Tackling “Wicked Problems” in a matter of months with Wipebook Flipcharts
"As a social science teacher, I often use large, very expensive, wall mounted whiteboards in class, however, as the whiteboards themselves are affixed to our classroom walls and teachers are never guaranteed to be teaching in the same classrooms semester after semester... the Wipebook Flipchart has solved this problem"
Our world stretches beyond our classroom walls and our students need to understand what is meant by thinking globally, acting locally. We start with a big question, how do tackle financial insecurity in the Global South? How do we solve the global single use plastic issue? Over the next four months, everything we do in our classroom, all content learned, lessons designed and work completed will go to identifying the gaps in our learning and coming up with possible solutions to what often feels like impossible problems. Over the course of a semester, we will tackle a variety of social and/or cultural problems that are difficult or impossible to solve – a wicked problem.
As a social science teacher, I often use large, very expensive, wall mounted whiteboards in class, however, as the whiteboards themselves are affixed to our classroom walls and teachers are never guaranteed to be teaching in the same classrooms semester after semester, teachers often either modify their lessons or become creative in sharing classrooms. That said, the Wipebook Flipchart has solved this problem for us. While most of the courses I teach focus around global issues and international politics, much of what we do focuses on problem-based thinking, tackling wicked problems, and grappling with user design experiences (UDX). With these three focal areas being hands-on, student-centric collaborative classroom experiences requiring note taking and a trial-and-error process, traditional paper became too messy and environmentally unfriendly, while the use of computers became too convoluted with different applications, documents, and accessibility issues.
Collaborating to Solve Wicked Problems
As a group, students need to understand the intricacies of “wicked problems” and the actors and arenas in which solutions and future problems exist.
Students began with choosing one global issue from the UN Sustainable Development Goals and then worked through trying to identify 5 – 7 things that may have led to it. Then students had to go deeper and think about what effects of the issue might be at either a social, environmental, political, or economic level. If the issue were global poverty, what might have been some of the factors that lead to it? Resource depletion? Colonization? Political Instability? What then are some of the effects of poverty? Malnutrition? Homelessness? Higher taxes? Corruption? Students found themselves delving deep into a rabbit hole but it helped that each one of these effects could then also be broken down into further individual branches.
Only as good as your resources
I came across Wipebook via Twitter and I was immediately hooked at the fact that this one tool solves our spatial classroom issues and the cost of having to retrofit classrooms without chalkboards or whiteboards, with them. As such, because the Wipebook Flipchart came as a package of 10 sheets that can be removed from their housing, distributed to students or groups, and then reattached as a single package, what made this tool so effective was the ability for students work in 5 or 10 pods (one or two sheets per group), sketch out and work through possible solutions to their projects at hand, and then use the Wipebook app via their smartphones or school based tablets, quickly scan an upload all draft work to their respective school drive before wiping the sheets down and trying again. This was great, easy, and inexpensive. Students, armed with dry erase markers acted as the United Nations and various global superpowers, throwing every idea they could think of on their flipchart paper, nothing was too big or too small until COVID forced our school to close again.
And then COVID hit again.
Now with school closed around the province, collaboration has become more difficult. To help mitigate some of these challenges, we decided that students would remain in their respective collaborative groups for the duration of the lockdown or term (whatever ended first) and one or two representatives from each of the pods would be in possession of the pages. As such, during class-based work time, students would remain in a video chatroom and dictate what they thought needed to be added to the Wipebook sheet. While at times these seemed a little “School-based Pictionary” the students enjoyed the process and were still able to sketch out or graph out ideas on behalf of their group again, scan and send ideas, proposals, and solutions to their group members as well as myself. Using templates posted on our class webpage, students were able to recreate these on their Wipebook Chart Paper and fill them as a group, scanning as they went, and then erasing as they moved on.
By having students download the Wipebook app, they were also able to quickly, in one step, scan their work, retrieve it from their own personal cloud server (i.e., Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) or email, and then copy it into future projects, papers, are proposals. The ease and simplicity is refreshing especially when I am adding an additional layer to the online educational experience.
Is the world a better place now?
The reality is that education is a lifelong journey and that schooling does not necessarily need to be in the traditional setting it has always been in. our classrooms are dining room tables, bedroom doors and backyards, and while we might not all have computers and the internet, we all have a voice, an opinion, and an idea. The Wipebook Flipchart pages have allowed our students to continue working to solve Wicked Problems and thanks to these flipchart pages, the work has been seamless.
Neil Orlowsky, York University, Faculty of Education, York Region District School Board.
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