Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

EVOKING in schools - even without computers

I was thinking this morning about how EVOKE could look in a school (I'm thinking K-12). Since a lot of what makes EVOKE work is that people want to go read what's new and comment on other blogs, I can see issues in classrooms where there are only one or two computers, or where kids are only able to be in a computer lab for a short time. Many classrooms and schools don't have computers for all the kids. It got me to thinking, what would EVOKE look like without the Ning network? Picture this:


Ms. Kindle's 8th-grade history class has been in session for about 10 minutes when there is a soft knock on the door. An aide from the office pokes her head in.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but you have a message, Ms. Kindle. It's from..." she glances down at the paper. "Alchemy, it says. He said it was urgent. Do you want it now or should I put it in your box?"

"I'll take it now, thank you." She crosses quickly to the door, holding out her hand.

The aide hands her the paper and leaves, closing the door quietly behind her. Ms. Kindle reads the note rapidly, looking tense. She folds it again and looks up.

"Class," she says, and then stops as though unsure what to say next. Every student's eyes are on her. Finally she says, "Class, I need your help."

"I am an agent of a secret organization called EVOKE. Alchemy, who sent me this message, is its leader. EVOKE has agents all over the world. I don't know who the other agents are; for all I know, some of your parents may be EVOKE agents. Or some of you.

"EVOKE agents solve problems. Big problems. This note tells me" -- she holds up the folded paper -- "that we are needed to help solve a crisis in one of the world's largest cities. In a month, Tokyo will be out of rice, out of food. Millions are in danger.

"I'm to research the problem and suggest solutions for mobile EVOKE agents, but I can't do it alone. I'm going to need help. There's too much to find out, and time is too short. We're going to break into teams to tackle the problem, starting right now." She moves to the blackboard and erases the notes from this morning's interrupted lesson.

"Let's start by listing what we need to know..."


From here, it's a challenge- or problem-based learning scenario: given the big idea (a crucial food shortage in Tokyo), the kids come up with research questions ("we need to find out what kind of food people eat there, and where it comes from;" "we need to know how they store and distribute food;" "what's the climate like?"), divide into teams, and learn about the situation. Once they've done that, they brainstorm possible solutions and pick a few to research and model. Finally, they pick the final solution and present it -- ideally, via videoconference to Alchemy, who of course is present in avatar form.

The lesson can take one class, a week, a month, or a semester. Imagine if they start this in history class, and then when they go to geography, that teacher is also working on the problem, but from a different angle.

Are any teachers doing this? Does anyone want to? Can I help?

More information
Here are a couple resources that explain challenge-based learning:
Apple's CBL website
Challenge-Based Learning: An Approach for Our Time (white paper, free PDF)

Views: 43

Comment by Nicholas Nagao on March 24, 2010 at 6:58pm
Sorry, I just realize our ideas were slightly different...I want to use computer haha....but I'm happy to help in your idea as well and/or combine our ideas into something new!
Comment by ninmah on March 24, 2010 at 7:47pm
Jeremy - the study that Apple did found exactly that: some of the students who routinely underperformed excelled at the challenge-based learning project. (See details on Apple's site.)

Nicholas - wonderful! That's a very generous offer, and I will definitely take you up on it! Thank you!
Comment by ninmah on March 24, 2010 at 7:50pm
Re: our ideas being different -- the curriculum that I'm working on with EVOKE agents is designed to be used in 3 different scenarios: 1, with access to computers; 2, with access to library resources only; and 3, without access to substantial references of any kind. We want it to be usable by teachers in all sorts of classrooms. So, there is still room for a computer-based component.

The skeleton framework is starting to come together on the teacher wiki (see the project workspace link under "EVOKing in the Classroom"). Please feel free to add yourself, your ideas, your expertise!

You're also welcome to add a wh*** new project on the main page, if what you want to do is different.
Comment by Nicholas Nagao on March 24, 2010 at 8:18pm
Good use of links to help add context to your projects Ninmah! This is an important thing for people to do in my opinion :) I'll be linking to your projects too and adding myself as you suggested.


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