Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, has stated:
“Back, you know, a few generations ago, people didn’t have a way to share information and express their opinions efficiently to a lot of people. But now they do. Right now, with social networks and other tools on the Internet, all of these 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voice be heard.”
What can we, as teachers, do to encourage such independent thinking in our students? First and foremost, we must provide a classroom environment that encourages students to risk-take and feel comfortable when they make mistakes.
In my mind, two important skills that all students should acquire in any K-12 grade or curricular area are: the ability to problem solve and the the ability to collaborate. In today’s ever-changing job market, these two skills will provide our youth with an opportunity to enter the work-force with assets that will always be in demand.
As a former Mathematics and Computer Science teacher, I was always encouraging my students to problem solve and my classrooms were decorated with puzzles to stimulate the minds of my students. I must admit that when I first began teaching Grade 7 & 8 Mathematics, I tended to think that the way students in my class should solve a particular problem should closely follow the algorithm that I used or was demonstrated in the textbook. Thankfully, when I started teaching Computer Science to Grade 11 & 12 students, I quickly learned that there were many different ways of programming a computer to solve a problem, True, some computer programs might be more efficient because they used fewer lines of code, but I embraced the diversity of my students’ solutions and was quick to demonstrate the variety of solutions. In addition, I found that students in Computer Science seemed to collaborate and help each other de-bug their print-outs looking for the errors in syntax or logic. For me, teaching Computer Science was a powerful environment for problem solving and a culture to foster collaboration.
With this fresh idea of problem solving fixed in my mind, I want to share with you some unique activities or lessons that I have used with students. I’m sure, as educators, each of us can recall a handful of lessons that were truly inspiring or ones that had a profound impact on both your students and yourself. Like the above powerful quote, I want to share with you some classroom ideas and activities that will cause your students to think and wonder.
So stay tuned, as I share some of my “most unforgettable classroom problem-solving experiences” in my upcoming posts.
Take care & keep smiling
Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”