four disciplines.  The results were terrific, and I will publish them in my next post (Oct. 6).  I have a scheme for leveraging them and would love to have reader feedback.  In the mean time, here are the slides from the presentation:

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