The New Paradigm of Student Lead Learning

Dr. Michelle Zimmerman shares at the National Gathering
Learning Counsel Staff


Editor’s Note: On November 14th, 2016 Dr. Michelle Zimmerman gave a presentation at the Learning Counsel National Gathering. In front of over a hundred education leaders from across the country, she shared about the changes in the way education is being delivered and her experience in transforming her teaching with digital tools which facilitated a new paradigm—student lead learning and collaboration between students and students and teachers.  Here is her presentation and a transcription is shared below.

“Miss Zimmerman, my parents are from Ethiopia. Did you know there are some villages there where there are not even enough gloves for people to go to the hospital and make sure that they don’t get infections? I want to DO something about that. What can I do?”

We have kids from 27 nations in our school and each one of them has a family history and a story. They have something to tell, something that they want to make an impact on in their world. 

This one girl was really bothered by the idea that people from her family, her relatives, some people who are still there couldn’t even get access to gloves. They would have to travel miles to a village to be able to even get help from a hospital but they didn’t have gloves.

What does it mean to lean into consumerization for these kids? What does it mean when their lives or someone in their family can be changed by infection or not? What does it mean to have access to technology or learning or understanding or wanting to make a difference in this world for change? Not just for themselves but for others. 

I have some background in working with Microsoft and they’ve given the kids a chance to be able to talk about tools that can help them communicate their ideas and bring voice to situations. So this next clip (video) is in the background and it’ll show some of the things that we talked with Natural Academy of Sciences just within this last month.

They gave an opportunity for one of my students to come speak with some of the people in these different organizations and look at the ways that they’ve been able to share their voice with society. We know that a lot of research and science has been published in journals and empirical studies and they were given an opportunity to co-author a chapter about Digital Ink (Microsoft product) and technology in the classroom.  What does it mean for education in the future for them where school may be absent? What do they imagine it’ll be like? Will it be a place where they will still be able to collaborate? Will the school building look the same? What does it mean to have implicit learning where you don’t realize that you’re learning but there’s some kind of impact or change in you? How can you make that learning explicit and change the way someone else thinks?

We realize one of these ways is to be able to communicate ideas through media and, yes, youtube is a perfect platform for this. We can exchange knowledge and get ideas, we can look at “views” and through data and seeing how many views have taken place, can find out if our idea has impacted society in a certain way. One of the girls who came with me to speak talked about how publishing happens in different ways now. It’s not just through print sources. We have things like, we have things like youtube that allow us to collect analytics and to be able to show these type of projects and how many views they’ve achieved. It’s not just about getting attention, it’s about getting the right kind of attention that can impact someone else’s life.  And before you get to that point you need to practice these skills.

So I have my students pitch concepts to their classmates to get ideas and to see; Does their idea make sense? Can they do something in a different way?

And part of that criteria, critique and feedback gives them a chance to say “Are my ideas tested in a way that someone else can understand them?”

And if it’s not, it’s not about “Me, being a bad person”, it’s about “How can I make these ideas better?”

So she talked about the data and the twitter activity when you tweet-out a video or something and if those ideas can spread, you know that something, in an element of what you’ve done, what you’ve communicated and spoken can make a difference.

And they’ve talked about how these can start bringing to them, ideas of different ways that they can push forward to make an impact globally.

(shows a slide) This was from a project that started out with a field-trip experience to see a silent film. They created a concept-pitch, a story-board to make their own silent film. It was more challenging because they couldn’t use words to speak and communicate their ideas so through that process, they used One Note, they came up with the concept of a title, they had criteria that they were supposed to meet regarding what elements should be in this movie. Then, along the way, they revised and drafted and then found-out different pieces that helped them communicate the ideas they wanted to create.

They wrote a script, so that was English language art, they had feedback and critique with Digital Ink that they used with other students and peers and they wanted to come up with a resolution. As they go through these pitches, they start getting better at communicating their ideas. As they photograph and video and look through the different process, they start to see different things in feedback.

It was challenging to do this at first because they would write out feedback and we’d have papers flying all over the place, but then we were able to use something that they were communicating their ideas to Microsoft and say “We want a different way to be able to communicate this and to be able to collect the data.” So the team actually came from Beijing and helped redesign Microsoft Excel Survey and change it into a form so that it can be mobile.

We see that mobile is really big now and this gave them a chance to give immediate feedback to see data and collect it to give back to their peers.

So, when we have this chance to give criteria and feedback, it puts the focus on assessment into their own hands instead of us, as teachers, saying “Did you do well on this or did you not do well?”

As teachers, we know that change is constant and it was perfect what LeiLani said about the idea of leadership as essential. It’s not just; “One teacher can do this and another can’t” but it’s a way of reorienting our thinking about how we approach education.

“What change are you bringing in the lives of students?”  “How are you making that change and who do you want these children to become?”

“What difference can they make in their future children’s lives, in their societies, in their countries, in their world and how are you making that ability for their voice and for their change to be heard?”

Thank you for all the work that you’re doing and for everything that you’re doing to push forward education.

As an educator, I know that this is making a difference.

Even on the days where it feels like you can’t go anymore, you can.

Thank you.

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