I spent a half a day today doing Learning Walks in one of our high schools. My Career and Technical Ed (CTE) Coordinator and I spent time in several CTE classes, talking to kids and questioning teachers. What I came away with is that we can learn a lot from CTE teachers.
The first teacher we visited is a tech ed teacher. He has his kids work in teams problem-solving designs. They huddle around a computer screen creating simulations, performing strength tests and determing the minimum thickness of metal or aluminum they can use on whatever they are working to create. They do this without ever actually building a real model or prototype–it’s all virtual. They can discuss the application to, say, the auto industry, who no doubt uses the same type of program when designing a vehicle, trying to minimize its weight and maximize its gas mileage. But the real story here is what happened at the end of class. Each student had to journal about what they learned and observed–not about the content, which is what I was expecting, but about the process of collaboration. So they are thinking metacognitively about the teamwork–everyday. The idea of having them reflect on the process of working together helps them hone their skills, process through whatever issues might arise, and become a more effective team. This was 21st Century learning, right before my eyes!
Collaborative problem-solving and creative thinking were just about the theme of the day as I progressed through the CTE courses. Sure, there were two classrooms that were less dynamic, but most were working together to determine why their small engine wasn’t working properly, to create funny pictures of teachers and classmates using Photoshop, or to design a logo for a mock website.
I have conducted observations of CTE classes before, but I have never done learning walks of this many all at once. As I was leaving the school, I realized that these guys do this stuff naturally. They get it. Dan Pink, Alan November, and Tony Wagner would be proud!