Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Powerful Mindsets: The 4 C's through Breakout EDU

My first thought, when I heard about Breakout EDU was, “Hum...another game.” I want learning to be engaging and thought provoking. In my mind, games tend to have a limit to the depth of knowledge it could render. Nevertheless, I placed it on my list of things to present to Teachers.

When I decided to present Breakout EDU to Teachers, it was solely for the purpose of measuring the 4 Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity). We are a 4 Cs school district that embraces strategic processes to cultivate student-centered learning opportunities. My ultimate goal for this platform was to measure the productivity of group work. Keep in mind, group work at the elementary level remains a skill that should be modeled and refined based on the data curated from previous observations of a task. Maintaining a mindset of a classroom Teacher is pertinent for me, if I expect to gain traction for the goals that I set for myself and ultimately students. Most Educators seek digital tools, instructional practices, and learning models that will move the needle forward for their students, in addition to, strategies to engage and enhance the learning process for a student-centered learning environment. Breakout EDU has provided those needs for my colleagues and our students.

Consequently, the lessons that I bring to the learning environment must have a digital tool and literacy component that allows me to capture Learners’ skillsets. As an Instructional Tech Coach and credentialed Reading Specialist, in my district we are challenged to increase reading levels for all grade levels. Therefore, I seek out occasions for measuring the two, especially for our Little Ones.

Breakout EDU and Communication (C1)
Providing the opportunity for the Littles to apply this competency needs to be regularly modeled in order to prepare them for group work in a Breakout EDU activity. Without building this fundamental competency, Second graders could respond to this question in the following manner: What did you learn about yourself while working with your group?

  • “That I need to be nice to people”
  • “That I need help”
  • “I learned about myself is that I can solve things when someone is listening to me.”

Granted, these responses and the ones that follow resulted from a Breakout EDU at the end of April 2017. Based on this data, I believe that the Breakout EDU challenges can also be used to measure where Learners are with each competency. Also, this activity renders evidence that Learners need to experience in order to identify what they are capable of achieving independent of the teacher.

Breakout EDU and Collaboration (C2)
Collaboration is an extension of communication and is designed to increase comprehension and deepen thinking in order for the learning process to become richer and meaningful. The lack of effective collaboration for our Littles can quickly evolve into power struggles. Power struggles could result in a complete shutdown lacking productivity and sharing of information and ideas. As facilitators of a Breakout EDU activity, we have the privilege of collecting observational data regarding power struggles. An element of our roles is to ask probing and clarifying questions that will reconnect the Learner to the purpose of the task, while valuing everyone's contributions to the goal at hand. Questions to examine the climate of a disconnected learning environment could consist of the following:

  • “I noticed that there is a lot of activity within your group. How is it helping you move forward? Share with me your ideas for moving forward.”
  • “There is so much energy in your group. Is this strategy assisting you in achieving your goal? How so?”
  • “Your group looks very thoughtful. What tools or strategies have you considered using to assist you in solving this problem?”

Using Questioning strategies for conflict resolution provides the opportunity for Learners to shift their current mindset and creates an opportunity for them to take a moment to reflect upon their current position...stagnation! After all, according to a Johnson and Johnson study in 2009, “The power of collaborative learning is to be operational and cultivate relationships.”

Breakout EDU and Critical Thinking (C3)
Critical thinking is a skill in which Learners, regardless of grade level or age, if they have successfully implemented C1 and C2, they have acquired the momentum to be focused and engaged in convergent thinking. In reality, at this stage Learners are analyzing, evaluating, organizing, and implementing strategies to shatter impediments to get to the next level! When Learners are taught early how to invite their peer’s thinking into the inquiry process, they step through this threshold with confidence to solve problems and build the confidence of their peers exponentially. As a result, when 3rd graders are asked the following question, “What did you learn about yourself while working with your group?” Responses from them might look like these:

  • “I learned that I was thinking more than I usually do”
  • “I am good at problem solving”
  • “I learned that I can do problems.”

Think about it. The human brain will flag the user when something is not quite right and will automatically shift their current position to a pathway of devising a solution. Amazing...right?!

Breakout EDU and Creativity (C4)
Creativity is the stage where the visual of the vision increases its focus of the task. The visual of the vision in the previous competencies can become nebulous without interventions in place. This is why classroom facilitators should take the time to cultivate each competency, because each one is impacted by the other. Creativity allows Learners to engage in a system of covert thinking that is reflective of an overt behavior, which could cause the group to move forward. This is an explosive stage for our Learners. If you do not believe me, take note of their physical behavior when a solution is on the rise! The propensity of knowledge converges on the learning environment and the Learner embraces the type of thinking that is ongoing in order to produce a product that others could benefit from. Although, the trajectory of a solution may cause the Learner to return to the drawing board to reconsider what might not be working efficiently. Therefore, when the Learner finds his or herself at the drawing board, “The important thing is not to stop questioning,” (Albert Einstein 1955) in order to move forward.

Providing opportunities for Learners to grow and thrive in these competencies will cause students to say:

  • “I learned about my group is that when they are working they are good.” (2nd grade)
  • “That we all tried our hardest.” (2nd grade)
  • “I learned that you should never argue.” (3rd grade)
  • “I learned that working with new people can be fun.” (3rd grade)
  • “I felt smarter” (4th grade)
  • “When I did the Breakout, I learned that working with other people helped others if confused.” (4th grade)
  • “That I would be good at something if you try.” (5th grade)
  • “I learned that I can think harder than before” (5th grade)
  • “I was trying my best at every single one I was also very interested” (5th grade)

The most compelling evidence in the implementation of challenges like Breakout EDU activities are the development of competencies and skillsets that the Learner is capable of identifying for themselves. Creating safe learning environments for Learners to learn about themselves and others in order to promote “all things good” in the environment is nothing shy of perseverance and tenacious for the betterment of a thriving society!

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Debra Peters
TK-12 Instructional Tech Coach
Hesperia, Ca.

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