Friday, October 28, 2011

BC Innovative Learning Environments

Connected Classroom - Gold Trail

Today the Ministry released the new Education Plan. At the heart of the plan is the focus on learners owning their own learning - and the challenge of designing more responsive, flexible systems to meet the needs of all learners. There are important linkages between the goals of the Education Plan, the focus of the on-going inquiry work in Network schools and the exciting number of truly innovative learning environments that are being developed across BC.

For the past two years, Linda and I have been part of an international projects sponsored by the OECD on Innovative Learning Environments. This project involves representatives from 25 countries identifying promising local case studies, some of which are selected for inclusion in a set of international cases and then a few of which will be the subject of more in-depth research.

Last spring we submitted six case studies from BC - and we could have submitted a lot more. Over the next few months, we will be continuing to identify promising case studies and inviting representatives from those learning environments to participate in this project. No money or glory involved - this is simply a chance to get the great work in BC understood and recognized on an international platform. To be accepted into this project, the learning environment has to be designed in response to a significant learning need, it must consider the use of time and space in new ways, and connections across the curriculum and with the community are built in.

One of the BC case studies that has been accepted into the 'universe' of international cases is the Connected Classroom in the Gold Trail School District. Three intermediate classrooms are linked by technology and are creating strong social-emotional connections across geographically remote communities. Check out a video clip to see the excitement on the part of the teachers and the learners. Not only is this a great example of innovation and creative thinking, we also think it is a strong example of the five elements indicated in the Education Plan.

Stay tuned for other examples from BC - and from around the world.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Every Learner is a Somebody

At a fund raising event last fall at Alberni Elementary School, a grade one student was overheard saying: "Why do we have to do this? It's not like we're going to make a difference." This sparked discussion among the staff about the ways in which personal beliefs and attitudes dictate personal actions. Out of this, their Network question emerged and they spent a productive year working to equip their learners with the tools, attitudes and beliefs that would encourage genuine community participation. Their observations about the changes in student behaviour and anecdotal feedback from parents told them they were on the right track. The differences in response between their Aboriginal and non Aboriginal learners raised even more questions and they are now seeking out ways to help each child become more aware of their valuable role in the life and care of their classrooms. We think there are lots of schools who would be interested in the specific ways in which the teachers at Alberni are tackling this question.

The best practices in the world are evident in BC schools - in some places, at some times, and in some situations. Through the Network we have been working hard to find ways and spaces where we can learn from each other and build on the great work that is taking place in schools across the province. We really believe that if we work together in a spirit of generosity and inquiry, dig deep into our own practices, look around to see what we can learn not only from the most current international research but also from cutting edge practice in BC schools, that we can truly improve the life chances of every learner.

Over the summer, a team of Network volunteers read the hundreds of case studies submitted from NPBS and AESN schools. All the case studies will soon be available on the Network website and we hope that you will take the time to explore what is happening in these inquiring schools. We have put together a small set of Sample Case Studies that contain the stories of inquiry, innovation and improvement from schools from Comox Valley to Vernon, Nechako Lakes to Invermere and everywhere in between.

Network schools agree to share their strategies, ideas, resources, triumphs and challenges openly and freely. We ask that if you learn something from a Network school or if you use resources or programs developed by colleagues in another school, that you will acknowledge the source. So, thanks to the team at Alberni Elementary for sharing their successes with helping to ensure that every child feels like a somebody - a somebody who can make a difference.