I am fortunate to work in a district where there is a culture of innovation and a willingness to try new ideas and practices. Our Superintendent, Chris Kennedy, who writes a weekly blog, Culture of Yes , has been a strong leader in supporting innovative practices. He has supported teachers to learn, unlearn, and relearn by bringing in guest speakers to our opening days including Yong Zhao, author of World Class Leaders, partnering with others to support the independently organized TEDxWestVancouverED conferences, eliminating letter grades from intermediate report cards, promoting the use of Twitter and blogging by staff and students, ensuring all teachers have a free laptop provided by the district, and instituting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for all Grade 4-7 students in the district. The district has also provided multiple professional development opportunities for e-portfolios (FreshGrade) and Inquiry-based learning (Kath Murdoch), and ensured that schools have the digital resources needed such as Google Apps for Education, Discovery Education, short-throw projectors, and an upgraded internet infrastructure. Finally, the district has supported teachers’ professional growth by providing Innovation Grants ($1000-$3500) for teams to investigate new ideas and practices. I feel like my teaching has transformed significantly in the last ten years since Chris arrived in our district.
As a result, I would not drop anything from my current practice, but I want to explore two of Richardson’s ideas:
Talk to strangers –
As Richardson (2012) notes, “it’s now easier than ever to communicate, create, and collaborate with others from around the globe who share our passion to learn.” Although my school has a focus on technology, I feel that students need to connect more with others around the world and learn from them. I know of teachers who have connected with classrooms through Twitter and my goal next year is to connect with an Australian school that is also using the same Inquiry Model at Caulfeild. I want the students to share their Big Ideas and Essential Questions and get different perspectives to expand their learning.
Do real work for real audiences –
Real-life inquiry-based learning is key to student engagement and ownership. So often, students can not see the purpose of their learning. By ensuring that their learning is tied to action, students will begin to see how what they are learning is meaningful and has an impact. Richardson suggests that “real work for real audiences” may be hard to find, but it is worth it. I found several examples in Ritchie’s (2017) article about Marc Prensky’s (2016) book on Real-World Education. My goal is to attempt at least one such activity next year with students, using technology as Richardson suggests, and getting students to focus on their audience. Students should not simply “do work” for their teachers, but instead share their learning with others.
Kennedy, C. (2018). Culture of Yes. Retrieved from https://cultureofyes.ca/
Prensky, M. (2016). Education to Better Their World:Unleashing the Power of 21st-Century Kids. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Richardson, W. (2012). Why School?: How Education Much Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere (http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00998J5YQ . TED Conferences Publishing. [EBOOK]
Ritchie, N. (March 2017). World Changers: A bold new educational paradigm is emerging that literally has the power to help students change the world. Melbourne’s Child. Retrieved from
Zhao, Y. (2012). World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.