The latest trend on social media is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. If you’d asked me weeks ago my feelings regarding this charade, this post would have been quite different. Many have expressed their opinions regarding the challenge via Facebook and other forums, so, having completed the challenge myself, I feel that it’s time that I share mine.
Weeks ago, if you had asked me how I felt about the ice bucket challenge, I would have candidly argued that this was the most ridiculous waste of time offered on the internet. I mean, how could dumping a bucket of cold water help research for a neurodegenerative disease? And, how does having the option of donating if the challenge wasn’t completed support funding? At the same time, I honestly didn’t know anything about ALS or why this foundation, above all others, was receiving so much attention.
I now understand that, much like cancer, ALS is a disease where the body attacks itself. Nerves of the body slowly deteriorate, limiting muscle movement, bodily functions, and, inevitably, brain activity. Strangely, an episode of Cake Boss was on recently that divulged how Buddy’s mother in fact has ALS. The family was trying to do all that they could to help, including taking bone marrow from each sibling to send to Israel for an exclusive test to see if they could help their ill stricken sister. Intense, right? So, as my knowledge base regarding ALS grew, I still couldn’t quite see the connection between an ice bucket and this condition.
And then came the HEAT.
I was at a workshop earlier in the week in which the speaker, Dr. Chris Moersch (fantastic, by the way), discussed how to turn up the H.E.A.T. in your classroom to increase learning in preparation for new standards, new tests, and new levels of expected rigor. H.E.A.T. stands for higher order thinking, engaged learning, authentic connections, and technology use. When a teacher has effectively crafted and presented a lesson, it is the students who show the HEAT.
Think back to the ice bucket challenge. Now, based on my research, this was not crafted by a middle school student, or any student for that matter, for a summative assessment, but what if it were? The ice bucket challenge is a perfect example of what students could create in your classroom to bring the HEAT. Think about it. If you as the teacher began your lesson or unit with the essential question of, “How can one person and one voice create change in a community?” imagine the project-based learning possibilities! Your students would research an organization they feel strongly about, like, say, the ALS association. They would gather their evidence as to why this organization should be a focus in their project; for instance, in one year, the ALSA would typically bring in $1.1 million dollars in donations, while the American Cancer Society accepts $934 million in revenue. By selecting an organization that has touched them in some way, their project as a whole will be held together by authenticity. Lastly, creating a multi-media challenge which takes a minute or less that can be shared on social media websites to promote their cause constitutes a deep understanding and application of technology. By looking at the ALS ice bucket challenge as an assignment, it is easily apparent that the students, whoever it was that created this, are in fact creating a game plan for change, are identifying a problem and proposing their own solutions through collaboration, are composing a product that is relevant to them and establishes a change that effects the outside community, and are applying self-selected digital resources to promote their products. That’s HEAT, baby.
So, you see, while the ice bucket challenge, at surface level, seems to be complete unrelated to the cause of ALS, the campaign is actually a brilliant project fueled by the questioning of how one person can start a movement. (To date, the amount of donations given to the ALS association has quadrupled in the past year due in part to this growing viral phenomena.)
For those of you who have or are currently knocking the ice bucket challenge, I challenge you to look at this experience with a different lens. You’ll be amazed at what you find.