April 27, 2020
Dear FUSE Facilitators,
I am writing today to share some new ideas and developments regarding how the FUSE Team is trying to support you and your students during this time of remote instruction.
Many of you may know that the ideas we share about implementing FUSE are based on research our team has conducted over the last 8 years in FUSE classrooms in Chicagoland and around the U.S. (and even a bit in Helsinki, Finland). In that research, we have repeatedly found that the “secret sauce” in the FUSE recipe is how, when given the opportunity, students naturally collaborate on challenges and learn from and teach each other. Supported by you, this happens pretty naturally face to face in classrooms. There, students can be encouraged by you to seek out other students who have experience with and excitement about particular challenges. Students can also simply learn by observing others working on a challenge and asking questions. Or they can hang out together and work on challenges collaboratively. All of these natural social ways of learning are disrupted when we are in separate places and interacting only through our computers or other devices.
Supporting productive interactions remotely
What the FUSE team has been working on are ways to replicate, however imperfectly, those forms of social interaction. We are excited to announce that we are ready to go live with a brand new tool to support students learning from and teaching each other. We are simply calling it “Help Finder”, and what it will allow students to do is to look at a display board to see which of their classmates have worked on a challenge, how many levels they’ve completed, and whether they are logged into their FUSE account at that moment. This tool is based on physical displays, such as “Boss Boards” or “Star Boards”, that some of our partner teachers have created to help students find peers with relevant expertise when they need help. In the context of remote instruction, the goal of “Help Finder” is to best replicate that help finding (or offering) that takes place face-to-face, in FUSE Studios all over the country. We also envision the “Help Finder” tool being a place where students could go to find friends to virtually collaborate with on challenges, or to get ideas about which challenges they might want to work on by seeing what their friends or other classmates are working on.
This is one of the many ways we have been thinking about to support the fruitful and engaging social interactions that happen in FUSE Studios, both between you and students and among students themselves. Below are a couple of other suggestions for ways to engage your students in FUSE during this period of remote instruction. Because we know that schools’ remote instruction plans and students’ access to technology vary widely, please just take these as suggestions and adapt to your and your students’ particular resources and circumstances.
- Sharing Student Work: If you can bring together some or all of your FUSE students in discussion boards or video-conferences, consider having them share what they’ve been working on with their peers. You could facilitate those sharing sessions and guide them in giving productive feedback and encouragement to each other. Lots of research, including our own, supports the idea that learning to give productive and constructive feedback on peers’ work, scaffolded by you, is valuable.
- Supporting Student Work: If possible, you might try to “make the rounds” over a few weeks, meeting or connecting with students individually or in groups of two or three, and hearing what they are up to, what they are finding compelling, where they might be struggling…all those things you already know how to do with students.
- Facilitating Collaboration: Using the “Help Finder” tool, you might encourage students to reach out to at least one other student, either to offer help or to ask for it. “Help” could be as minimal as just making a connection, sharing challenge work in progress, and asking “what do you think?”. If video-conferencing is an option for your students, you might also encourage them to use the “Help Finder” tool to find peers to collaborate remotely with on challenges.
New challenge development for these times
We have also begun work on new challenges that can be done at home, because, of course, the challenges that require physical materials are back in your classrooms and can’t be shared easily. So our new challenge design focus will, for the time being, go in two directions: (1) “all digital” challenges and (2) challenges that can be completed with at-home materials.
One of these at-home challenges that we released right before remote instruction started is the “Slow your Roll” challenge. In this challenge, students are asked to build a marble roller coaster using paper. This challenge is related to Coaster Boss, but instead of trying to get the fastest marble speed, students will try to build a coaster that gives a marble a 10 second ride – at least.
We are also excited to announce that we are working on a second, all new, at-home challenge based on the idea of Rube Goldberg machines. That challenge will be called Look No Hands, and as a preview, below is the trailer video for the first challenge level. We expect to release this challenge by May 1, just in time to potentially combat those late school year doldrums, which are undoubtedly exacerbated by being at home.
We have other ideas in the works to support you and your students, which we will share as they are further developed. But for now, please just know that we recognize this as a time of great uncertainty. We know that educators across the country have been thrown into uncharted territory with little time to prepare, and no one knows exactly when things will return to normal. Please know that our small and mighty team deeply appreciates all of you who are part of the FUSE Studios movement, and we will continue to give our best and most creative energies to responding to this disruption in the best ways we can.
All the best,
Dr. Reed Stevens
Founder and PI, FUSE Studios
Professor, Learning Sciences
School of Education and Social Policy