Authentic Learning – SharkTank Meets UN Grant

Authentic Learning – SharkTank Meets UN Grant

Improving the World One Grant at a Time

Making English class relevant is not always easy.  Knowing how to read, write, and communicate effectively are important life skills; however, this seems to escape teenagers.  English class can be made relevant through authentic learning activities and authentic assessments.  If you are looking for an authentic learning activity including Sharktank, a United Nations grant, a jury, and a solution to social issues, read on.

Project Structure

Mrs. Collier teaches block scheduled English I classes.  This means that she has 3 classes a day for 90 minutes each.  For a unit on the rhetorical triangle, Mrs. Collier decided to challenge her students with a problem-based scenario; her students were challenged to present to a panel from the United Nations offering a $4,000,000 grant to support the most innovative product to solve the social problem caused by fast food.  Think Shark Tank here.  The students were expected to apply their knowledge of the rhetorical triangle and their skills of research, analysis of information, creative problem-solving, and presentation to convince the panel that their team and their product was the most viable and deserving of the $4 million grant.

Student Research

First, students collaborated in groups of three and were tasked to read one chapter in Fast Food Nation dealing with a specific social problem created by fast food.  After reading the chapter, students had to research the social problem and come up with a Shark Tank-like product to solve the problem.  Next, the students had to create a presentation to try to convince the United Nations Grant Committee that their product most deserves the $4 million grant.

fast_food_safety global_business_effects_on_minorities how_fast_food_affects_earth lower_qualitygreater_profit

Persuasion and the Rhetorical Triangle

The students were tasked with applying the Rhetorical Triangle within their presentation to persuade the United Nations Grant Committee to choose their project idea as the most deserving of the $4 million grant.  Having had training in applying logos, ethos, and pathos students were required to utilize all three in their presentations.

United Nations Grant Committee

Authentic Learning Activity: United Nations Panel juries student presentations on solving social issues created by fast food.Then, to make the activity more authentic, Ms. Collier invited
community and district members to judge the presentations over two days.  Along with Lainie Berry, the District Director of Innovation and Digital Learning; and Caroline Mullis, a representative of the 
Coast Community Foundation of SC;  I had the honor and thrill of serving on the UN Grant Committee to judge 4 of the 8 projects.  The 4 products included a citizen watch-dog project to monitor pollution, a government-led pollution-monitoring system, a machine that detects E.coli in fast food burger meat, and a biodegradable and edible food packaging.

Jury Decision

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The Google Slides visual presentations were of varying quality as were the live student presentations.  Overall, the 3-person jury was impressed with the level of research and creativity presented by each group.  Mrs. Collier provided each jury member a rubric to judge the product, the presentation, and the rhetorical triangle and invited the jury members to ask questions for clarification before making our final decision.  We three jury members discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each group, narrowed it down to two, and finally settled on one group to receive the grant.  The winner was the biodegradable packaging to slow the pollution in the Arctic Circle.

Authentic Jury Feedback

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Finally, understanding the power of outside influence, Mrs. Collier invitedun_panel_addresses_students3 the 3 jury members to give constructive feedback to the teams.  This particular team was powerful because one member is a former high school English teacher, one deals with budgets and deciding longevity of a project, and the third deals with grant applications daily and knows what to look for.  The feedback given to the students included standard points about body language, confidence, volume, diction, and eye contact.  After that, the jury explained the strengths of each group’s idea.  Finally, the jury explained how important it is to cover all of the research thoroughly, and that knowledge of the subject matter is what ultimately gave us the confidence to grant one group $4 million.

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Authentic Learning Take-Aways

This experience raised the level of engagement for the students because they had an authentic audience.  Mrs. Collier did a fantastic job creating a real-world scenario with a real-world issue.  Kudos to her and her students for their hard work and dedication to learning.

If you are interested in creating more authentic experiences for your students, I recommend heading to YouTube for a basic search.  We found plenty of examples that served as an outline for what we wanted to do.

If you have participated in authentic activities with your students, please leave a comment to start a discussion.  I’d love to hear from you about how things went and what we can learn from one another’s experiences.

Finally, if you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to receive more to your inbox.

Are You Leading by Learning?

Are You Leading by Learning?

It’s early Saturday morning, and I am at the stove, my back to my family.  My husband reads out the quote on the back of my t-shirt: “Inspire learners to lead.”   My 16 year old son, however, immediately sees the irony in the statement and flips the wording: “Inspire leaders to learn.”  He’s right. Are you leading by learning?

Turning It On Its Head

Many of the messages being generated in education are about what students and teachers should be doing, and so LITTLE focuses on what the leaders should be doing.  All too often, building and district leadership are the least trained in technology, personalized pathways, and new innovative practices that are spreading across more progressive classrooms.  Without leadership buy-in, innovation too often goes nowhere.

Many teachers are trying new things, some because they are too young to fear, and others because they are experienced enough to know what they can and cannot get away with.  Sadly, the masses are in the middle, worrying about whether they can try something new or recovering from an observation that did not reflect what was really going on in their classroom.  How can this happen?  Perhaps, the observer was not aware of what to look for.

ISTE Standards are a great place to start.  As an international body, the International Society for Technology in Education has a global reach as well as a global view.  Of course there are technology standards for students, but there are also technology standards for teachers, technology coaches, and administrators.  That’s right!  Standards for admins!

ISTE Standards for Administrators

“So, what are these well-hidden standards for administrators,” you ask.  Well, here they are in a nutshell:

  1. Visionary leadership: Educational Administrators inspire and lead development and implementation of a shared vision for comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformation throughout the organization.
  2. Digital age learning culture: Educational Administrators create, promote, and sustain a dynamic, digital-age learning culture that provides a rigorous, relevant, and engaging education for all students.
  3. Excellence in professional practice: Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources.
  4. Systemic improvement: Educational Administrators provide digital age leadership and management to continuously improve the organization through the effective use of information and technology resources.
  5. Digital citizenship: Educational Administrators model and facilitate understanding of social, ethical and legal issues and responsibilities related to an evolving digital culture.

ISTE A.3 Excellence in Professional Practice

Standard number 3, Excellence in professional practice is the one I am drawn to.  Here is how it breaks down:

a. Allocate time, resources, and access to ensure ongoing professional growth in technology fluency and integration
b. Facilitate and participate in learning communities that stimulate, nurture and support administrators, faculty, and staff in the study and use of technology
c. Promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital age tools
d. Stay abreast of educational research and emerging trends regarding effective use of technology and encourage evaluation of new technologies for their potential to improve student learning

Wow!  How powerful!  I have to admit that I have come across a few admins that are succeeding in this standard and its indicators, but all too often, the admins are the last to know about innovation and technology fluency and integration.  Well, it’s not that difficult to stay abreast of the latest educational research.

Recommendations for Staying Abreast of Technology in Education

There are so many sources for technology information, and now it’s easier than ever to receive that information.  No longer do you have to seek out information; it comes right to your inbox, your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, and your Google page.  If you are an admin, and you don’t have one of those four technological connections, it is either time you let your students teach you, or it’s time for you to voluntarily remove yourself from education.  Being connected is a great way to understand and connect with your students and faculty.

Using your email to #connect with educators and #innovate. Email Resources

Many educational websites have newsletters and blogs you can subscribe to.  If you aren’t receiving at least two educational resource emails per week, here are some websites I recommend:

Using Facebook to #connect with educators and #innovate. Facebook Resources

Most people have a personal FB page, so why not let FB send you educational materials to help you become a better educator?  Here are some of my favorites:

Join Twitter to #connect with educators and #innovate. Twitter Resources

While I was not a Tweeter a year ago, I am now getting most of my best educational information through Twitter.  Twitter is not for wordy people or even full messages.  Instead, it is an opportunity to share links to great blogs, tidbits of wisdom, and periodically a funny comment.  When you create a Twitter account, do not leave your profile picture as an egg head.  Immediately add a saying, a meme, or a photo of yourself to your profile. Choose a few key people to follow.  I have given you a few recommendations below.  Choose whom you follow carefully, and don’t overdo it.  You don’t want to get overwhelmed.  Wade in slowly, and if you like it, jump in.

Using Google to #connect with educators to #innovate. Google Plus Communities and Collections

Google 9-square or 3x3.If you have a gmail account, you can create a Google Plus, G , account.  To do this, go to the 9-square in the top right hand corner.  See graphic at right.  Choose the red circle with G on it.  This will take you to your Google Plus account.  Set up your profile, and then go to the menu on the right and choose “Collections.”  Here, you can engage in dialog with educators, administrators, and innovation leaders around the world.  You will receive an email for each posting, and your post will go to every member in that community.  This can get overwhelming very quickly, so only choose one or two communities to join at first.  Click the JOIN button to become a MEMBER.  To leave a group, click the MEMBER button and choose LEAVE.

Here are some recommendations for administrators and educators looking to connect with and learn from innovative educators around the world:

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-6-23-31-pm  screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-6-22-54-pm  PBL Google plus community.  screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-6-22-21-pm

After joining a few Google Communities, check out the Google Collections.  These function more like Facebook business pages, so only the owner(s) can post, and you can reply.  It is still a great place for resources and getting connected.

As an admin, you have a unique power to make change.  Be the voice and catalyst for change.  If a teacher comes to you with ideas, research it, and support the teacher.  Without administrator and building leadership buy-in, most innovation falls to side.

Share Your Experience or Leave a Comment

If you have an opinion that you would like to share, please leave a comment below.  I’d love to get a discussion going.