Learning Built with My Interests in Mind

Learner Voices   22 June 2017
By Patricia Coleman

 

At Summit, we call the students “scholars” because we expect excellence at all times.

Patricia Coleman
Learner, McComb School District

My name is Patricia Coleman, and I go to Summit Elementary, a student-centered learning school. I used to go to a traditional school, where I always did well, but I knew I could do better. I had to wait for everyone else to finish their work, instead of getting to move on. I got bored waiting on the others and became uninterested in my work. That all changed when I started student-centered learning.

I have always been interested in technology, but I never had the chance to use it in my learning until now. In traditional learning, we use lots of pencil and paper. In my opinion, technology or iPads are way better tools for learning. The technology actually engages me in my learning and teaches me about my work. Teachers use to just show me the work I had done without any feedback. Now, my teacher practitioners give me feedback and direction when I need help, and I don’t have to wait for the rest of the class to keep moving.

For instance, I was working on order of operations, and I decided to do a quick worksheet. I started to work on it, but I realized it wasn’t helping me at all. Then, I got on my iPad and went to Compass Learning where they had an assignment dealing with order of operations. Compass Learning is a computer program that uses test data to create a learning path for each scholar. It explained everything I needed, and I moved right along.

 

 

I use to hate helping others when I was finished with my work. Now, I’m excited to help.

Patricia Coleman
Learner, McComb School District

Another big difference Summit has made for me is about how I work with other scholars. At Summit, we call the students “scholars” because we expect excellence at all times. We call our teachers “teacher practitioners” because they have more freedom to be creative with how they teach and how we learn. Our principal, Mrs. Washington, is called our “Lead Learner” because she is leading us to become the best learners we can be.

I use to hate helping others when I was finished with my work. Now, I’m excited to help. In student-centered learning labs (we call our classrooms “learning labs”), we are free to help each other. In my old schools, I would sometimes explain the work to another scholar, but they wouldn’t understand me. My understanding was different because I was more advanced. Now, we can help classmates that have the same understanding or the same work, while others work on other things. It’s like we always have help, but we don’t have to wait for others to finish, or we can keep working on it at our own pace until we get it.

 

 

At Summit, I found a new interest in coding. Instead of doing a regular paper project, I can use Scratch Jr, a coding app for beginners, to show that I have mastered my learning target. Learning targets are skills that are specific to each scholar based on what they know and what they don’t know. In our projects, we create evidence to prove we understand our learning target, and we are ready to move on to the next target.

I once had a learning target on parallel and perpendicular lines. Instead of a worksheet, I decided to put my coding skills to work on Scratch Jr. I drew, scripted, and programmed everything into a cartoon to explain the difference between perpendicular and parallel lines. It made me feel proud. It took a lot of effort, unlike a pencil and paper project on a similar topic that would have taken little effort.

Then, I started to use Scratch Jr for my evidence on other work. If I had stuck with traditional ways of learning, I would not even know what coding was. Above is a screenshot of a cartoon I created using Scratch Jr about figurative language. It takes place on the beach and none of the characters are humans. It was so fun to create because coding is like a puzzle that puts pieces together to create a picture that moves. It’s not easy and takes a lot of time, but it is so cool when it is done.

 

I think there is so much more for me to discover that I wouldn’t be able to do like I can here.

Patricia Coleman
Learner, McComb School District

Recently, I discovered new interests that I would have never known without the opportunities I have now. Animation and architecture are other examples of my new interests. I cannot imagine myself being where I am without student-centered learning. Without this, I probably would not know about coding, have a chance to help others in a fun way, or have the opportunity work at my own pace. My interest in animation has grown stronger due to this different way of learning. I have watched and used animation to learn new things and to teach other scholars in my learning lab. It’s very easy to do here because each scholar has their own iPad to use every day in class.

Animations are drawings that move or have motion. People use animation to make things like cartoons, videos, and video games. I have always been fascinated by the way cartoons and movies are made. It seems so hard to do. An app, Toontastic, on our iPads inspired me to learn more about it. It allows scholars to create stories of any kind. It’s one of the ways we can show evidence of our learning. It’s very different from the coding we do on Scratch Jr.

I really like being at the Summit Elementary. I am free to explore new things in a positive environment. We still take a lot of tests but at least the learning for the test is fun. In the traditional school, we had to test and the learning was so boring! I hope I can stay at the Summit until high school. I think there is so much more for me to discover that I wouldn’t be able to do like I can here.

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