Last week we had the opportunity to celebrate the work in which we have been engaged in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to “Transform Learning Everywhere”. Students, staff and families came to our new HWDSB Education Centre to share their learning, to celebrate this exciting vision, and to provide examples of what happens for students when we think differently about our classrooms, the learning relationships in the classrooms and the learning opportunities provided to students in our schools. This vision is based on a number of important beliefs: Learners are able to own their learning. They are able to work independently and collaboratively to engage real life issues and ideas. Our learners are creative and innovative if we give them the opportunity to be these things. They are champions of social justice and willing to challenge the status quo if we create the conditions for them to do so. Our learners do not solve problems in only one way and their ability to identify and assess issues from complex perspectives supports their creativity and their resilience. They are able to evaluate what they learn, make important connections, and communicate effectively about their learning, which implies that they understand how to reflect upon their learning process. And finally this vision allows our learners to use technology in ubiquitous ways to change learning, not simply to support learning. We believe this change to learning flows from the fact that technology connects us to the global world beyond the classroom, provides different ways for students to communicate and create, and it provides an equitable opportunity for all students to engage, not just those who can afford to do so. Our Transforming Learning Everywhere vision will put tablets in the hands of every teacher and every student in grades 4 to 8 by 2019 and it will help us make changes to how we view our roles as educators. These are lofty beliefs, but beliefs that are definitely worth working towards.
Specifically, here are some of the lessons I learned last week at this celebration. Kindergarten students wrote and illustrated descriptions of their families, recorded these descriptions and provided me with the opportunity to listen to this video record through a telephone receiver attached to their tablet. High schools students shared with me how they are applying concepts and theories to a real life problem regarding the amount of traffic congestion that exists around their school, using science, math and geography in an interdisciplinary way to create possible solutions. They told me that they are glad to be in Grade 11 because they are finally able to apply their conceptual and theoretical learning. My response was to ask how they would have felt if they were able to apply their learning in every year of school. Needless to say, they were quite excited about this possibility which is becoming a reality in HWDSB. Throughout the room I listened to students confidently articulating their learning process captured in different ways through their tablet. I observed parents beaming with pride and teachers who were clearly passionate about their students’ success and their role to create the conditions to make this so. I experienced the beginning stages of transformation and the excitement that goes along with this transformation.
Dean Shareski from Discovery Education ended our morning by offering some reflections about how much our world has changed over the last few decades. He discussed our responsibility we have as parents and educators to engage this change with our students so our students have the opportunity to excel in the world as it is today and in the world of tomorrow that has not even been created yet! And when I refer to tomorrow, I literally mean tomorrow since the speed of change is mesmerizing! The momentum is forming in HWDSB because learning is transforming, and engagement is increasing, always with our students at the centre.
Here is a link to my opening comments at our “Transforming Learning Everywhere” celebration: