What’s your problem?!?

What does your book say about problem solving?
Here are a few takeaways:

“Students apply critical and creative thinking skills to prior knowledge during the problem solving process. The end result of problem solving is typically some kind of a decision: choosing a solution and then evaluating it.” (p 155)

“Problem-based learning (PBL) is a teaching approach that combines critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and inquiry as students explore real-world problems. It is based on unstructured, complex, and authentic problems that are often presented as part of a project.” (p 156)

A few characteristics of effective technology-enhanced problem-based learning tasks:

  1. Give students control of their learning
  2. Include communication and collaboration
  3. Emphasize the process and the content
  4. Lead to additional content learning
  5. Have a measurable, although not necessarily correct, outcome

You all did some great brainstorming as we talked about designing and building roller coasters as an authentic, complex problem that required lots of information to solve.

We also talked a bit about critical thinking, but what is it? What does it involve? Let’s look at this Prezi to find out more.

WebQuests are a teaching tool that use web-based resources and other sources to support students as they work through an inquiry or problem-based activity. They are web-based lesson plans written for the students that support and scaffold student understanding of a set of curriculum standards. Generally, students are asked to work collaboratively to answer a question or solve a problem and then present the answer or solution in a technology-supported format.

You can find many examples of WebQuests at the WebQuest page maintained by Dr. Bernie Dodge from San Diego State University. Dr. Dodge is the creator of WebQuests and WebQuests have been around for over 10 years. We’ll spend some time looking at example WebQuests by searching the QuestGarden. Here are a couple I found by trying the different search options. Primary mathematics; Middle school interdisciplinary unit; High school economics. Take a couple of minutes and find a WebQuest in an area of interest. Share your findings with someone nearby.

Problem-Solving Software
Tom Snyder Software is a well-known software company that creates many K12 software based activities that promote critical thinking and problem solving. You’ll likely find that the various software packages also support content learning, communication, collaboration, and creativity. A couple weeks ago we looked at a software activity called “Science Court” and we looked at how this tool can support critical thinking and problem solving. Here’s some additional software for 5th-8th graders that looks really interesting for science lessons.

Lagniappe (Louisiana French for “something extra”)
You may also want to check out these extra project-based learning resources on Edutopia.

We won’t have time to get very far, but it’s time to begin the last TLAT. (you need to make a copy of this and save it to your google docs). I’ve been grading your last ones, and some of them are very good. Just remember to explain your thoughts clearly and in detail and you will do well.

You’ll want to choose a partner that can help you review your TLAT.  Put your name and your partner’s name at the top of the form.  This TLAT is a little different.  It doesn’t have nearly as many directions.  This is because you have done this two other times, and now we’re removing your training wheels.  It’s called “scaffolding” and it’s a good teaching technique. 🙂

This is a chance for you to do what you would do as a teacher.  You determine how you will analyze your context, find and choose your activities, describe the activity and reflect on it.  Refer back to your TLAT #1 and #2 for help if you get stuck.  Also, work with a partner and make sure you both are clear on what you should do.  Don’t guess!  If you have questions, ask me first, so you don’t end up re-doing it because you did it wrong.

Here’s our schedule on this one:

  • Wednesday, April 20 – TLAT Section 1 and 2
  • Friday, April 22 – TLAT Section 3 and 4 (No class)
  • Monday, April 25 – TLAT Section 5. Try to finish this in class.  It is due at 11:59pm.  I’ll try and have your grades to this point to show you on Monday.

And here’s our schedule for the rest of the semester:

  • Wednesday April 27 – Prep for Showcase and Course Evaluation
  • Friday April 29 – Final Showcase
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