Erica Maliszewski and Mandy Harvath
Teachers at Birmingham Covington School
Problem-solving and perseverance
“The students have surprised us with their artistic talents and organisational skills. The products they are developing are incredible, yet the students are able to produce them efficiently while maintaining quality.”
Technology opens many doors to young children, both positive and negative. Erica Maliszewski and Mandy Harvath, teachers at Birmingham Covington School (BCS) in Michigan, teach students the importance of the appropriate use of technology, as well as the dangers that can result from irresponsible behaviour: “When students feel success with technology in the classroom and use technology to collaborate, they truly understand the seriousness of good character and appropriate use of technology. The technology in our school has enabled both teaching and learning to be more engaging and meaningful. Students are very connected to technology and incorporating it into teaching and learning keeps them motivated and interested.”
Microsoft 365 has opened the door to global communication among the BCS students. They have particularly enjoyed receiving feedback from other students around the world via Yammer, as well as seeing the pictures of the other students and their products, which has motivated them to work even harder. They also enjoy scrolling though the various Yammer sites to provide feedback and learn about the progress of others.
Erica and Mandy strive to give their students opportunities to become creative and independent workers while fostering global communication and collaboration: “As students are working in teams, it is critical to prepare them for 21st century job skills in this manner; we cannot imagine a profession where people do not collaborate and work as a team to some extent. We also strive to teach our students that if you believe in yourself and work hard, amazing outcomes will result.
“Our biggest hope for today's students is that they learn to collaborate, reach consensus and communicate effectively, learning from the feedback of others and also providing respectful and constructive criticism. We hope that students have a desire and passion to grow and learn as well as never give up.”
MCS and the Global Enterprise Challenge (GEC)
For many MCS students, participating in the GEC is the first opportunity they have had to collaborate and engage in global conversations. Through their enthusiastic use of Microsoft 365, they have learned problem-solving and perseverance. While they were already familiar with Word and PowerPoint, the Challenge has given them the opportunity to also learn to explore and navigate tools like Excel and Yammer.
According to Erica and Mandy, the GEC has been a very positive experience in collaboration: “Students have learned that in a group of five or six, it is often the case that more than one person wants to complete a certain task. They have learned the value of dividing the workload in the most effective and efficient ways possible. They have learned the importance of deadlines and accountability; our three trading events would not have been possible without their hard work and dedication in getting products ready to sell. They have learned lessons about constructive criticism in both providing and receiving feedback from others with regard to their products. Lastly, we have noticed such a positive feeling of excitement from the students when it is time to work on the GEC. It continues to grow as we progress through the competition as the students are definitely seeing the importance of every team member's contributions.
“The students have surprised us with their artistic talents and organisational skills. The products they are developing are incredible, yet the students are able to produce them efficiently while maintaining quality. The three sales events we have held have been very successful and the students are extremely proud of the positive feedback. Many people are in awe of their products and we are surprised at the consistent positive feedback that the students continue to receive while trading. Their patience and willingness to work with others has also been somewhat of a surprise. We anticipated conflict (and there has certainly been some) but more often than not students are able to resolve conflicts on their own.”
Learning through the Challenge
The students have reserved Friday mornings before school sell their duct tape crafts (bookmarks, jewellery, media cases, pencil toppers and recycled goods). On Wednesday and Thursday of each week, they evaluate their inventory and add to it based on the previous week's sales and the demand for certain products, and they then manufacture accordingly. On Fridays, they arrive at 7:40 am and set up three tables, bringing their products and getting their displays ready by 8:00 am. They sell from 8:00-8:18 am.
They also set up their displays during the evening performance of the school play at the end of January, selling before the play began and then again during the intermission. After their 12 February sale date, they will determine if they need to explore other events to increase their sales.
The students themselves are very pleased with their achievements: “We made a lot more money that we expected and the teachers were very surprised!” said one. “Getting organised and making a quality product was a problem but we persevered and eventually solved the problem,” added another.
While most of the students enjoy making and selling their products, some have found it a challenge to learn and understand the importance of reports, presentations and keeping detailed records. In addition, one of the biggest challenges the children face within the GEC is the use, and value, of resources, as Erica explains: “It can be a challenge for students to understand that if they lose an item they purchased, scissors for example, they cannot just find another pair without deducting the cost from their bank account. Learning that we must pay for every item we use, down to the printer ink and pieces of paper, has been a challenge. Students overcome this by keeping their supplies organised in bins. They are further challenged to determine what supplies and materials are essential. For example, when a student asks something like: ‘Can we make another poster?’ We have to remind them to determine if they are prepared to deduct the cost from their account.
“The students are embracing the collaborative elements of the Challenge as they understand collaboration is critical to the success of their group. They have grown to look forward to working on the GEC as often as possible and they wish we had more time each day to devote to it. Initially some were displeased with their group assignments, but the GEC has taught them to respect their group members, reach consensus and make decisions as a group.”