Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Anti-Bubble Sheet

"By looking closely at student work with students and with adults, it sends the message that the quality of student work matters - Ron Berger, Chief Program Officer, Expeditionary Learning in DLMOOC Week #2 Google Hangout

This evening Mr. Justin DeVries, one of our outstanding teachers at Sa-Hali Secondary, was proudly watching students in his Digipen Academy do their first Presentations of Learning at our theatre.  Each of the six groups of students from his class were showcasing the different video games they had made to a crowd of more than 80 people that included teachers, parents, trustees, administrators, fellow students, and a panel of video game designers.  Although I could not be able to be there in person, through the miracle of technology, I was able to watch a live stream through a web feed, ask questions and give feedback.

Each of the groups went on stage and described the ideas and tools that led to the design of things such as the characters, the flow and play of the game, the sounds, the math, the artwork and the psychology behind their creations.  They then played the game for a few minutes to show the results of their hard work, and answered questions at the end.  As much as there were some fascinating technical questions that the groups fielded with amazing depth and clarity, the questions that I found most interesting were the ones around what the students had learned as a result of the experience of working together to design their projects.  These were just some of the (unfiltered) responses that I could jot down:
  • team work
  • communication
  • importance of a team
  • working at home--we wanted to do it at home
  • it was more up to us
  • homework is just one thing, like math or english or socials, in this its everything, math, art, group work, cooperation
  • it was more of a challenge, all the puzzles and I love puzzles
  • I loved all of the math
  • I loved working with my team
  • knowing what it is like to work in a group
  • we grouped together every week--we would meet every Friday and fix out all the bugs
  • cannot do well just being one guy not working well with other people
  • this is good for me, because I didn't used to like working with people
  • I don't like doing presentations - this is hard, way more stressful than a math test


This evening, I watched students proudly display their collaboratively created projects that required them to use math, physics, art, psychology, and logic as tools to help them do something that was meaningful to them.  They needed to work together, delegate duties, create their own timelines, and keep each other on task.  They had to communicate with each other, evaluate themselves, give constructive feedback and accept constructive criticism.  And then they had to create a presentation, decide on what they needed to show and how best they could communicate their accomplishments in an interesting and coherent manner.  And they needed to present in an environment that had an incredibly high level of accountability--to a group of their peers, their parents and experts in the field.   

The kids were proud.  The teacher was proud.  The parents were proud.  I am so proud to have these students, Mr. DeVries, and this program at our school.  And after watching the Presentations of Learning tonight, I have never been more motivated or determined: I truly feel that the Digipen Program will be a touchstone for our staff, students and parents as we begin to move towards deeper, problem-based learning and authentic presentations of learning at our school.  To paraphrase Ron from the DL MOOC, we looked closely at the work, and we sent the message that the quality of work matters.  And our students responded with quality work.

Coincidentally, today was the end of our examination period for provincial exams in the first semester.  The Science 10 final exam had sixty multiple choice questions that required students to bubble in answers on a white, 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of paper.

I think it is time for us to think differently.   

Thank you so much to Mr. DeVries and his amazing students from the Digipen Academy.  We watched you learn so much, and yet through your learning, you have taught the rest of us so much more.


  1. I'm lucky to be in a place and assignment that allows this kind of assessment. It's thrilling.

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