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Two Schools Learn Teamwork Through Authentic Learning Experience

Posted by on in Student Engagement
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Visiting students watch video footage taken during their group work time in preparation for completing their day long story.

25 students integrated from two schools. One from Tampa, Florida and one from Flushing, Queens. What started like a middle school dance ended in an authentic learning experience.

A few weeks ago I got a DM on Twitter from a colleague at Hillsborough High School to let me know he'd be in NY soon with some of his journalism students. "We should get the kids together for a project," Joe said. Admittedly, at first I didn't think much of it.

One week before their arrival, Joe and I talked on the phone and the ideas started developing. Possibility suddenly flooded my consciousness and it was on. Permission was asked and granted and despite my high expectations, what actually happened far exceeded my hopes.

"It was really weird at first, but as soon as we got to the fish store we were able to mesh on everything; it was a good collaborative effort," Alexis Savva, WJPS senior said.

"It was fun, more of a teaching experience than a learning one. We showed the Hillsborough kids broadcast skills rather than the newspaper or yearbook skills they were comfortable with; how to create a video news piece," Luca Damasco, WJPS senior said."

Facing real journalism challenges was a part of the process. Five groups of reporters looking to grab unique stories in a small amount of time. Sometimes the plan needs to be adjusted. Students proved that they could use their limited resources to brainstorm story ideas, set a plan and execute the story in a short time even with with setbacks.

"The main challenge was what story to write. It was a rainy day so no people were on the street to interview and our first choice, the firehouse required appointments; many places were appointment only. So we had to adjust several times before we settled on our idea. However, once we got it, the three interviews were the most successful part. All group members contributed equally," Damasco said.

Teachers who work in isolation of each other are only stunting themselves. We could be the best at what we do, but there will always be others worth collaborating with to create something even better. Teaching students to keep an open mind as content is presented to them shouldn't just be marching orders, it should be the model we, ourselves live by.

"Obviously, I love having students collaborate, and have to learn each other's strengths and idiosyncrasies on the fly. I also like taking students out of the bubble of Manhattan so they can experience another neighborhood," Joe Humphrey, Hillsborough High School Today's adviser said.

As role models, we must ascribe to believes we espouse. Hypocrisy can only result in dissension creating a hostile learning environment. If we always aspire to be better at what we do, watch others who do it well and share and collaborate, we all become better.

The student work can be seen at Hillsborough High School Today and The WJPS Blazer online

In what ways do you collaborate with your colleagues to enrich your students' learning experiences? Have you faced challenges and tried again? Share your ideas.

This post originally ran on StarrSackstein.com 

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Starr Sackstein currently works at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, N.Y., as a high-school English and journalism teacher. She is the author of Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective, Blogging for Educators, Teaching Students to Self-Assess, Hacking Assessment, The Power of Questioning and Simply May . She blogs for Education Week Teacher on “Work in Progress” in addition to her personal blog StarrSackstein.com where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher. Sackstein co-moderates #sunchat and contributes to #NYedChat. In speaking engagements, Sackstein speaks about blogging, journalism education, throwing out grades and BYOD, helping people see technology doesn’t have to be feared. Follow her @MsSackstein on Twitter.
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Guest Tuesday, 25 October 2016