Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CLASS 62 & Heidi Siwak: The Ken Spencer Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning

Shout out to Class 62 and Heidi Siwak for receiving The Ken Spencer Award! You can follow Heidi on twitter @heidisiwak and read her generous blog: The Amaryillis to see how she cocreates curriculum with her students and meets them 'where they live.'  It takes dedication and empathy to create a classroom of engaged learners. Having Collaborated with them along with Ian Chia and Esa Helttula continues to inspire me.  Even a small meaningful connection with kids can produce positive outcomes. I share this experience with kids I work with here in NYC. THANK YOU! You never know where your CONNECTIONS will lead you. I'm very proud of what you guys accomplished.


In April 2011, the Grade 6 class began a collaborative inquiry with programmers from Australia and Finland and a digital media artist from New York City. Under their mentorship, students created content for their own iPhone application – an augmented-reality tourism app for Dundas, Ontario. As the project evolved, key elements distinguished this meaningful project-
based learning from other classroom learning experiences:

Real Work: From the outset, students recognized that the project was different and were engaged. They had a “real” audience with Apple, and recognized that their work could be rejected if it didn’t meet Apple’s standards. With this intrinsic motivation, students developed a professional work ethic, demonstrated willingness to engage in difficult decision making, and
were committed to high quality work. 

Uncertainty and Chaos: This was pioneering work that hadn’t previously been attempted in a school, so there were no models to follow. The students took ownership of developing processes and the project itself, and were involved in continuous problem solving, including
learning from failures. 

Web 2.0 Tools: The Internet gave students real-time access to experts. We transcended traditional ideas of “teacher” and “learner”. Students and experts shared ideas and problem- solved. They listened carefully when advice was offered, and asked meaningful questions. Blogging, Skype, Twitter, email, and a wiki were used. Global interest in the project grew and transparency was part of the process. Students recognized their responsibility to work with a
sense of professionalism.

Trust, Respect, and Commitment: A genuine sense of teamwork developed. The nature of the project required students to listen to ideas and set egos aside. Social status became irrelevant
as a determinant. Decisions came down to: “would this be good for the app?” 

Disappearance of 20th Century Classroom Models: The nature of learning became dynamic. Work space was privileged based on requirements for the project; gone were traditional concepts of seating plans with the teacher as dominant figure. Free movement was constant, and students independently found their roles within the project. Natural talents and leadership
skills emerged and evolved. 

Students honed their skills in:
*Geography, including a GPS-based mapping system
*Digital photography, photo editing and GPS augmented reality camera system
*Visual arts/interactive design to create user interface
*ICT technology for digital content management
*Project management using online resources (Wordpress, Google Sites)

Other schools have begun to use this project model to create their own apps and websites. Among them, a Grade 4-6 class in Canada, Grade 5 students in Ohio, and a high school Indonesian language class in Australia. The next phase of the project will integrate global classrooms into a shared platform where students around the world can collaborate. The aim is to build a global base of culturally relevant Creative-Commons licensed curriculum. With this platform and model, students will learn digital citizenship skills, develop global awareness and

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cynthia,
    Ken Spencer himself came yesterday to award the prize. The kids were bursting with pride in their accomplishment! We are already thinking about what we can do next. The kids are motivated! What an honour for us to be selected. I am amazed that these students still speak passionately about how this project was different from anything else they have ever done at school. Looking forward to more collaboration.