Groups of East Garner Middle Schools students spent 30 minutes trapped in a bus last week, and had to solve problems and riddles in order escape.
They weren’t trapped literally. But the activity was meant to have students realize how important critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration were to their future.
“A lot of these kids when they graduate school, their jobs don’t exist yet,” said iSchool Initiative tour operator Nick Gividen. “They haven’t been invented. So if the purpose of education is to prepare them for the real world, how do you prepare someone for a future that doesn’t exist yet?”
The iSchool Initiative was founded in 2009 by Travis Allen, an Atlanta high school student. He tried to use his iPhone to take notes in one of his classes, but his teacher was against it. She took his phone away.
Allen felt the teacher could learn how valuable mobile technology could be in the classroom and has pursued education reform. Now his team travels around the country to show students and teachers why mobile technology is vital and how it is effective in student learning. It also encourages students to take charge of their education, and teachers to guide them.
The bus was filled with laptops, tablets, a 3-D printer and other devices. The students were told to try to break a code by putting different clues together. During the 30 minutes the students were expected to use critical thinking skills and problem solving together to find the solutions. Excitement filled their faces as they were three letters away from breaking the code. But time ran out before they could do so.
Anna Pollard, the school’s technology facilitator and career development coordinator, said she was looking for something to engage the students with creative learning and she learned about the iSchool Initiative.
“I just stumbled upon it on the internet and thought ‘Wow this would be cool,’” Pollard said. “I didn’t know it was going to be a reality but it was.”
It cost $5,000 to bring the bus to the school, but the school didn’t have the money to participate. Cisco, one of the sponsors of iSchool Intiative, decided to give East Garner Middle School the full $5,000 to participate.
Tessa Dionne, an eighth-grade student, said she enjoyed trying to figure out how to escape the bus.
“It was a really neat experience. We’ve never used a 3-D printer before,” Tessa, 13, said. “So it was a new experience for all of us. We also got to use different computers and iPads, but in ways we had never had before. Like scanning and finding clues.”