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This week, I focussed my writing around Fullan and Langworthy’s work: A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning. To quickly recap, a key focus of the writing is the idea of New Pedagogies, which are comprised of three areas, New Learning Partnerships, Deep Learning Tasks, and Digital Tools and Resources. New Learning Partnerships are the way learning has shifted from teacher to student, to student to student, and student to teacher. Deep Learning Tasks would be defined as the shift from regurgitation of knowledge to knowledge creation, and the use of that knowledge. I like to think of this as a redefinition of learning, and being able to apply that learning in real world contexts. And Digital Tools and Resources, are those digital tools that help to accelerate the learning process in an authentic way. This is using digital tools and technologies for authentic learning outcomes, not just for the sake of using technology.

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New Models of Education

In our school we have been steadily embracing the new model of education for quite some time. One example from last school year that I believe exemplifies this new model was our school’s TedTalks that were held in Grade 6. Students were required to construct 3-5 minute TedTalks that were based on a theme from the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Students had also been reading social justice oriented novels in English class, and were expected to incorporate technology (powerful visual tools) into their presentation.  This project incorporated New Learning Partnerships as students taught each other and the teachers in the room. It incorporated Deep Learning as they were expected to conduct research and present this in a unique way to an authentic audience as the community attended the event. And technology was used during the presentation, but also through their research process as they leveraged resources from Ted, and were able to Skype with an expert in delivering TedTalks leading up to the event. This culminated in a powerful learning experience and showcase with parents and other community members attending our TedTalks event

ISC Design and Innovation Lab
ISC Design and Innovation Lab

Opportunities to Embrace New Pedagogies

One of the great innovative projects that I have had the honor of being involved with, is the development of our Design and Innovation Lab and our Makerspace.  The Design and Innovation Lab was opened this school year, and the Makerspace is currently in its design phase. The D&I Lab has innovative tools that you would expect in this type of space, like Lego Mindstorms, Sphero Robots, 3D Printers, and a Laser Cutter. It has been strategically placed between two science classrooms to promote STEM and interdisciplinary studies. The Makerspace will have more hands on equipment for students, lathes, drill presses, hand drills, and other types of woodworking and design equipment. Of course these tools are only as good as the pedagogy and the challenges that students are presented with. But this is a large step forward for our school in terms of the new pedagogies model, and pushing student inquiry and design.

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Learning Partnerships

In our school, learning partnerships involve good inquiry, not direct instruction. We are a Common Ground Collaborative school, so all of our units begin with a question: Why is it worth learning?  This simple yet complex starting point, allows all of our learners, including the teacher, to start with the why and expand their questioning and inquisition out from there. Since becoming a CGC school two years ago, all of our units from K-12, have been structured with this starting point, then built out into conceptual understandings and learning competencies. This structure to our units of learning has allowed us to be more collaborative with our teaching and learning.  Additionally, we have designed our schedules for Professional Learning Community time in every division, ECC through to HS. This allows for maximum teacher collaboration.

ISC Outdoor Learning Space
ISC Outdoor Learning Space

Learning Environments

Our learning environments at ISC heavily foster these partnerships, where both student and teacher are the expert and the learner. First of all, no classroom, from ECC to Kindergarten is organized in rows. You will see tables with chairs, carpeted areas, group work areas, couches, pillows, etc.  In addition, there are many collaborative spaces for students and teachers to work. There are many outdoor spaces as well, including a seating area in our forest and a rooftop learning space. These learning spaces are all designed with collaboration, communication, and conversation at the center of good teaching.

Edtech Frameworks and Learning Partnerships

If I think about the SAMR model, and the goal of moving up the ladder from substitution to remodification, having a true learning partnership, can provide an environment for this to happen. Working in the design lab students are presented with problems and use technology as a tool to solve these problems. For example, how can they use the movement of the sphero robots to support those in society with mobility challenges.  With such an open ended problem, students can really use the technology anywhere on the SAMR ladder. When you combine this with the idea of new learning partnerships, students have the opportunity to learn from their teacher, as they become familiar with the new tech. As they learn and progress, they in turn have the opportunity to teach their teacher, and each other as their projects take shape. What I find most invigorating as an educator is watching students tackle design problems and come up with solutions that teachers had never even considered. This is what makes teaching in Design such rewarding work.

2 thoughts on “New Pedagogies and Deep Learning

  1. Thanks for the extensive post Ryan. What struck me right away was your discussion of new partnerships and the partnership of students teaching students. I love this idea and frequently use it in my classroom. We have such a wide variety of knowledge and backgrounds that the students should always know who the experts are in their classroom on certain topics be it the one who can solve your iPad troubles, the one who can help you with explaining a math problem and so on. How can we utilize this potential to its fullest through building a culture of cooperation and promoting it further to create students as leaders / teachers? What habits and what environment do we need to develop in our classrooms and schools to facilitate student partnerships in this way? Is it though accountable talk, providing opportunities in real-world contexts, and giving students the tools and the know-how to be successful in these types of partnerships. I can think of some ways we do this also as a whole school through buddy programs, ted-talk events, unit celebrations but also think it has to become part of regular practice in the classrooms.

    Glad to see your school is taking steps towards using the environment to accomplish this. The Third Teacher book has fantastic ideas about how we use our environments as a learning space and how this provokes students into new ways of learning together, controlling their own learning, and sharing their knowledge. We can’t use boxes and rows anymore as long gone are the days of information transfer. We need to create a culture through habits and space that promotes the co-construction of skills and understanding. Outdoor learning spaces are also fantastic ways to accomplish this and do you also use your community? Learning outside the school grounds can also help build real-world connections and opportunities.

    Then we need to bring technology into the mix too, I like your statements about open-ended problems to get the students finding solutions and transition from the initial teaching, switching to the students teaching and then reflecting on all the possibilities that one person alone could not think of.

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  2. Hey Flynn, thanks for the post. You make a great point regarding leveraging the expertise in the classroom. We do have student experts in the room, and taking the time to identify them can go a long way in moving learning forward. I think much of it has to do with letting go of control and being open to learning ourselves. It all starts with creating this environment from the start of a year or semester, where we say “Hey, you are just as responsible, if not more responsible, for your learning than I am. I am just here to ask good questions and facilitate your learning experiences”.

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