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The Quanta Challenge

Giving students a chance to capture the smallest chunk (quanta) of learning through collaborative daily challenges.

Photo of Steven Eno
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Written by

I am a.....

  • Teacher
  • Parent/Caregiver
  • Student
  • Organization

Tell us about your idea

In the past, school has only captured large chunks of student learning (semester grades, unit tests, etc).  We believe that hurts students in many ways.  Students aren't given feedback fast enough, they don't understand where they are in their learning journey, and they are forced to focus on high stakes testing that doesn't measure what students have learned.  COVID-19 has compounded the problem by taking away the most important aspect of a physical school, community.  Social distancing has made it so students no longer see their friends on a daily basis and are yearning for human connection.  Families around the world are learning that content can be learned online, but life skills need to be learned and practiced in a community.

The Quanta Challenge will give students daily challenges based on their age.

Elementary students will get math, science, art, and building challenges.  The magic of these challenges are that they are difficult enough to keep the students engaged for hours.  The challenges are focused on creating so that students don't need to ask their parents for help (giving parents much needed relief).  Students will meet together in a morning Zoom call to learn about the challenge and then will be matched up with partners through breakout rooms.  This gives elementary aged students a chance to make new friends and learn how to work collaboratively to solve problems in creative ways.  They will present their solution when they are finished by recording a short presentation.  A panel of judges will choose a winner each day.  Students who complete a challenge will get a point, and students who win a daily challenge will get an additional two points.  At the end of the summer the students with the highest amount of points will earn a prize (TBD).

High school students need less guidance, more freedom, but still require a solid daily structure.  These older students will daily challenges to teach them life skills like journaling, breath work, physical fitness, sleep, healthy diet, limiting social media, and estimating how much money their time is worth.  A group of high school student leaders will create the daily challenges for their peers to complete.  High school students will build a community on a combination of Slack and Zoom.  By doing challenges in a community they will be able to learn more than ever before.

These daily challenges will give students a record of a learning moment each day.  This collection of "learning quanta" will paint a much more detailed picture of what students are capable of.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

I wish to leave any long term tracking of learning in the past. Long term tracking of learning like grades, SAT/ACT scores, and even unit tests put unnecessary pressure on students. Things like grades gives large incentives to game the system. The "Varsity Blues" college admissions scandal shows how damaging it is to focus on long term learning metrics. The current system of grades and high stakes testing gives benefits to the wealthy and has too many side/back doors to keep track of. If we can shrink the size of learning metrics we can create a system that can't be gamed and is much more equitable. Every student needs to gather as many small learning chunks, or quanta, as possible. This takes a constant effort over a long period of time and gives teachers and parents a chance to give feedback to students quickly and consistently. Students will have a better idea of their learning journey, what they are interested in, and what they can do to improve.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

After getting my BSEE at JHU and working for a software company, I went back to my high school to start up an engineering program.  I felt that I could help change the school system to serve every student.  After building a successful K-12 engineering program and earning Teacher of the Year honors, our family decided to move to the East Coast to be closer to my wife's family.  At that point I was hired by one of the top private schools to create a new engineering/innovation program.  There we decided to create a more integrated program that brought together social entrepreneurship, engineering, and design.  The program was fully realized and giving students opportunities to change their world through human centered design, an entrepreneurial mindset, and the technical efficiency of engineers.

Our family began home school at the beginning of 2020, giving us time to prototype and test ideas to improve education for students and families.  This work led us to the Quanta Challenge.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

I currently live in Monrovia, Maryland and am teaching my 9, 6, and 2 year old sons in home school. Monrovia is in Frederick County in a rural area Northwest of Washington D.C. We have access to wooded areas where we can explore nature and find peace during stressful times. Our daily routine (including The Quanta Challenge) helps us learn, grow, and create on a consistent basis.

2 comments

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Spam
Photo of Rachel Siegel
Team

This is a really cool idea, Steven Eno ! I love that you are focusing on daily, formative feedback for students through challenges and community-building. So important. I have children similar in age to yours and find that yes, they really crave ACTIVE opportunities to learn and as parents, we crave learning experiences for them that don't require all of our attention. I wonder, since you've had the chance to test a little of your idea with your 9- and 6-year-olds, what you've learned from them. Any surprises or iterations based on their feedback?

Thank you for your contribution!

Spam
Photo of Steven Eno
Team

Hi Rachel!

Thank you very much for your interest in our idea. I have been testing out my idea with my sons and my nephews who are 10 and 7. We have been playing with Zoom and what is possible over longer distances as my nephews live in a different state. You can check out some of our Quanta Challenges here - https://impactconnections.org/the-quanta-challenge/

The thing that surprised me the most was how invested my boys got because of a "challenge." They worked harder on these little challenges than any other school assignment. They like to work on the challenges on their own time and schedule, but also liked connected each day over Zoom. My boys love to make faces on Zoom and being on their own device, so I am trying to find a way to use that performance instinct. The hard part is that I am with my boys to support them, where I know many families won't have the time or skill set to support their children in each one of these challenges. I hope to create a support system for parents who want their kids to participate and need some extra help.

We have taken a short break as we prepare for our summer of learning. Since we homeschool I plan on having my boys learn year round and begin their summer of the Quanta Challenge soon. I am hoping to get a community of elementary students together to work together in a combination of Zoom and offline projects. My boys and nephews seem to enjoy the combination of meeting on Zoom and working collaboratively in breakout rooms and also doing longer offline projects individually. Hopefully I can make the process smooth enough to help any family who is interested.