Sunday, November 17, 2013

Memorializing Your Mission: Empowering Students to Use 21st Century Skills to Author Your School's Yearbook and Classroom Projects.

Memorializing Your Mission: Empowering Students to Use 21st Century Skills to Author Your School's Yearbook and Classroom Projects. -Ken Willers, Principal • School of the Madeleine

“In 21st Century Learning, students use educational technologies to apply knowledge to new situations, analyze information, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions.”
–British Columbia Ministry of Education.

As a team of educators of a Catholic elementary school, our vision is to foster and create an environment conducive for 21st Century learning. Our vision is one that builds on the strengths of our colleagues while taking advantage of emerging technologies to provide expanded learning opportunities that will be critical to the success of future generations. 

Our vision, however, is not limited only to the learning taking place within the walls where direct instruction happens, but expands to include the learning experience that occurs beyond the classroom. For the purpose of this brief submission, we want to share how this vision was realized by a group of students, who, while creating the school’s yearbook exhibited high-level 21st Century learning skills. Our partnership with Picaboo Yearbooks made this amazing experience and vision of 21st Century learning a reality.

Watching how easily our students used the Picaboo interface and how quickly they adapted to it was astounding. Observing the high-level of collaboration and communication between peers was remarkable. Witnessing the students initiate a process of design and create such an amazing yearbook—left no doubt in my mind that given the right tools, and placed in the right learning environment, students would make tremendous achievements and truly demonstrate 21st Century skills.

It was evident that the technology we were using to build the yearbook integrated wonderfully with the 21st Century skills we were also trying to inculcate in our students. “Creativity and Innovation • Communication and Collaboration • Research and Information Fluency • Critical Thinking-Problem Solving-Decision Making • Digital Citizenship • Technology Operations and Concepts.” –Premier’s Technology Council, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2010.

The 21st Century difference, evident as a result of our partnership with Picaboo Yearbooks, was that our students achieved all of this on their own—there were NO adults involved in the design, planning, collaboration or execution of the Yearbook. The Yearbook advisor merely served as the liaison when initiating our contact.

Our students spent all of their time memorializing memories and being creative unlike past years when students spent countless hours trying to navigate around troublesome software. We saw this as yet another sign that our 21st Century vision was becoming a reality. Finally, we knew there was something qualitatively different in how our students engaged the interface because they created the entire yearbook in only 5 weeks.  

What would cause a school to have to create an entire yearbook in such a short period of time? Let us explain.

Last April, at the NCEA convention, a group of us discovered the Picaboo Yearbook booth in the exhibition hall. Although, we didn’t want to engage the vendor because our school already had contracted with a yearbook provider, we were fascinated by the e-yearbook we saw displayed in their booth and after speaking with the exhibitor learning more about the customer service benefits we were convinced. Needless to say, by the end of that day we had signed up and cancelled our previous yearbook provider. 

Although, some might consider this a bold move, we knew, for those reasons alone (cited above), and the fact that no other yearbook provider could compete, that we were making the right business decision--even with only 5 weeks remaining until the end of the year. What we didn’t know at that moment was the transformative impact this decision was going to have on our students and on our vision for 21st Century learning that resulted in moving from adult driven instruction to student directed learning.

Yes, it was truly transformational to see our students execute this vision of 21st Century learning and not be dependent on an adult. As Steve Hargadon, Founder Classroom 2.0; Social Learning Consultant, Ellumniate, wrote in Education Week, October 2010, “Twenty-first-century learning will ultimately be learner-driven.”

Our students transformed the process of making a ‘book’ into an experience of creating ‘memories.’ One of them even said, “it’s not about the book, this technology makes it easy for us to focus on the memories.” Ultimately, the partnership between Picaboo Yearbooks and our students led us to a deeper realization: that the ‘memories’ created along with the 21st Century skills applied by our students, transformed our yearbook into the ‘memorialization’ of our Mission.

In response to our students’ excitement, we were visited by the president of Picaboo Yearbooks, Bryan Payne.  After meeting our students and visiting our school, Bryan summed it up beautifully, ‘Look at what is possible… When innovative schools with innovative vision, inspire innovative students to use innovative tools…we actually empower and prepare our students for a future they will be called upon to create.’

But the story of innovation doesn’t end there…

This school year, the Madeleine students are partnering with Bryan Payne and Picaboo Yearbooks to develop grade and subject specific 21st Century Project books. We are very excited to be a pilot school. Our students using Picaboo Yearbooks generated this idea. “If we could use Picaboo to create a yearbook—why can’t we use the same interface for classroom projects?” Bryan’s response was, “Let’s do it!” So, as of now, our 4th & 5th grade students are collaborating to create History Project Books. Our clubPYB, small clusters of students, are creating Event Books, Classroom Yearbooks, and Collections for Catholic Identity Books and we are exploring ways to use this innovative technology to generate student porfolios. All these projects follow the premise of building and using 21st Century Learning Skills and all projects will be student-directed.

Together, our students, teachers and the team at Picaboo Yearbooks are immersed in 21st Century Learning and in response are transforming our Yearbook and our Project Books into the means of ‘Memorializing Our Mission of Catholic Education.”

View the video of the School of the Madeleine’s Picaboo Success Story at: