Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What is the big idea behing the 4C's?

Are we missing the big picture?

Growing up in California, I enjoyed going to the beach.  During the summer I rarely saw my parents as I would wake up early, go to the beach, come home for dinner, and get to bed early so I could wake up and do it again the next day.  While I was at the beach I would paddle, dive, stand, and turn.  It was the best time ever.

There are many ways to do the 4 activities that I did at the beach.  In fact they could be done in a pool if you wanted to.  Some of you got the point, I grew up surfing.  It is possible to understand how people could read this and have missed the point.  When we think of the 4C's (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity) there are many ways to do them, but what are we actually talking about doing?

All he did was paddle, stand, and turn! Wasn't it amazing how he did though?

What is the big picture?
Design thinking.  If you have ever read or experienced design thinking, you have seen how it encapsulates the 4C's.  If not, then I recommend learning more about design thinking.

My point is step back and look at the cards on the table, in my example there are 4 (paddling, diving, standing, and turning).  These 4 activities can be done in such a way that is horribly boring and in no way innovative or intriguing, or they can be done in such a way as to produce the experience of surfing which, if you have done it, you understand the thrill.

In the realm on the 4 C's, it is possible to embed these in your class like a checklist.  Yes, everyday my students talk, there is work together time, there is problem solving time (worksheet), and there is creativity time (playdough).  The day is a success because I did all the 4C's, but it sucked for kids and did it increase their learning?  When these are done in such a way that the students themselves become innovators, that is where the design thinking element comes into play.

What is design thinking?

I would not say that I am an authority on that.  Reason being is that I would not want to dilute the things that I have heard and experienced.  What I can give you is how it applies to me, but please read, watch, and learn for yourself as it will inspire you in your own way.
I am the Interim Director of EdTech in my district.  My job focuses on getting teachers to transform their classes with the technology that is available to them.  In the past 2 years, we have placed 27,000 chromebooks in the classrooms and trained every teacher who has a chromebook cart in their class.  We have trained them on tools to collaborate, communicate, and create in their classes with their students.  We discuss SAMR and redefining the classroom through the use of technology.  We have limited the number of programs that we have taught as the sheer number of programs did not help us reach our goal of reaching and inspiring more teachers.  We have focused on a few programs and student creation.  If students are creating, truly innovating and making something new, then they need to be communicating, collaborating, and thinking critically.

So how does SAMR fit into Design Thinking?

It doesn't necessarily.  If technology is involved, we tend to ask how much autonomy do students have?  How much of what they do can be done without technology?  Are students reaching out beyond their physical limitations and looking to the internet for other authoritative sources, professionals, authors, etc.  What are students doing, creating, or being allowed to produce?  These are all things that the lens of the  SAMR model affords evaluation.

If SAMR is the WHAT, then design thinking is the HOW and the WHY.  How are students going through the creation process.  Why do they feel the need to do reach out to a professional, another source, etc.?  The are doing this because they are in the process of design.  They are asking questions depending upon where they are in the process.  SAMR is great as it is a reflective piece, answer the question, Are we innovating, but the design thinking process answer the question of how and why are students asking questions and pursuing answers to those questions.  I still hold that creation has a process that allows students to authentically communicate, collaborate, and think critically.  The design thinking process is an amazing model of how students and teachers can go through the creation process.

Have I missed the big idea?  

As I look back now and learn more about design thinking as a frame for how to get students creating I think that I understood the big picture, I needed a more concrete method of explaining it.  Does that mean that I have failed? Yes. Does that mean I am actively engaging in design thinking? Yes.  I am constantly learning and that is OK.

So what are the next steps? My team and I have gone out and talked to teachers, observed what they are doing, and gotten an idea of what they want and need.  From there we are going to redefine the integration problem we have and the work to brainstorm, select, prototype, and test solutions to the problem.  This will not be a quick, clean, or simple process.

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