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Daily Dish: Digital Learning, Deeper Learning, & Project-Based Learning Boost Creativity in Oakland School

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September 18, 2015 03:51 pm


In Oakland, California, middle schools students at Lighthouse Community Charter are learning to be creative in the classroom through digital, deeper and project-based learning practices. An article by KQED News explores how the children are successfully utilizing software programs as aids for learning math skills and understanding key concepts in a digital setting, and creating projects to give real-world context to classroom lessons.

Math teacher Laura Kretschmar introduced a computer program called Turtle Art to help students learn the coordinate grid. She hands out a rubric with goals centered on collaboration, communication and instructions for the functions of the program, but otherwise gives the students the freedom to explore and discover concepts via the technology. As a result, students are engaging in both digital and deeper learning, since the program provides the students with a different context to learn math concepts, making it easier when the time comes to teach them.

At the school, teachers are encouraged to incorporate “making” into their curriculum, giving students the opportunity to “do” or “make” before receiving explicit instruction. Since the school has to cover the same standard curriculum as district schools, teachers choose carefully the times when they’ll spend a little more time and creativity on a difficult subject. This emphasis on the concept of “making”, which the school has integrated into all K-12 classes, means students engage in project-based learning and gain hands-on experience with concepts instead of just learning them traditionally. As noted in the article, “suddenly, physics has a point, geometry comes alive and computer programming doesn’t seem so boring.”

Aaron Vanderwerff, Creativity Lab and Science director at Lighthouse, discusses how most of their students do not have the chance to be exposed to designers and engineers. “I would much rather push for this kind of curriculum in schools serving low-income communities than in other schools,” says Vanderwerff, “I think it will help students to gain their own voice, and a lot of the kind of character-building aspects that are intrinsic in this, but also to be exposed to new possibilities for the future.” He would like to see this maker-movement become more diverse and spread across the country.

The Alliance is in the midst of a campaign to identify public schools and districts that show Excellence and Innovation in Secondary School Success, with the goal of identifying a set of exemplars that are successfully transforming the learning experience and improving outcomes for traditionally underserved secondary students, especially in the areas of digital learning, deeper learning, and project-based learning opportunities, among others. To learn more and apply, please visit:



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