Showcased-Learning. WHAT? Is this an oxymoron, or is it a paradox? Is it possible to have a final-product-process? What’s this all about?

Every spring, the North Carolina Technology In Education Society (NCTIES) has an annual conference. Educators from around the state (and occasionally beyond) converge on Raleigh to share best practices to make learning experiences better. And technology is a tool that can help. And I am a kid in a candy store.

Having attended NCTIES for a few years now, my favorite part has always been the Student Showcase. Being an elementary educator, I absolutely love circling every single elementary student showcase, listening to students tell me all about their amazing products, and how technology made it all happen. But this time around, I realized that I had been wrong all along.  What’s going on here?

My Student Showcase experience was very different this year, or, maybe professional light bulbs were finally going off. When I asked Heritage Elementary School students about their UpCycle Marketplace products, they told me exactly what I asked. But, when I followed up with that second question, they started explaining to me a very long process. See my second-question conversation with second graders:

Me: “So, how did you come up with the name for your new upcycle product?”

Second Grader: “Well, we all disagreed. Every group member had a different idea.”

Me: “Wow. So, what did you do?”

Second Grader: “Well, we had to compromise. We had to take a little bit of each member’s idea and make it into one. It took a while, and… so we… and then…”

The inner educator in me was crying tears of joy. This was just the name of the product. I have a feeling that if I had asked a few more questions, we could have talked for hours. At first glance, their creative products caught my eye. A moment later, student-authored, collaborative processes captured my heart.  THIS is what it’s all about. THIS is why I teach. I was frequently challenged in creating 4Cs opportunities for my own fifth graders, but these second graders lived all 4Cs from the heart in less than a minute. Special shoutout to Heather Collins for providing her students platforms for process learning.

Another huge shoutout! In a marathon feat, my friend Stacy Lovdahl ventured to periscope ~100? NCTIES student showcases. I believe Stacy was striving to be fair, asking each child one question about his or her product, so each student got air time. But her asking a second question to each child may have unveiled their learning processes, too. At the 3:20 mark here, one student actually says the word “product.” And this also showed how student challenges were differentiated, because the second graders told me that they DID experience a group learning process, not individual. I believe that if Stacy had more time, resources, and personnel, those students would have talked forever. Periscoping the NCTIES Student Showcases was such a treat. Stacy’s periscopes transformed memorable learning experiences into digitally-unforgettable.

Nevertheless, I’m not the only educator who wrestles with product versus process. Mandatory assessments throughout the year require educators to have “covered” specific content by a certain time. And there are huge advantages to clear, specific, even hashtagged expectations in curriculum. But sometimes the pressures of trying to cover too much content kills the process. At the 2017 ASCD Empower Conference in Anaheim, California, I asked Dr. Robert J Marzano face-to-face: “What is the biggest challenge that schools face today?” He replied:

This may mean that the standardized-tested grade level teachers may feel extra pressure to cover too much content, to teacher-produce and student-regurgitate a “product,” and to hurry learning processes along the way.

My research continued, when I googled “Bill Ferriter showcasing versus learning,” to find him referencing George Couros. I have enjoyed conversations about product-versus-process dynamics with both thought leaders. George’s blog is linked here, but his #InnovatorsMindset graphic may sum it up:

George Couros--Product Versus Process

I’m not sure what the answers are to balancing process versus product in public school learning spaces today. But what I do know, is the pride and ownership students have when sharing the entire journey of their learning experiences.