Prenda’s learning model is deliberately crafted around our mission to create learners. That means learning will happen, and one of our goals is to help students succeed on standardized tests, but that is only one small part of our objective. Beyond test scores, we have designed a learning model that will help develop higher level cognitive skills (synthesis, problem-solving, communication). In addition, our culture and approach lead to important non-cognitive skills (collaboration, growth mindset). All of these skills will combine to support lifelong learners, empowered and equipped to design their own educational path.
The core learning experience is common across all of the Prenda classes. School time will be divided into modes aligned with the core values. Within each of these learning modes, students are responsible for their own learning process and the adult facilitator plays a guide role.
In conquer mode, students work through video content, tutorials, and problem sets on their computer. Learning playlists are aligned with state learning standards and adaptable to the individual student. The student determines the pace through personal learning goals and mastery of the subject matter. Instead of letter grades, assessment is implicitly happening all of the time in the mastery-based system. However, the focus is on the learning process rather than the current state. Effort is celebrated and progress is rewarded.
We use the word conquer to constantly remind the students and adults that we are the owners of our own learning, and we can learn anything with determination and persistence. In practice, conquer mode is a set time period where students work independently at computers. If they get stuck, they are coached on a three-step process where they 1) try to solve the problem on their own, 2) ask peers for help, and 3) work through the knowledge-finding process with an adult facilitator.
In the first year of operation, we will use existing tools like Khan Academy and No Red Ink and wrap the content into a gamified experience that helps the students assume responsibility for their own learning.
Several periods of the day are designed to create opportunities for collaboration between the students. In each of these periods of collaborate mode, the other core values are reinforced as well.
For example, the first few minutes of each day will be spent in a standup meeting where students stand in a circle and take turns reporting what they accomplished yesterday and what they will accomplish today. Students can ask for help during their update, and after the meeting they can share ideas and make plans as appropriate.
Later in the day, the group will resume collaborate mode through a structured discussion or debate. The software will provide a short text, either a Newsela article (stories about current events written in skill-level appropriate vocabulary) or a short fictional piece. After everyone has read the text, the software assigns roles for a debate (pro, con, or observer) or a socratic discussion (participant or observer) and guide the students through the preparation, where they assemble arguments, anticipate counter-arguments, develop questions, or other activities appropriate to their role in the event. The facilitator ensures that the activity runs smoothly and coaches the students through the process.
Another example of collaborate mode is a science lesson from Mystery Science. These lessons are structured as a quest where the students interact and collaborate to solve the mystery. Math-based puzzles will also present groups with an opportunity to collaborate.
The goal of collaborate activities is to apply cognitive and non-cognitive skills in interactions with other students. Each activity is designed to be accessible to wide range of ages and skill levels.
The final learning mode is focused on creation and synthesis. Our emphasis on creation is founded in theory (e.g. Bloom’s Taxonomy), best practices (e.g. project-based learning), and our own experience with learning and helping kids learn at code club. Learning is engaging if you see it as a tool to build something you are excited about.
The create mode is a part of the daily schedule where the students work in groups to build projects. The prompts for the projects are provided by the software and the students will use the software to guide the research, development, team collaboration, and assessment of the project. The software will also serve as a portfolio for each student, featuring projects created over the course of the year along with all-time favorites. Some project deliverables, like videos, reports, and computer programs, will be easily shareable with a link in the software. Others exist primarily in the physical world (e.g. posters, dance routines, theatrical performances, business storefronts, paintings), and in those cases the students will collect artifacts like photos and videos to document the project.