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Cardboard Challenge – Student Centered Learning at its Best

Posted in EdTech Musings, G Suite, and Teaching

Student Centered Learning is a term that every educator has been hearing now for years. As the name suggests, it places the student at the center of learning and gives them autonomy over their learning.  The instructor facilitates and provides the opportunity to learn independently while coaching in the skills needed for success. When I came across Caine’s Arcade, a now Global Movement that occurs the first Saturday of every October, I knew I was looking at the perfect activity to provide student centered learning in my classroom. Caine Monroy of Caine’s Arcade was a 9-year-old boy that spent summers helping his dad in his auto parts store in East L.A. While dad worked, Caine built arcade games out of cardboard boxes. Caine was never deterred by the lack of customers. He put on his Staff shirt, swept around his arcade and opened for business in a corner in his dad’s store each and every morning. One day one customer named Nirvan would come and change Caine’s life forever. Nirvan was incredibly impressed with the amount of passion and critical thinking Caine had poured into his Arcade creations. With Caine’s dad on board, the two of them would secretly organize a Flash Mob to bring customers to Caine’s Arcade. Nirvan wanted to celebrate Caine and his arcade creations because he had a true appreciation for the amount of time and energy Caine had poured into his arcade. It was something ALL kids should have an opportunity to participate in and was an incredible example of what children can do when they have a little guidance and open space to “show what they know”. Nirvan posted the event live on social media and it went viral. The rest of the story is history and now children around the globe celebrate Caine’s Arcade. More importantly, children around the world are now entering into lessons that are student centered, giving them real opportunities for learning. Learning about their capacity, about problem solving, about how to work with others and how to come together to ideate and bring to fruition a plan. #RealLifeSkills

I wanted this for my students and thus embarked on a cardboard challenge. Our cardboard challenge began Oct. 2nd. and came to a close this past week. My 8th grade students appropriately named our cardboard challenge, The 2018-2019 Hart-Ransom Cardboard Challenge. It began with a viewing of Caine’s Arcade followed by a somewhat chaotic conversation with students tossing out and arguing about how they believed it should be organized. Ultimately, we settled on only 8th grade this year would participate, but we would use Google Forms to invite other grade levels to come play the “games”. Initially, the assignment was organized and posted in Google Classroom with all of the resources to get the students started. From that point forward, I only facilitated. The students teamed up, ideated, problem-solved, collected materials, collaborated, created, ideated some more, argued, problem-solved some more and ultimately pulled off an AMAZING Cardboard Challenge Event; predominantly student organized and ran. Over a period of two days approximately 300 students visited and played all the games of our cardboard challenge. We had three distinct phases with posted due dates:

  1. Ideate and Build – Students decided as a team of 4 what they would build, who would bring what materials and what role each would play.
  2. Game Play Day – Students would set up their games before the start of school. Teams from all three blocks had to come and get everything set. Third and fourth period students had to find teams from other periods to run their games in the absence. Each team, though they ran their own game during their own time block, for the remainder of the day they had to arrange a trustworthy team to take over. A Google Form using Choice Eliminator was used to invite individual classes so we knew exactly who to expect. Brilliant idea!
  3. Reflection time – Immediately after Game Play, students created a quick reflection using Flipgrid, a video based platform for discussion and formative assessment. It was brief and simply asked students to share their first thoughts about the entire process. Following was a more thorough reflection where students created a Google Slide deck depicting their recollection of the process from start to finish. They are encouraged to bring in the many Google Slide design elements they have been taught thus far. Next, they will create a screencast using a Chrome extension, Screencastify, in lieu of having each student present individually in front of the class. A welcomed swap by both students and teacher! Following, they will post their screencast to Padlet, an amazing collaborative space where students can post, as well as view and comment on other student’s work. In the end, they are asked to provide a peer review for two other screencasts.

Though many commended me for putting in the work of running this Cardboard Challenge, the bulk of the work was burdened by the students. I simply facilitated. Observing the process was incredible. Student engagement was at a level I have never experienced with traditional teaching. Students shared in their reflections a level of personal responsibility and awareness that before I had only hoped existed. Please watch the video to the end and hear the amazing thinking of these 8th grade students. I have only added a few due to the length of the video, but I think you will understand the power of student centered learning as you watch. This event was incredibly enlightening and encouraging. We, the students and I, are currently brainstorming our next learning experience.