Wednesday, 16 December 2015

"Design Your Dream School, part 2"
Discussions with Students

December 16, 2015

As a member of CAIS (Canadian Accredited Independent Schools), I have had great opportunities to 'think big' with some of the most talented educators and leaders from across Canada.  CAIS, in an attempt to fulfill its mission, "To pursue continuous whole school improvement through exemplary leadership training, research, and accreditation," has recently embarked on Project 2051.

Project 2051 is endeavouring to project what education will look like in 2051.  It is an important question that begs to be answered.  Too often, we as educators, have relied on simply saying, "We are teaching 21st Century Learning Skills," without a clear definition of vision of what the elusive 21st Century learner needs.


I have had the opportunity to be involved in some of the preliminary conversations and focus groups.  Needless to say, I have been inspired by the process and overall outcomes thus far.  And even though the future of education is hard to predict, I have learned some important things from Project 2051.

A few salient examples of these learnings are:

  • schools need to start becoming 'future ready' environments 
  • we need to consider, reflect upon, adapt to and become educational disruptors
  • personalized education is critical
  • and, student voice is one of our most valuable assets as we consider change

At Rundle, we have been working hard to embody the essence of the 2051 mindset by hosting several events that leverage our students' voice.  Examples of our commitment to listening to our students are:

  • Grade 5 tours of the Academy
  • Junior High Headmaster Luncheon
  • Senior High Prefect/Peer Support Lunch

Prior to my Junior High Headmaster Luncheon, I sent a note to all the students who were going to be attending and invited to them to start thinking about two things:

  1. What is the best thing about Rundle?
  2. What could Rundle do to make the 'Rundle Experience' that much better?
These questions created an environment where our students felt at ease sharing their insights and experiences.  We have all learned a lot as result.

Beyond the meetings and the dialogue, one of my favourite moments came when a week after the Junior High Headmaster's Luncheon when I received the following e-mail:

"Dear Mr. Rogers,

Thank you for the opportunity to join your Headmaster's Luncheon.  Although we covered a lot of ground during our meeting, I had a few points we did not get to.  You will find these items listed below:

  • Future Ready. There is a future ready movement going across the US, which encourages school districts to action plan to use technology effectively. Rundle would be an ideal Future Ready school. More info here.
  • More hands-on projects and educational tools. Several examples include the Sphero SPRK, which introduces and encourages students to code. It is similar to Lego Mindstorms. On their website, they offer lesson packages for elementary and middle school. Next, Google Cardboard. It is a virtual reality headset made of cardboard. I have put together a presentation about what it is and how it can benefit Rundle.  In the near future, Rundle may have a Cardboard cart. Also, there is Breakout EDU. It is similar to escape the room games, with educational twists. Students are "locked" in a room, and they have to solve puzzles around them. This is also a great critical thinking activity. 
  • Rundle students should have more exposure with other cultures and countries all over the world. At some points, classes should be encouraged to Skype another classroom across the world and learn from them. In fact, Skype is hosting a skypathon on November 3-4. Their goal is to travel 1 million miles in those two days, encouraging teachers to speak to a guest speaker, go on a virtual field trip, or play mystery Skype. In mystery skype, students ask yes/no questions to another classroom, trying to determine their location. This also encourages critical thinking. Here is a video. Skypathon Website
  • I also believe that students should have the chance to meet professionals in the line of work that they are learning about. For example, it would interesting to have a geneticist present for the Grade 9 science classrooms.
  • Rundle should also be more involved in the community, by participating in global initiatives connected to their subjects. For example, Discovery channel recently aired a documentary called Racing Extinction. On the website, the documentary featured an initiative entitled My 1 New Thing. It's goal was to encourage people to think about their habits and try to cut down on activities that may endanger more animals. For example, some people opted for Meatless Mondays. This would've been great to participate in science class, as it links directly with our curriculum. That being said, Rundle students should also share their own work to world, whether it is student work, or even projects (by using blogs etc.)
  • I understand the the new parking changes were necessary, but there is one thing I would like to suggest. The school should build a sidewalk along the pick up/drop off lane. This not only allows students to avoid slipping, they also don't have to step in snow, which tracks mud into the school.
  • Inspiring spaces. EdTechTeam have issued another challenge, where they ask teachers to send in photos of their inspiring spaces. The goal was to create inspiring spaces for students to learn, where creative thinking is encouraged. For example, this desk would be great to use for brainstorming. 

  • These would be great to use when brainstorming, as well as using in math, however, it likely won't work out in the Junior high, due the the fact that it is already full, and the individual desks are predominant. However, this would be perfect in the new elementary. Possibly by having a "brainstorming lounge", a place where students can brainstorm and be able to think creatively, inspired by the space around them. A "brainstorming lounge" would fit perfectly in the library. You can follow #inspiringspace on twitter to see more ideas. Here is the EdTechTeam info graphic for Inspiring Spaces. 

And that's just the beginning! I hope to share with you many more ideas, which cover the Junior and Senior High, as well as the new elementary. Also, I would like to thank you for taking the time to listen to student voice, which is essential to make Rundle the best it can be."

Wow.  I particularly enjoy the consideration taken in the area of our parking lot.  These are points well taken and we are already designing changes to meet these needs.

I can hardly wait to see what we continue to learn as we continue to ask.

See you in the future,

Jason B. Rogers
Headmaster, Rundle College Society

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