Think Tank: Transforming the learning experience

cecceThis week I had the honour to be invited to contribute to a panel of amazing people at the recent Think Tank session from CECCE, one of Ontario’s French School Boards, along with well known thinkers about transforming educational environments.  My ECOO colleague Peter Skillen and I have crossed paths recently with many CECCE educators in attendance at Educon, ISTE and various Ontario events, as well as in my work at the Ministry, so it was wonderful to have a chance to hear more about the deep dive they are taking to transform their system. The school board has been working to fundamentally change their system to serve students, not just in the their academic pursuits, but in their well-being as they grow and develop into engaged, compassionate, learning citizens and @heidisiwak does a great job of capturing their journey here in her blog if you’d like to learn more.  I found it a challenge to decide what I might contribute to this amazing panel,  but was willing to give it a try and participate, and hopefully add something of value to the discussion. Michael Fullan did a wonderful job of finding a way to share all of the voices in a relatively short period of time!fullanpanel

If you search #cecce hashtag, you’ll see many of the tweets that describe the day. Over and over I heard people focused on three critical factors that lead to effective change:

  • First, we have to understand how people (both students and adults) learn.
  • Second, we have design learning environments and experiences around interesting, provoking, and real-life authentic issues.
  • Lastly, we must trust all learners to be partners in their own learning

There were many things to note,  but one thing struck me as especially important and it came from the student trustee on the panel.   There had been lots of talk from the adults in the room about ‘deep learning’, but Matthew really named it when asked about what he wanted from his education.  He said that he wanted learning “that would help him in the rest of his life”.  This stuck me as a specific example of the kind of learning transfer that we talk about when we focus on deep learning.

When we broke into table discussions after the panel, I was interested in following that further and asked Catherine (another student trustee), what kinds of things she felt she was learning at school that she felt would benefit her for ‘the rest of her life’. She mentioned discovering her passion for causes and helping people to learn more about them through events that she has organized through her school.  She mentioned the student government that she’s been involved with, and along the way the teachers who have supported her in developing her strengths, both academically, and through her interests in extra-curricular.  This led our table to a discussion of passion-based learning and how extra-curriculars should not be extra at all, but a part of school life.  In reflecting on that conversation, I realize that in that brief conversation, Catherine named many, if not all, of the competencies that are so much a part of the educator conversations happening to describe 21st century learning: communication skills that evolve as a part of authentic collaboration, creativity and critical thinking in the pursuit of learning and in the sharing of meaningful information to persuade others, the entrepreneurial spirit involved in social action,  and the self-awareness that is required to take risks, understand one’s strengths, and to continue to grow and persevere to accomplish goals.

As we continued our discussion at the table,  the school board members, along with student trustee Catherine, mentioned that joy is important, that relationships are key, and that the partnerships were an important part of making education relevant to our children and youth.  This was palpable in the room throughout the day from the remarks of all of the organizers of the event, and evidenced once again in the thoughtful closing comments from Superintendent Eugénie Congi.  What a great team! Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 5.09.27 PM

I’m excited to hear how this work at CECCE evolves and I thank the organizers for allowing me to be a part of it.  I hope that I am able share this success story across the province so that other boards and students can benefit from their deep thinking and vision for their teachers and students.

On a personal note, I’m excited that I’m able to continue my French language learning and I found the benefit of the simultaneous translation that was provided to me during the event to be amazing!  Merci!

 

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