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First Installment of "Tech in the Heartland": Meadows Students Look to Improve Their Community

Heartland AEA Learning Curve blog

Posted on 02/19/2018 at 11:10 AM by Courtney Croatt

By Cathy Hines, Instructional Technology Consultant

Cathy HinesGreetings and salutations! I'm Cathy Hines, an instructional technology consultant here at Heartland AEA. My Instructional Technology team and I will be showcasing some of the work we do with the school districts we serve. There are some pretty remarkable educators doing some pretty remarkable things with technology in our service area, and we want to share some of this great work with you. Thanks for joining us on this new adventure!

For our first post, we want to feature the talented professionals and students from Dallas Center-Grimes (DC-G) Meadows School, home to the 8th and 9th graders of the district. Here the staff is constantly striving to provide unique learning opportunities to prepare their students for their future world, a work environment much different than the one their parents entered. For example, one study entitled "Future of Skills," predicted that the U.S. economy will need young workers with strong interpersonal and complex problem-solving skills, along with creativity and fluency of ideas. (*More on this study later in the post.)

Students visit the Grimes museum and work with community volunteers.So, the DC-G Meadows technology team has created a unique project that pushes both students and teachers out of the traditional structure--"Grimes Growth and Dallas Center Development." The task for students is to design and develop one idea for their communities' growth/development and present this idea to the City Planning Department. The task for teachers is to stay out of the way and let the students lead the learning. Neither task is easy!

"I told myself to shut up at least 3 times," said teacher Jeff Motz about the first session of the project. "My hope by not talking was that the kids would start to put together a plan. I thought if after three weeks they have nothing [groups meet each Friday], I may have to step in. But after awhile, they started talking; I couldn't believe it." Other teachers provided pieces of structure. "We gave our kids an outline and said 'Do with it what you will,' and they seem to be on their way," said English teacher Brittany Walker.

And indeed! Students do seem to be on their way. Here are a few of the projects they hope to present to city planners:

  • Design a new swimming park with improved locker rooms which are comfortable and welcoming to patrons on those hot summer days.

  • Design a "healthy living" strip mall which focuses on organic goods to improve the quality of life in an urban area.

  • Design an improved/expanded community garden, focusing on preserving green spaces as the city expands.

  • Preserve the history of Grimes. A group is partnering with the existing Historical Preservation Committee to modernize the artifacts already collected, perhaps building a new city historical website and brainstorming ways to make the organization more vibrant and valuable to the community. 

One students learns more about the city of Grimes.As the instructional technology consultant for DC-G, I was able to work with the Meadow's technology team in a very exciting way. Together we discussed technology tools that would be helpful with the Dallas Center-Grimes Development Project. We identified the technology that staff would need training in, I presented to the staff how to use Blogger and other tools for digital publishing such as Google Slides and Google Draw. What's most exciting is that technology can now be used purposefully to help the student groups work effectively. Teachers and students can choose the right tool for the task, and that is the best use of technology! As a consultant, that's really exciting!

ALL of this classroom work directly builds those skills that research suggests will be the most important skills of future work environments: interpersonal skills, problem solving, critical thinking, communicating and more. DC-G Meadows is definitely moving outside the realm of traditional teaching and learning. That can be a risk; however, it has the potential to foster powerful learning.  

Stay tuned! We will bring you updates as Meadows' students and staff endeavor to help build a community for the future along with more great stories from Heartland AEA area classrooms. Thanks for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you again!

*"Future of Skills" is a research project directed by Pearson (an education company) and Oxford Martin School built to determine what the future workforce will look like. Their research forecasts that..."7 in 10 workers are in jobs where there will be greater uncertainty about the future [due to the automation and globalization occurring in American companies]. The implications for schools, then, is that we must create learning experiences which foster the skills valued in the future rather than the past.

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