The “same” Challenge 2.0

The “same” Challenge 2.0*

Over spring break, I read an excellent book entitled “Why School?

Will Richardson‘s “Why School?”

It further convinced me of the value of dedicating more time to our goal of student-directed projects: what we have been calling “problem finding” as opposed to “problem solving“.

To ensure that this time is spent efficiently, we will seek to answer the following questions:

What will you learn? You will be responsible for the curriculum of the course. This means that you will choose your goals, yourself. In the past, I have chosen the goals for you. This is an effective way of ensuring we have “covered” a lot of material, but it steals an important learning opportunity from you, the learner. In this age of extremely {mindbogglingly} abundant information, there are a number of excellent resources available and curricula outside our classroom. For this reason, I see my role as that of a coach as you investigate your own path. I will provide feedback, and you will formulate your questions, sift through the available literature and resources and marshal your own resources and problem finding/solving skills to tackle the problems you create.

What will you create? Each time you engage with relevant problems and questions you will create a digital artifact (e.g. written entry, video, sage workbook, etc. on our classroom website) to document your learning. This work will always be inspired, in some way, by the work of others and is therefore, directly or indirectly, collaborative, which will require citing, or better, hyper-linking these resources. No post is too short. Document early and often!** Unlike the work you used to do, this work will be alive in the sense that it will remain available for you to update as you learn more and as others comment on it. There must be three components to each post: 1. Your digital artifact(s); 2. References to others work; 3. Your self-assessment: a) what did you learn, b) what are you proud of, c) what are some remaining questions you have, and d) what needs improvement.

How will your work/effort be evaluated? You will work to attract collaborators and viewers to your projects. This means that you must publish interesting digital artifacts early and often and explicitly work to create an engaging space that is well curated (designed-well) and filled with thought-provoking questions and well-reasoned arguments/solutions. Ultimately, your work will be assessed by you, your peers, strangers, and less importantly, me. The merit of your work truly depends upon the time and effort you put into it. You can create something amazing and connect with people around the world. I want to be a part of this, and that is why I think our valuable time in class together is worth spending on this project.

How long will this project last? We will spend two weeks working on this project, devoting all of our class time and homework time to it. At the start, we will decide on the class goals of the project, the endpoints we hope to meet and the method by which we will achieve them. These might include personal curriculum goals (e.g. I want to apply my mathematical prowess to problems involving subatomic particles); these might include whole class goals (e.g. I want us to create a Concept Map in Prezi that shows how all of the concepts we have learned are related); and these could include global collaboration goals (e.g. I want our class to attract more than X visitors to our site and collaborate with more than Y students from schools or countries I’ve never visited). At the end of this two week period, we will have an official assessment of our work together. We will evaluate our successes and failures, determine whether we met our endpoints and whether the project should be terminated or modified. If we deem the venture successful or worthy of additional work, we will start an additional two week period.

Types of projects you could consider

A. The Traditional Approach: You will work through a traditional curriculum. Your posts will involve defining and solving problems that are focused on the demonstration of your mastery of the objectives that I have used in past years.

B. The Inquiry Approach: You will choose a problem that inspires you, and you will clearly state a series of goals to prepare an analysis of your problem. Your work will be original and contain unique methodologies to solve the problem and reach goals.

C. The Functional Approach: You will scour the web for applets and other resources that are useful as tools to help you analyze problems and construct beautiful solutions. This will culminate with a Prezi Concept Map that includes all the tools you have found, and how they can be used together to solve a sample problem. In the Concept Map, you will choose an example scenario in which all your tools can be employed. Finally, this process will include a web based or otherwise digital product you will design and create!

Will Richardson’s TED talk on the question of “Why School?”

If you are interested, here is a link to the highlights of an interview done at the TED blog with Will Richardson.

* Hint: In case you are wondering what “same” stands for; it can be derived from the title of this blog.

** There may be questions about copyright law and if so, please consult me and other appropriate documentation about reproducing or sharing the work of others.


I am a math and science teacher at a boarding school in Delaware.

Posted in Advanced Chemistry, Multivariable Calculus
2 comments on “The “same” Challenge 2.0
  1. […] It occurred to me that this resource would be great for my students as they seek inspiration for their own posts during our two-week blog project. […]

  2. […] Now that would be an interesting project for a multivariable calculus or an advanced chemistry student! […]

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