Idea: Teachers Using Trello: How To Foster Genius In The Classroom | Trello Blog

There are so many great tech tools out there today! Here’s an example of how one 5th grade teacher is using a simple project management tool (Trello) to teach his students how to organize problem-based approaches to student-driven learning.

What I love about this:

  • Trello is free and genuinely easy to use
  • Even today’s highly structured classrooms hounded by CC assessments can carve out an hour a week for student-centered and -directed learning, and it’s worth it to do that
  • Students can and should learn how to develop their own  “pretty hard and tough” questions to drive their own inquiry during the school week – it’s a vital skill.
  • Being able to see what everyone else is working on benefits the entire class and drives students’ motivation

Good ideas here. Check it out.

via Teachers Using Trello: How To Foster Genius In The Classroom | Trello Blog.


Projects vs Project-Based Learning

I don’t agree with everything this chart asserts, but it’s a great point:  Doing projects in the classroom doesn’t mean you’re taking a problem-based learning approach to the curriculum.

Education Technology: An Interesting Chart on the Difference

If you aren’t familiar with the tenets of problem-based learning (PBL), this is a great basic resource:
Students Thrive on Cooperation and Problem Solving

Students *want* to work on REAL problems and “things that actually matter.” Even those times when you have to grind away at some basic core knowledge before they can rush off into “the good stuff” go down better when students know the teacher has something meaningful, interesting, and challenging in her back pocket.

Higher ed, you’re on notice too. Lectures are no better for 19 year olds than they are for 14 year olds or 8 year olds.  You don’t get a free pass for boredom, disengagement, and information transfer when education theory is pounding away the idea that real learning demands real experiences with actual problems.

Where to start? 

  • Be brave. You don’t have to transform the entire curriculum. Try a single unit for one class. 
  • Google it. Really. The best ideas are all stolen (or adaptations of other people’s good ideas) so get out there and read for inspiration.
  • Find a partner. PBL is easier when it’s integrated across discplines.
  • Don’t force it — counting widgets doesn’t count as math integration or meaningful problem solving. Relax. Integrate what you can.
  • Go local. One of my favorite PBL examples came from the book The Parallel Curriculum, in which the author describes a 5th grade classroom who created a brochure for their county’s history museum. The kids noticed the gap, the museum was eager to have help, and the teacher spotted a great opportunity for kids to tackle a reasonable, realistic, local problem — and solve it!

Integrated Unit: Wrapup

Well, it’s the end of the week.

I wouldn’t say we’re “done.” I mean, educators are never DONE. There’s always another way we could extend the lesson, another application, a list of “oh, we should have done it that way” suggestions for next time. But we’re “done” in the scheduling sense.” ‘But I think our students have gained a much more nuanced understanding of the issues facing churches, charities, and governments. And they’re excited about biting off a tiny bit of the problem to tackle in our area.

This morning we sat around and discussed at length an article in the Columbia Free Times about 4 responses to the issues of poverty in SC, especially in the area of government action.
“Four Views on Poverty”

Is a flat tax detrimental to the poor?
Does improved access to education really make the difference for people trying to get out of poverty?
Does SC tax the poor too much, or throw away resources by offering huge incentives to giant corporations like BMW to move here while taxing small businesses?
How do we live out the Gospel among the poor without exacerbating the problem, shoveling it off onto the government, or condescending in our attitudes toward those who need help?
What balance should we strike between government support for ending poverty and nongovernment charity action?

Nobody has easy answers to these questions, but the first step toward being able to do something about it must be wrestling with the problem.

Our culminating activity for the unit requires the “family groups” of students (see Monday’s post) to organize some kind of service project. Specifically, we have asked them to target one church in the area and try to connect that church with a local charity — to provoke people toward some specific action or change of behavior which will help support the charity or alleviate suffering.

At first, the students wanted to do school-ish things: “We’re going to make a poster about hunger in the area.”  That’s well and good … except we don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. This isn’t “school” in the negative sense where the most “important” tasks usually require writing an essay on the same topic that was handed out to the class last year.  We don’t need a poster when charities usually have their own promotional materials. We don’t need to make a video about child abuse; YouTube has 1000 great PSA videos already.

What we need are connectors: for students to choose an action as their goal, recognize the road blocks that keep people in their target audience from doing something about the goal, and removing those barriers. 

Sounds like Kingdom work to me. 😉

LiveBlogging: Integrated Unit: CHC Workday

More work!

If you don’t know anything about Calvary Home for Children, you should (especially if you live in SC). CHC operates within the state foster system as a private, independent group home for foster kids who are in some of the worst position: they are in “long term” foster care, meaning that their parents’ rights have been (or probably will be) terminated.

We’ve had the joy of working with several CHC kids as students at NCS over the years. Unfortunately, CHC isn’t able to accept any teenagers right now so I really miss having CHC kids in our classrooms.  They are currently raising money so they can staff another cottage with house parents and take in more kids!!

There’s always volunteer work to be done at CHC. Just give them a call and set up a time when you can use your skills.  Today the NewCov kids headed over there (it’s just a mile down the road from us) to sort food goods in the pantry and pick up rocks.  Really… I’m not kidding.  They needed to clear the big field of rocks!  So– 3 hours of hard work well done:

Jack Knipe, Sarah, David, and Lauren are sorting and organizing the giant pantry. The typical CHC cottage can house 8 foster kids PLUS the house parents and THEIR kids. So it’s a big pantry. lol

Riley and MK lost among the canned goods. lol

Meanwhile…. everybody else picked up rocks. YEAH.

Workin’ hard or hardly workin’?

Dusting off those wheelbarrow skills. And sore muscles.

LiveBlog: Integrated Unit: From God to You Ministries

Wednesday = “Stop talking and let’s work” Day!

Despite the pouring-down rain, everybody loaded up into cars and drove up to Greenville to visit From God To You ministries, which provides food and other assistance to families who need it.

The man who runs it does much of the work himself. So having 40 people show up to package 600 bags of food for the families to pick up later saved him so much time!  We were done in 45 minutes instead of him working all day.

Here are the hands and feet of the Gospel. That’s a lesson worth teaching.


I love it when our NCS alumni come back for a workday!

Working at From God to You ministries

LiveBlog: Integrated Unit — CHC tour

OK, enough talking already!  Time to go do something….

NCS students went to our local, awesome foster care ministry (just up the street), Calvary Home for Children. CHC has been helping kids for over 5 years, providing a caring environment for many kids who would otherwise be lost in a “system” that struggles to serve long-term foster children. 

The students are touring the facilities today to learn about the ministry from director Greg Skipper. On Thursday they’ll get to roll up their sleeves and do some volunteer work at CHC.

NCS students touring Calvary Home for Children on 10/18/11

LiveBlogging: Poverty Unit — SPENT

No point in reinventing the wheel.  This is one of the best simulations I’ve ever found for teaching people about the way financial hardship can affect nearly any family at any time.

We played the game this morning as a group, taking majority votes on hard decisions arising from real-life situations like “You’re sick today but you don’t get paid any sick days.  Do you call in sick or go to work anyway?”

It’s funny how the kids didn’t recognize the ways they were slipping into the “parent mindset” that they hate so much day to day.  When given the prospect of spending $10 they didn’t have so their kid could go on a field trip or telling the kid to stay home, a chorus erupted:  “Just tell the kid to suck it up!”  We teachers spent a lot of time pointing the students toward the emotional and relational effects of the current recession.  Low-income families have a much higher incidence of depression, health-problems, stress-related fights, and abuse.

In fact, when given the option of helping a friend move for $50 OR attending their kid’s school play (in which the kid was playing a starring role), the initial choice was to blow off the kid’s play to earn the $50.  Turning that around on the students, we asked them to consider the relational costs of their choices as “parents” in the simulation.

People are more important than things.  Or money.   We tend to assume that rich people worship money, but actually — those who are poor fall into that sin just as often (or more).

*I really like Spent because it ends with an opportunity to donate $5 toward a NC charity that assists poor family.