Monday, April 11, 2016

Students Learn to Visualize a Process: A Valuable Life Skill for Everyone

Catherine M.'s Visualization 
Recently senior students in a Minnetonka High School Composition for College Hybrid Course visualized their writing process. Teacher Charley Barniskis had students reflect on their own writing process and talk about how everyone's writing process is different. He also explained that after high school, students will have to work through this process on their own. Whether in college or the workplace, they will be given writing tasks and have to complete them by a due date.
Tom Wujec's TED Talk
Charley had the students begin by watching Tom Wujec's TED Talk about making toast. If you haven't seen it, make time for it and reflect on how you illustrate a process through drawing, what makes for the ideal number of steps or "nodes", and the benefits of models worked out by a group-think synthesis. Think of creating a vision statement, or illustrating a change or project. You can learn more on Wujec's website, too. As Tom explains, pretty much every problem area and/or challenge in life and work can be represented and worked through by breaking it into steps, reflecting on what is most important, and acting on it to completion.

Allison M.'s Visualization
After watching the TED Talk, Charley’s students were to imagine that they were asked to write something by a boss, religious leader, coach, etc. and think about how they would normally complete it. They thought through how they normally brainstormed ideas, worked through drafts, proofread their work, and even where procrastination fit into their personal style. Students created drawings of their writing process, some using the Explain Everything app, others Notability, some used paper or index cards. They then posted their images to a discussion board with an explanation in Schoology. The discussion board allowed them to view other classmates' work and interact with one another through comments. Charley prompted his students to reflect on what they learned about one another's writing processes and explain what they found surprising. You can view the entire assignment here.

Technology was used to augment the lesson and it was an option that students could use to illustrate and represent their process. They also used technology to share their work and communicate with one another through Schoology. One of the great things about this project is that by taking his students through this exercise, Charley not only had them reflect on their own writing process, but see one another's thinking. They were able to see differences from themselves and realize that multiple methods exist for tackling and completing a project. Charley explained to me that "this assignment also compelled some students to change how they write because they were exposed to so many other ways to do it. They were taken out of their isolated practice and shown other ways to go about writing. It also fostered a conversation about procrastination: the Death Star of the writing process, which NO college composition textbook discusses when it discusses the writing process." Plus the ability to visualize and represent solutions to problems is a valuable life skill that these students will use a lot in their future, well beyond reflecting on their personal writing process. 

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