Colleagues from my school and I are days away from a sharing session at which we will share our Innovation Learning Designs (ILD) journey with other schools. It has been a journey, but like most journeys, I don’t foresee an actual final destination. How can I? One of my greatest realizations now is that two short years ago we could not have foreseen where we are today, nor can we foresee where we will be in another two years. I often joke about the fact that when our initial ILD proposal was written, no one on our team had ever touched an iPad, let alone worked in a wireless environment. How could we possibly predict where we would go. That’s why it was fascinating to meet with members of our team and answer a question like:
What’s Different Now?
You’d think the place to start would be to discuss the obvious things we are seeing our students doing. What’s different now? Students are:
- Documenting and reflecting on their learning via ePorfolios
- Following passions and determining what and how they learn during Genius Hour
- Writing in and out of the classroom, in and out of class time, for authentic purposes through their eBooks and blogs
- Developing questioning skills and learning about the world around them during MysterySkype sessions
- Bringing their own devices so that research and publishing resources are at their fingertips
- Fulfilling their need to socially connect with peers around the world through projects such as Global Read-aloud, Postcard Exchange, and blog commenting
- Creating, building, and sharing furniture as part of the WikiSeat project
Yes, things have changed for students. No, I could not have predicted these changes just two short years ago.
But, something surprising happened along the way. Many of our teachers transformed – as did their practice. Before technology impacted students, it first opened doors to our teachers. What came through the doors forced many on staff to think critically about what they were doing, encouraged them to share the already great things going on in their classes, and exposed them to what I consider to be the only source of high quality, on-going professional development. Quite frankly, none of the rich activities listed above were taking place prior to the floodgates opening. When I say floodgates, what I really mean is the combination of…
Wireless + iPads + Twitter +Connection
…and I attribute all of this to the ILD process. Historically, hardware replacement was based on the premise of having so many machines for so many students and replacing it every so many years. Frankly, this method was flawed. Successful implementation (which was present only in pockets around the District prior to ILD) was dependent on who your admin was and who was on staff. Mostly, hardware was given to schools with most asking the question, “Now what?” ILD forced schools to come together, work collaboratively, and develop a plan based on learning that could be supported with technology. It had never been done this way! The fact that teams committed to professional development and sharing further strengthens the process. So has ILD been successful? I dare anyone to say it has not. There is a tremendous amount of evidence to support this:
- Over 30 educators from Surrey attended the recent #ConnectEDca conference in Calgary. That’s over 10% of attendees. There is an obvious thirst for learning and sharing.
- I have NEVER been connected to more administrators and educators as I am today. These people both validate and make me question what I do.
- Home-School Communication has been enhanced. Parents are reading the school blog and following our school Twitter feed. At a recent parent event I shared the Vanier News (our school blog) and asked how many parents had visited the site. I was amazed when probably 75% of parents put their hands up!
- Teachers are venturing off (virtually and physically) to other schools and bringing back innovative practice. There is definitely a “cross-pollination” of ideas taking place.
- Teachers are increasingly open to change and new ideas now that the world of teaching and learning has been opened to them.
- Teachers are becoming increasingly reflective via blogging. It is now cool to reflect, blog, and share.
- Teachers are CONNECTED!
- Since there is technology in each room, it has become “invisible” with the focus being on authentic learning experiences.
So as I look back and look ahead, I am amazed and excited. Amazed at the growth that has taken place in our students. They are excited about learning. Many arrive early most mornings. A teacher who recently had her students start blogging (which was a HUGE leap for this teacher) shared excitedly with me one morning that many of her students wrote a blog the previous evening, even though it was not assigned. Students writing? Because they want to? How could this be? It’s happening!
I am excited because teachers are now not only excited about their student’s learning, but their own learning as well. The most significant aspect of our ILD journey has been, and will continue to be, the growth in the adults in our building. For truly when teachers become co-learners with students and are open to risk-take with opportunities that promote innovation, creativity, and doing authentic work, then the journey will be a grand one for all.
I look forward to the continuation of this learning trek…
I would like to personally thank Elisa Carlson for her drive, determination, and support in moving so many educators forward in the Surrey School District. She was the first one to give me the confidence to share my views, learning, and understanding.
Elisa, thank you for valuing those around you and for asking the difficult questions that needed to be asked!