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Creativity, Education, Leadership, Teaching, Technology

Challenging Students to Make a Difference

Note: This post is intended to be an addendum to a previous post entitled, Are We Cultivating Giant Killers? If you haven’t had a chance to read those thoughts, I would welcome your feedback.

Never be afraid to do something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the titanic.  ~ Author Unknown

Stay Strong Japan!

flickr photo by Kent Ng.

Every generation faces challenges.  War, poverty, terrorism, famine, homelessness, pollution, crime, environmental issues, and natural disasters–to name a few.  These issues are obviously not unique to the modern era, they have been occurring since the beginning of time.  However, the violence and unrest in the Middle East, and the recent tragedies in Japan are grim reminders of the magnitude of the challenges our future generations will face.  In spite of the fact that in some instances we are our own worst enemy, the good news is that advances in technology and communication give us an enhanced ability to be difference makers in our world. That being said, even as adults, we often feel too distant, or powerless, to affect meaningful change.  Imagine how our students feel.   I don’t believe we are doing enough to empower/encourage our students to be problem solvers in their communities, and world.

I recently returned from the Computer Using Educator’s Conference in Palm Springs where I had the opportunity to attend a session entitled: Challenge Based Learning: Engaging Students to Take Action and Make a Difference (presented by Elaine Wrenn).  This presentation focused on providing students with authentic “real-world” opportunities to problem solve and make a sustainable difference in their world.

According to Ms. Wrenn, Challenge Based Learning is an Apple initiative designed to address the following essential elements:

  1. Authentic real world issue
  2. Actionable with a measurable impact
  3. Student driven and open-ended
  4. Collaborative (across subject areas)
  5. Leverages multiple technologies

The entire process involves taking a big idea, generating and investigating essential questions, issuing a challenge, developing guiding questions and activities, creating and implementing a solution, and ongoing reflection.

Whether challenge based, project based or problem based, consider the benefits students reap from participation.  Beyond the curricular knowledge gained in the process, students have the opportunity:

  • for collaboration
  • to integrate technology
  • for ownership of learning
  • for personal investment in a “real world” issue
  • to develop empathy
  • to utilize creativity and innovation
  • to see meaningful results

Many of these skills, I would argue, are essential Skills for 21st Century Learners.  Regardless of the approach we take, we have an obligation to show our students that they can be difference makers, and that they don’t have to wait until they graduate from college to have a meaningful impact and help others.

Below are resource links for Challenge Based Learning shared by Elaine Wrenn at her CUE session:

Challenge Based Learning – Take Action and Make a Difference

Engaging Students.  One Challenge at a Time.

This is something I am certainly going to share with our faculty and encourage as a means of meaningful and relevant instruction.  If you have experience with Challenge Based Learning, I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


2 thoughts on “Challenging Students to Make a Difference

  1. Students have phenomenal capacity. Let us encourage our students, believe in them, and gain wisdom and enthusiasm from the examples they can and will set for us.

    Posted by Tom Altepeter | March 20, 2011, 4:27 pm
  2. This reminds me of @whatedsaid’s post, Why isn’t school like a conference?. I occurs to me that these two concepts could be combined, along with deep classroom follow up, to create a great learning experience.

    We hear all the time how kids take the initiative and make a difference. I agree, we should support this in our schools and communities.

    Nice post.

    Posted by Shawn Urban | March 20, 2011, 6:15 pm

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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