March Blog: The I3 Project
Investigate! Invent! Innovate!
This term our grade 7 students are participating in the Investigate! Invent! Innovate! project (I3). The I3 program is “a free experiential learning program that empowers Grade 7 and 8 students to identify a real-life problem and invent a solution in the classroom using science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The program culminates in an Invention Convention where students showcase their inventions to the public” (The Learning Partnership).
In many ways the Investigate! Invent! Innovate! project shines a light on the degree to which our students have increased their critical thinking skills as well as their communication, collaboration and creativity skills which we have focused on this year through our TLLP project. Most importantly however, participation in the project has reinforced the importance of teaching these 21st Century Skills. It has also highlighted the new role of the teacher as the Lead Learner.
What we have learned so far in the process of implementing the I3 project.
To become an Innovator takes dedication and team work!
- Students need to be able to: Communicate, Think Critically and Collaborate. All these skills need to be broken down and modeled through authentic learning opportunities.
- Teachers do not have to know everything. Modeling “How to Learn” is more important. The use of technology, like any skill, needs to be taught through teacher/peer modelling and student investigation.
The I3 Project
The project began with teachers and students creating teams. The students first identified their strengths and then interviewed other students regarding their skills. The goal was to use the information from the interviews to create well-rounded project teams where each team member contributed a unique skill set.
What students needed to be able to do to complete the task:
- Identify their skills and give examples
- Take turns
- Provide feedback
- Identify key points
- Use appropriate body language
- Be an Encourager
Once groups were formed students needed to identify their “real world” problem. This was the most challenging part of the project for most teams. Being able to define a problem and break it down into manageable steps took a great deal of work. Below is an expert of a conversation that one team had as they worked through their problem.
1. Teacher: What is your team’s problem?
Student: “There are homeless people who need money and we could create an APP like “Go Fund Me” to help raise money”.
2. Teacher: Why do they need money?
Student: “They are homeless and don’t have a place to live”.
3. Teacher: Do you know what the causes of homelessness are?
(Student research was completed on the question).
4. Teacher: From your research I see that people who are homeless live in poverty. Do students in our school live in poverty?
5. Teacher: What might poverty look like for our students/families?
Student: “They can’t afford food, uniforms or school supplies”.
6. Teacher: Is this a problem that you would like to find a solution to?
7. Teacher: Can you narrow it down to one of the three aspects that you talked about?
Student: “We could look at uniforms”.
8. Teacher: We already sell used uniforms. Is this already a solution?
Student: “No, sometimes students don’t know how to get the uniforms”. Can we create an APP that shows students what is for sale?.
9. Teacher: You will have to be willing to do a lot of research to learn how to create an APP. I can help you.
The pictures below illustrates one team’s thought process as they narrowed down their area of investigation.
The following video shows true “collaboration” at work.
The skills of communication, critical thinking and collaboration are key 21st Century Skills. They need to be taught in the context of authentic learning situations. The I3 project gives teachers the resources that they need to ensure that students are successful. Understanding the skills necessary to be 21st century innovators and the willingness to be the Lead Learner is the new role of the classroom teacher.