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Collab Lab 51: Recap and Notes

Collab Lab 51 attendees explored the hopes and fears attendees commonly express having when it comes to letting students drive the issues that are the focus of their learning. 

What do we hope for when we offer students the opportunity to pursue issues they are passionate about?

What fears might hold us back from doing so? 

Hopes

Across the discussion groups we heard a number of common themes among the hopes that were expressed — that students feel heard, they are motivated and engaged in work that is meaningful to them, they have the opportunity to discover what it is that they do care about, that the work allows them to build the skills, confidence, and empathy to take on more complex challenges. 

We also heard hopes for what that process could look like — that students have a chance to iterate and learn from missteps along the way, that we are able to design and support project based learning experience effectively, with scaffolding in place that allows students to take on the work, that teachers are equipped and supported as they do this work with students.  The overarching paradigm for participants is that student driven issues would drive the process of project based learning: allowing students to discover their passions and to let those passions drive their education.

Fears

Moving forward to create opportunities for student driven work won’t happen if we don’t recognize and address the fears that hold us back as teachers. 

Chief among those is that a lack of structure on an open ended project could lead to chaos, with some students left behind. Our participants also worry school or district leadership won’t recognize what’s going on in the classroom as productive learning, that it deviates from curriculum, that we won’t hit standards, and don’t have the right tools to evaluate student learning progress. Other fears center on the challenges we might offer students — what if the topic fails to engage them, we don’t have the time or support to pull it off, or are blocked by competing curriculum demands.

Participants also noted fears students themselves might have — how they will know if they are making progress, that they won’t get “the right answer”, that it feels weird to take on work that is by nature open-ended.

Next Steps

Our final question of the evening focused on what one might do in the next 30 days to push things forward.  For our participants, the key to moving forward is building the support to take some risks and align resources that can both support and inspire students in their work. That’s the hard work that teachers find difficult to navigate individually. 

The inspirEd Community recently established a Collab Lab group to explore these and other topics in a community setting. Consider joining the Community if this sounds like something that could help you in your teaching. 

Acknowledgements

We are especially grateful to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

  • Leslie Fee – Talent Manager – Development, J.W. Speaker
  • Clintel Hasan – Strategic Initiatives Manager, Milwaukee Succeeds, GMF
  • Maria Hamidu – High School Success Project Coordinator, Milwaukee Succeeds, GMF
  • Adam Hengel – Coordinator of Instructional Services, West Allis/West Milwaukee School District
  • Chad Johnson – CEO and Founder of Tip-a-Script, Milwaukee

Thanks again to MSOE’s STEM Center for hosting our Collab Lab series this season.

Collab Lab 50: Recap & Notes

We hit a milestone with last Thursday’s Collab Lab — our 50th session since we started in the summer of 2016!  Thanks to all the attendees who were there to celebrate with us in person.

The focus for the evening was Community Engaged Science for K12 students (AKA community engaged research or citizen science) — what do we hope students might gain, what assets we can bring to bear to support the work, and what we can do in the short term to move towards those goals.

We started the conversation by asking participants what community engaged science means to them.

Beyond goals such as “the chance to see what professionals are working on and how they approach their research”, beyond “opportunities to engage in or contribute to research efforts that extend beyond the classroom”, and even beyond “:giving students a chance to connect with scientists in industry, higher education or government agencies”, was the idea that the community is engaged in deciding the issues to focus community research and science on

That set us up nicely to talk about our goals for students.

Goals for students

Participants had a broad range of goals for student involvement with community engaged science.  From those several common themes emerged:

  • We want students to see that they can make contributions, that science is something they can participate in, and that scientific understanding can empower them to be more effective citizens who can take on issues in their community and become stewards of the environment,
  • We want students to see that they can be lifelong learners, that there are broad opportunities to apply scientific knowledge and skills, and that they can make connections with working scientists in the community who might serve as role models or mentors.
  • We want this work to bring diverse voices, perspectives, and ways of knowing into conversations within science and and the focus areas for that work.
  • Finally, we want students to experience the joy that can come from scientific investigation, discovery, and understanding.

The question then becomes: “where are the scientists, the voices and perspectives, that we as educators may include in student inquiry projects?”

Assets we know

We took advantage of the broad mix of folks in the room to inventory the assets available to Milwaukee students and teachers. It turns out, there are a lot of resources and programs to explore ideas and connect with partners who can support community engaged science.

Just consider this (not curated) list:

  • Business/Professionals
  • Higher-ed, nonprofits
  • Badger State Science & Engineering Fair
  • natural world
    • school yard
    • rivers, trails, & parks
  • community partners
    • multi-visit
    • relationship follow-up
  • curriculum (training and capacity needed)
    • Project Lead The Way
  • school Leadership teams, teachers, admin & district staff
  • teacher experts
  • extracurricular & interest groups
  • local science projects (water inquiry project) SIFTR
  • Other schools’ older & younger students
  • media/news
  • local science experts
    • academia
    • local government
    • nonprofits
  • Parks
  • museums
  • nature centers
  • field experiences
  • Green Schools Consortium
  • Funding
    • United way
    • Donors choose
    • ESSER Funds
    • NSF
    • MMSD (funds for green schools projects)
    • Wisconsin DNR
    • WSST
    • NRF
  • Partners/Physical Resources

How do we move forward?

Just knowing (or just now learning about) assets that are available, is nice but not very useful. We wrapped up the conversation by asking “What can we do in the next 30 days to get closer to your vision for community engaged science for K-12 students?” All of our discussion identified some version of “Continue the conversation with the folks I met here” as a key next step. This could be to: learn more about what another school or teacher(s) is doing, availability of programming or expertise offered by community partners, or for those partners, ways to better understand the needs and goals of educators.


Acknowledgements

We are especially grateful to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Jessica Knackert – Volunteer Coordinator, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Peter Lenaker – Physical Scientist, USGS
Christopher Simenz – Practicum Coordinator, Clinical Professor, Marquette University
Bernardo Traversari – Director of Science Outreach, Edgewood College
Adriana Vázquez – Director of Education & Public Programs, Milwaukee Public Museum

Thanks again to MSOE’s STEM Center for hosting our Collab Lab series this season.

Be part of the Conversation

If you like the topics we select every month and would like to be part of the conversation, we invite you to join us next time for Collab Lab 51 (RSVP). We’ll explore how we can let students drive issues that are the focus of their work (essential component of inquiry based learning, student voice, project based learning). Come share your experience if you are practicing student inquiry with your students, or join the conversation by asking your questions to expand your thinking about how your peers do this and why they believe in this approach. 

Join us by RSVPing here

Collab Lab 49: Recap & Notes

Community Engaged Learning starts with a conversation

Our vision of Community Engaged Learning, an evolution of Project Based Learning for K-12, recognizes a role for both near-peer mentors and industry mentors. This essential role supports and coaches students over the course of the projects they take on. We believe that there’s a big difference between simply having folks show up at a school, and inviting them to play an effective role in the process for students and teachers. It is so important in our view that we decided to kick off our 7th season of Collab Labs at MSOE’s STEM Center last Thursday with a discussion focused on the roles of mentorswhat successful mentoring looks like, and what it takes to get there.

Participants included K-12 educators, professionals engaged in mentoring, or working with organizations that provide or support mentors, or engage with schools in other ways. We were also glad to welcome additional community members in a joint effort with Foureva Media’s to use the Collab Lab as their Foureva Movement’s October meetup. By chance or circumstance, the group included several mentor/mentee pairs, who were able to provide additional meaning for the discussion.

Personal experience

We began the evening with a discussion of participants’ own experiences with, or as a mentor, and what they took away from that involvement. We’re not surprised anymore that our ‘kitchen table format’ consistently enables attendees to ‘go deep’ within 15 minutes of sitting down with complete strangers. Our participants observed:

  • There’s a gatekeeping role in terms of who has access to support students
  • Systemic racism impacts who has access to mentors, who mentors are willing to serve, and expectations about how those relationships should occur
  • The role of the teacher is different than that of mentors, and an outside mentors can often motivate students in ways a teacher cannot
  • The continuity of mentor/mentee relationships can anchor students who might otherwise have disconnected relationships with family
  • Mentors can provide the confidence students need to push through challenges
  • Time is a limited resource, so we need to look for relationships that can offer the maximum impact within those constraints
  • Stats show: People who’ve had mentors are more likely to take leadership roles
  • Definitions of mentoring vary, but what is key is the mentor/mentee relationship
  • A young person needs to trust a mentor as a friend
  • Mentors need to be able to listen
  • Mentors can empower students by giving them a voice
  • Mentors need to be open to “accepting the call” from a student
  • Barriers between the community and school get in the way of mentorship opportunities

Goals for Mentors and Students

With this as context, we asked participants to capture what they see as the goals behind building mentor/mentee relationships with students. We ask this not just from the perspective of what we want for students, but what we hope mentors gain from the experience.

For students, we hope for:

Support

  • I want students to see how to be there for yourself
  • I want students to feel heard, empowered
  • I want students to see “professional interaction, and learn to function as a group to build each other up, solve problems, and change the world
  • I want students to feel like they are not alone, that they are supported and wanted
  • I want students to feel loved and that people care about them
  • I want students to have access to supports they may not have at home

Acceptance/Validation

  • I want students to feel freedom of exploration
  • I want students to see its ok to be a little different
  • I want them to experience their own ideas in real life
  • I want students to feel included
  • I want students to feel comfortable
  •  I want students to feel that they matter and they can create a future beyond where they may be now

Variety

  • I want students to experience different opportunities that spark their curiosity
  • I want students to see other role models, learn STEM and life skills
  • Diversity in thought
  • I want students to experience life outside of central Milwaukee
  • I want students to experience representation for all/diversity

Perspective

  • I want students to experience a different viewpoint
  • I want students to see someone close in age
  • I want students to see other avenues to be successful
  • I want students to see personality

Inspiration/Resilience

  • I want students to see what’s possible, that they can do anything
  • I want students to see the opportunities available to them to be successful
  • I want students to feel excited, encouraged, heard
  • I want students to experience success
  • Bring something different out of them
  • I want students to experience opportunities for curiosity
  • I want students to see a path forward without telling them explicitly– questions and guidance
  • I want students to be curious, to experience opportunities that challenge, and push themselves to think critically and learn new perspectives
  • I want students to experience what they can be outside of what they typically experience

Real Life

  • I want students to see people/adults with similar backgrounds and experiences doing what they’ve dreamed (or just thought) of doing
  • I want students to experience every day living
  • I want students and mentors to see the humanness/the light in each other
  • I want students to experience real life/hands on personal growth/learning
  • I want students to learn social responsibility and critical thinking
  • I want mentors to feel an emotional rush/connection

For mentors, we hope for:

Fulfillment

  • I want mentors to feel they are making a difference
  • I want mentors to feel a connection
  • I want mentors to experience the joy of young people, to see their success and personal growth, to learn from students
  • I want mentors to feel that their time invested in you makes a difference
  • I want mentors to view mentorship as part of their legacy
  • I want mentors to feel capable, confident, energized, that they grow through the experience
  • I want mentors to experience the confidence that they have helped build.
  • I want mentors to see transformation in a mentee, to experience the feeling of impacting some else’s life, to feel like they made a difference
  • I want mentors to see the civic and social potential of their professional lives
  • I want mentors to see that they are part of how to change the community in a positive way
  • I want mentors to experience their impact, to feel empowered, to see how excited students are

Perspective

  • I want mentors to overcome the perception of the characteristics of a mentor
  • I want mentors to understand the purpose of mentoring
  • I want mentors to understand that mentorship is for all
  • I want mentors to understand what these relationships do for society
  • I want mentors to be in students lives as a way to show them things they may not always see
  • I want mentors to ask questions
  • I want mentors to see the advantages/disadvantages young people bring with them
  • I want mentors to see the path that a student didn’t see, to look beyond behavior and learn from each other
  • I want mentors to see difference as a positive
  • I want mentors to experience the day of student, and how they function with the peer pressure of today’s students

Understanding

  • I want mentors to understand the greatness of kids
  • I want mentors to see how awesome our kids are, what students can do, and that students are people, not stereotypes
  • I want mentors to see that it is not always about instruction, but helping students see a path forward
  • I want mentors to share their own experiences
  • I want mentors to see that students can do better, they can be taught, they do listen, they do want more
  • I want mentors to broaden their own understanding
  • I want mentors to continue their own learning about other cultures/experiences
  • I want mentors to build empathy for what children are going through today
  • I want mentors to increase their global competency and cultural awareness

Visions for mentoring

From this broad set of goals for students and mentors we asked each discussion group to pick a couple of key goals and create a vision for what a successful mentoring relationship looks like.  Here’s what they came up with:

Table 1

Key goals: To have the experience be authentic for both sides

We know we’re on the right track when we see: Vulnerability, empathy, discourse, engagement

For that we need: A safe environment and clarity on expectations and outcomes

We’ve seen this done well within: Higher Ed programs, Big Brothers/Big SistersWehr Nature CenterOwen’s Place

Table 2

Key goals: Relationship building, showing up, asking questions, relatable

We know we’re on the right track when we see: Balanced interaction, students start conversations

For that we need: Delivery expectations, time to build relationships, trust, and understand diverse ideas

We’ve seen this done well within: Milwaukee Robotics Academy

Table 3

Key goals: Ensuring proper support for mentors; Mentors as a learning support for students

We know we’re on the right track when we see: Mentors are confident with their group and able to interact well; Students are able to use what they learn to drive their success

For that we need: Pathways to connect mentors with schools or a plant to make connections through workshops or conferences; There must be someone in the school who is dedicated to networking– parent coordinator or Assistant Principal; Connect to higher-ed or just one company

Table 4

Key goals: Get to know the students, feeling of safety, shared goals from mentor/mentee

We know we’re on the right track when we see: Everyone feels heard/valued “I see you”; building trust, especially at the beginning

For that we need: Mentors understand boundaries (do’s and don’ts); knowledge; training; a willingness to let go of control; authentically want to be a mentor

Table 5

Key goals: Connections

We know we’re on the right track when we see: Through communications, networking, commitment

For that we need: To build trust, connect mentors & mentees, have a common goal, commitment, networking

We’ve seen this done well within: Glenn Hills Middle School/other public schools; Engineers without Borders; Habitat for Humanity; Peace Corps.

What’s next?

After reading the insightful contributions from the Collab Lab participants above, you might ask yourself: So where does this go from here?

Join us Thursday, October 27th from 4:30 to 5:30 on Zoom for a follow up conversation.  We want to talk through what you heard, what you’d like to act on, and explore how we can lay the groundwork to do so. RSVP


Acknowledgements

We are especially grateful to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Thanks again to MSOE’s STEM Center for hosting our Collab Lab series this season.

Be part of the Conversation

If you like the topics we select every month and would like to be part of the conversation, we invite you to join us next time for Collab Lab 50 (RSVP) when we explore how we can incorporate the notion of Community Engaged Science into the student learning experience.

 

Collab Lab 47: Recap & Notes

Our focus for the Collab Lab 47 was a reflection on what we’ve learned over the first year of our Fellows Program. Prior to the Collab Lab we sat down with a our Fellows for a conversation about what they wanted to get out of the discussion.  The first two questions we settled on are a reflection of where the Fellows see value in the program and partners. 

Too often teachers are offered programming or resources without the recognition of what else might need to be in place, or the additional work required of a teacher to take advantage of  them. Nothing interesting happens in a classroom without a teacher willing to say “yes”, and that comes when we solve problems for teachers.  That lead us to our first question for the evening:

What makes an offering of support for teachers a gift rather than just one more thing to take on?

  • Collaboration
    • share the workload
    • cross pollinate ideas
  • It’s real
    • service learning
    • connected to community
    • multidisciplinary
    • PBL
    • Engages students
    • students work to develop solutions
  • It fills a known gap for the teacher
  • A curriculum framework that:
    • is completed
    • is documented
    • integrates outside expertise that know how to work with students
    • is updated
    • provides a prescription for how to execute with room to flex
  • Provides resources for both students and teachers to execute
  • Helps students develop 21st century skills
  • Builds career connection
  • Field experiences (free is good)
  • Provides access to mentors
  • Kids are engaged and motivated
  • Aligns with standards
  • Provides opportunities for problem solving/authentic learning
  • Can be extension projects
  • Multiple points of alignment/integration with curriculum
  • Provides a chance to showcase the work of students
  • Streamlined partnerships/easily accessed resources
  • Listen first, keep listening
    • find openings
    • point out success teachers have
  • Create Joy
  • Be transparent
  • Extend gratitude
  • Ask for feedback
  • Don’t be scary
    • Goals that differ from teacher
    • time consuming
    • unaware of pacing guide, constraints, or not connected to standards
    • offering doesn’t complement curriculum
    • Too scripted and prescriptive
  • Focus on kids’ learning

Through the Collab Labs and work with program partners over the course of the year, the Fellows see a lot of value in understanding how those outside of education approach parallel problems.  Collaboration is important to the fellows, both in terms of providing a richer set of experiences for their students, and also to share the load with colleagues and to learn from what peers may have tried.  That led us to our second discussion point for the evening:

How do you form a relationship with colleagues conducive to creating a collaborative culture focused on learning?

  • Share successes
  • Create opportunities for shared learning experiences
  • Focus on kids motivation and engagement
  • Provide opportunities for casual, open-ended conversations
  • Make it a regular practice
  • Practice collaboration across different content areas
  • Use student presentations as a chance to collaborate/share with colleagues.
  • Foster trust
  • Be supportive
  • Model collaboration/continuous learning during the school day
  • Build diversity into the process with a range of levels of 
    • expertise
    • knowledge
    • experience
  • Establish norms for 
    • sharing
    • listening
    • encouraging all to share
    • process and project management approaches
  • Establish accountability
    • universal
    • commitment
  • Recognize that preferred modes of communication will vary between colleagues

The third question for the evening came from our shared goal of ensuring that all Milwaukee students have the chance to participate in the kind of community engaged, real world, learning experiences that can help them both uncover what they are passionate about, and see paths forward to pursue those passions.

How do we make these opportunities equitable and accessible to all students?

  • Engage all students from the outset and provide
    • choice – enable students to approach and pursue the challenge from the points where they are most engaged
    • flexibility – be creative/flexible about how the learning experience might evolve, and where it might lead
    • anticipate and address barriers that may limit participation or engagement for some students
  • Maintain a growth mindset
  • Provide a safe place, where it is ok to be vulnerable
  • Focus on others strengths
  • Connect to what learners love

 

 

We we’re glad to see a high level of engagement around the questions, and, as usual, very different approaches to documenting each group’s conversation. That the conversations continued well after we wrapped things up is a measure of success for the process.

 

Thanks again to our Fellows for guiding the discussion and MSOE’s STEM Center for hosting us!

Fellows Share their Water Projects experience at WSST

On April 7th, 4 Learn Deep Fellows in the current cohort attended the ‘Come Back’ conference of the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers (WSST). They were invited by Kevin Anderson from DPI to share their experience implementing the water inquiry projects they collaboratively designed during STEM Studio for their middle school students.

Their design, taken as a year long framework to work from, incorporates a number of aspects, and learning standards, in the domain of water: broadening awareness of ‘water quality’, STEM activity around developing your own sensor, and community engagement exploring how to positively impact quality of life in your own community.

Over the course of the presentation, participants were prompted think through and share:

  • Who they would want to involve if designing a Learning Experience Framework themselves;
  • local partners and facilities that they could incorporate to expose their students to ‘the real world’, and
  • What resources they are aware of in their own school (district) that they could use (perhaps in a new way) to enrich the learning experience for students.

Who would you invite as collaborator in design?

The specific options will differ somewhat per geographic location, but the common categories in the collection are:  

  • My teacher colleagues
  • Local expertise working in water related role (DNR, Water Treatment, etc.)
  • Municipal leadership
  • Higher Ed, Science related expertise

Who might you want to collaborate with to design a PBL style learning experience for your students?

Where & how might you engage students?

  • Local natural resources such as lakes, rivers, etc.
  • Water processing facilities
  • Higher ed labs and research facilities

What are the resources you have available in your community for the ‘real world’ project that you would love to create for your students?

What school resources are available?

  • My school’s science department
  • Higher Ed labs
  • Natural labs in close vicinity (forest)
  • Existing connections that provide easy access to resources.

What resources are already available in your own school building that you could begin to involve in student projects to give students a more comprehensive experience?


A big thanks to Kevin Anderson for providing the opportunity for the the Fellows to share their work!

The slide deck from the presentation can be found here.

Collab Lab 45 Recap – The student experience on real world projects

What do we want students to get out of real world projects?

Introduction

Engaging students in real world projects creates opportunities to connect with students’ passions, build connections to the broader community, and for students to see that they can have an impact. Our discussion at February 2022’s Collab Lab focused what we want students to experience on these types of projects, what students, teachers, and partners bring that can help create these experiences, and what stands in the way. Joining the discussion were students from MSOE’s Create Institute and Software Development Lab, and Engineers Without Borders at Marquette University who are involved in real world projects of their own.

Start with the end in mind

To start our exploration we asked ourselves:  “What do we want students to experience as part of their learning?”

  • Exciting challenges
  • Feel comfortable to ask questions
  • Supportive setting
  • Fail forward
  • Open result
  • Experience variety
  • they can have the opportunity to get excited about the learning
    • they can become the expert
      • they can teach the teacher
        • they can become effective collaborators
  • Bring their ideas to life– makes everything more relevant, to feel a sense of empowerment (voice, make/change decisions)
  • experience success from mistakes– students should learn from their answers
  • take classroom knowledge in the abstract to practical application — make everything relevant
  • have a voice in shaping the project — problems don’t have a single answer (broaden scope)
  • listen to other people’s ideas and provide feedback– builds both community and communication skills
  • find something for them to be passionate about and run with it — motivation to advance
  • Understand the “why” behind concepts — knowledge can be transferred, retained
  • Self awareness
  • Provide opportunities
    • new experience
    • further exploration
  • Connect to future experiences
  • Enlightenment/fun/joy
  • Problem solve
  • Build skills
  • Communication – seeing themself in the position
  • Finding purpose
  • Build confidence in their ability (wins)
  • empathetic
  • Have fun
  • feel empowered and inspired
  • to know they can make a difference/real world
  • to feel included, (culturally/gender)
  • to see what they can be
  • to feel safe & heard
  • to feel connected to their community
  • they can learn from failures
  • Engaging “tricky” students
    • ask a lot of questions
    • some are afraid of failure
    • confidence building
    • it’s ok to take a risk

For our participants, the big “whys” behind all of this are for students who feel inspired, valued, and heard; to see that they can make a difference in the their community and contribute to the happiness of others.

The Assets we bring to learning

We continued our discussion by asking about the assets the students, teachers, and community partners bring to the table to support student engagement in real world projects.  For students, the key assets noted across our discussion groups are their curiosity, excitement, and perspective.  Other assets include their:

  • ideas
  • background knowledge
  • culture/cultural perspective (language and norms)

In the case of educators, it is their own passions, ability to facilitate inquiry based work and create the space and structure for this work to happen that are key assets that support student engagement in real world projects. Others include:

  • connections
  • resources
  • justification
  • expectations
  • community partners
  • culture
  • growth mindset
  • dedication
  • empathy
  • communication

For community partners, the most noted assets are the expertise, relevance, and perspective they can bring.  It’s their view of the world from beyond school which helps make the work relevant to students and gives them an incentive beyond grades to dive deep.  Other assets noted in our discussions include:

  • expertise
  • resources
  • awareness
  • different lens
  • support for students/teachers for experiences
  • Role models/mentors

Finally, it was noted that all three groups bring their own cultural intersectionalities, which create the opportunity for much richer collaboration and learning.

Barriers. A familiar list

We wrapped up the discussion with a quick inventory of barriers to engaging students in real world projects. The list should look familiar:

  • too much internet?
  • loss of community/hands on opportunities
  • Switch from micro (classroom) to macro (real world)
  • not enough trust of teachers
  • not enough time/prep
  • Focus on standardized testing
  • Time
  • Inequities/Disadvantage
  • Lack of access to resources & support
  • Money
  • Balance of commitments
  • Out-of-touch leadership
  • Overworked teachers
  • No opportunity to collaborate
  • Student, school, community misalignment
  • Teachers
    • almost anything out of the classroom
    • legislation
  • Community Partners
    • understanding connections to curriculum
    • time for meaningful engagement
  • Students
    • need to balance effort across classes to prevent burnout
    • jobs
    • home responsibilities (cleaning, cooking, siblings, etc.)

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks again to MSOE’s STEM Center for hosting Collab Labs this season and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Chris Beimborn – UW-Milwaukee EnQuest Coordinator and STEM Outreach Manager

Abby McGill – Marquette University, Engineers without Borders

Anne-Marie Warren, Laura Pizano, Pelumi Ajayi – Student Fellows with MSOE’s Create Institute

Hunter Turcin & Amish Verma – Students working with Learn Deep in MSOE’s Software Development Lab

Continue the Conversation

If you like the topics we select every month and would like to continue the conversation, we invite you to join ‘inspirEd‘, an online Collaborative Learning Community. We focus on growing our innovative teaching practice together by sharing what works and what hasn’t. 

Harley Davidson supports the Fellows Program

We’re thrilled to share that Harley-Davidson joins us as one of the corporate partners in our Fellows Program!

Right now, we’re recruiting a new cohort of 24 teachers who want to design and run collaborative, community engaged projects with their students over the 2022-23 school year. Harley-Davidson’s interest in collaborating in support of our engineering and community social challenges strands is creating excitement among our current and prospective Fellows.

With the support of colleagues, Learn Deep, and program partners like Harley, we’re creating the opportunity to take on the kind of challenge that rekindles the passions that brought teachers into the field to begin with. It’s also a chance for teachers to demonstrate what they can bring to their students, school, and community when given the space, time, and support to do so.

 

Collab Lab 43: Prototyping with K-12 students – Recap & Notes

How should we introduce modern prototyping with K-12 students?


We’ve heard from engineering instructors in both K-12 and higher-ed that students too often focus on “getting the right solution”.  This leaves the students reluctant to experiment with alternative concepts that may not pan out.  This ‘solution focus’ also leads to disengagement from the problem– students seek what they perceive to be the safest path to the “correct” solution, and fail to devote the time and energy to build a deep understanding of the problem at hand. 

Our November 2021 Collab Lab provided an opportunity to explore how we might leverage prototyping and testing to shift students’ focus from perfecting a solution to perfecting their understanding of the problem (and how it might be solved).

Photo of Collab Lab attendees
Teachers and product designers discuss iterative design and prototyping with K-12 students during Learn Deep’s monthly Collab Lab workshop

 

The Student experience

After exploring the participants’ own experience with when something that didn’t go as expected and the assumptions behind that, we asked “How/where can we give students the opportunity to recognize and test the assumptions behind their design decisions?

Here’s what we heard

What they need

  • Problem solving skills
  • Opportunities for voice/sharing
  • How to work effectively within a team
    • Learning styles
    • Shared responsibilities
  • Space needed
    • Get out of the building
  • Natural connections
    • Real world application
  • To know the “why” behind the challenge
  • A purpose/project that can grow with them
    • they can carry on their work on the issue as they advance in school
  • Multiple Paths
  • Varied timelines
  • Varied instructions
  • Safe environment for hands-on experimentation 
  • Models and examples for inspiration
  • Education on both content and process
  • Comfort with design thinking process
    • Empathy
    • Design
    • Ideate
    • Prototype/Test
    • Iterate
  • The opportunity to test understanding/assumptions throughout that process– in particular at the earliest stage– their understanding of the problem.

When should this happen

Teachers following the school or district’s curriculum to ensure that essential concepts and topics are introduced during the school year. This leaves them little time to deviate from the main path. Knowing this, the teachers identified 4 opportunities to introduce these concepts to students. 

  • Continuous, at every step of learning
  • Integrated into lessons during the school year
  • After school programs
  • During student exchanges

Adjustments we can make

How and where are the opportunities to experiment so you as a teacher can gain experience. Here are the variety of options our attendees developed to could consider trying:

  • Integrate STEAM into all lessons
  • Participation in competitions
    • State science fair, etc.
  • Pride in school/team
  • Invite former students back as mentors
  • Revised grading system
    • Evaluate students on process, re-work, soft skills
  • Student self-assessment
  • Peer reviews
  • Frequent check-ins
  • Evaluation of the process
  • Explain relevance
  • Wonder (genius time)
  • Develop an iterative mindset

For more information…

New Milwaukee initiative

We were delighted to have Katie Schober from STEAM Milwaukee share some of the materials available through the organization’s Lend A Lab Program host a pop-up pre-session.  For more information on that program, reach out to Katie at info@steammilwaukee.com.

Engineering life

Will Gorecki has documented his adventures building a jet suit and has captured a few life lessons on his blog.

Design Thinking

Design thinking came up at several points in the conversation.  The Stanford D School has a handy primer on the subject here. As the session wrapped up Dr. Shalamova stressed that while the design thinking process typically places prototyping and testing after ideation, the most critical assumption to test is that one actually understands what the problem is. This means looking for ways to validate that understanding before students start looking at potential ways a problem might be solved.

Michael Hohl has a great piece on the value of prototyping early and often here.

Help Milwaukee students with their Water Stories project

Our Learn Deep Fellows are currently working on ‘Our Water, Our Stories’ projects with their students.  Theresa Johnson mentioned that as part of the water projects at Wedgewood Middle School (MPS) students in Advanced Science are collecting data about water availability and cleanliness. They hope to understand the issues that impact Milwaukee in regards to water and to develop a sustainable way to improve the issues. The students have produced a survey to understand community member perspective on clean water availability. They invite you and your friends and neighbors to participate by filling out their survey here.

……

Continue the conversation on inspirEd.


Thanks again to MSOE’s STEM Center for hosting Collab Labs this season and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Ian Corrao, Michael Klug, Brandon Bakken — Northwestern Mutual

Will Gorecki— Milwaukee Tool

Dr. Nadya Shalamova— MSOE

Collab Lab 42: Recap & Notes

We kicked off our 6th season of Collab Labs on last week with a return to in-person sessions, this year at MSOE’s We Energies STEM Center. The session provided an opportunity to share a bit more about the water projects developed by our Learn Deep Fellows and hear from them how things are progressing as they implement those projects with their students. The first project focuses on student interviews about what “clean water” means to individuals work on water related issues, systems, technology, or infrastructure.  To support that work our discussion focused on interviews — what we want students to get out of them, and what both students and interviewees need to make that a productive experience.

What do we want students to get out of interviews?

Our discussion started with the question “What we want students to get out of interviews with adults in the community?”  Across the four discussion groups several key themes emerged:

  • Develop interview skills and techniques
    • Learn how to be an effective listener
    • Practice, research, prepare
    • Create appropriate questions and be able to ask follow up questions based on the conversation
    • Record responses, building conversation
    • Interview skills (asking questions, recording responses, building conversation, etc.)
    • Research skills (asking questions, citing sources, etc.)
  • Understand something more about the person they are interviewing & where they are coming from
    • We want them to be inspired by our stories
    • Exposure to different life stories & histories
    • Recognition that learning is ongoing
  • Exposure to different careers
    • They will become knowledgeable about various career paths
    • How their current learning experience connects to life after K-12
    • They can discover the relevance of the topic to their lives
  • Understand something more about the topic at hand
    • Understand the cultural significance of water
    • Real life integration & connection
    • Learn about different careers (involving water in this case)
    • Students gain knowledge about water, climate change, global warming and how they are interconnected
    • Students will understand the value of freshwater and civic responsibility
    • Students will learn 21st century skills
    • Students will gain knowledge about water politics, exercise their citizenship and take action

Cutting across all of these ideas is a goal articulated by one of the groups– the chance to expose students to what they might not know, whether that is career opportunities, uses of water, or the path that an interviewee took to the interesting work they do today.

What do students need?

Our discussion groups found broad agreement on what students need to make effective use of interviews

  • Preparation
    • Know who they are interviewing
    • Context – who am I interviewing
    • Research the interviewee/topic of discussion
    • Background knowledge of the interview subject/their work/expertise
    • Time to think about and prepare questions in advance
    • Comfort and awareness of space
  • Practice
    • Low stakes practice opportunities
    • How to ask authentic questions
    • How to listen with intent
    • Restating/clarifying
    • With the technology they will use to conduct the interview
    • Propriety
    • Communication skills
    • Drafting interview questions
    • How to check for understanding
      • Scaffold
      • Clarify both ways
  • Feedback for both practice and live interview sessions
    • Peers
    • Interview subjects (perhaps via follow-up survey)
  • Interview opportunities that work for students/interviewees — e.g. in person, or virtual

What do interviewees need?

The key concern heard across groups is that interviewees recognize who they are speaking with:

  • Understand the age of the kids (their level of knowledge and how to talk with them)
  • Understand the purpose of the interviews
  • Learning goals/needs of students

Other needs include:

  • Be prepared to ask the students questions
  • What they should include (their story/path)
  • Advance knowledge of questions that will be asked during the interview
  • The opportunity for interviewees to ask follow up questions/provide their feedback.

 

Water Interviews

As our Learn Deep Fellows kick off their first project this fall, we’re recruiting candidates who can meet in person or on-line for an interview with one of the teams of students from MPS and Glendale/River Hills middle schools involved in the effort.  Students participating in the project will explore what “clean” means to those who use or value water for specific purposes. This could include anyone concerned or excited about water quality, access, or technology, green infrastructure, urban agriculture, the health of the Great Lakes or Milwaukee watersheds, or other water issues.

For students, its a chance to understand both how water is used across the community, as well as the broad range of careers and interests that intersect with water access, use, delivery, and treatment. From the interviews collected, students will share stories of what clean water means to Milwaukeeans.

If you’d like to participate as an interview candidate, or know someone who make a good one, we’re collecting contact info and availability in a Google form here: https://bit.ly/LDFwaterInterviews