I recently attended the Emerging Learning conference in Saskatoon. I went as part of a division created Ejournalism team that had students cover the who's who and what's what of the conference. While I was able to sit in on some sessions (Yay David Warlick), my emerging learning came from being part of a truly collaborative environment
19 students, 6 teachers, 1 Learning Consultant, and a whole lot of collaboration. Wow, what an experience. So, here's what it looked like. Students were given tasks of covering sessions (taking notes, pictures, and video), writing blogs that conveyed their interpretaions of those sessions, making videos, making slideshows, giving presentations, conducting interviews, and much much more. I was amazed at the collaborative and learning centered environment that emerged. Students were given and task and whoosh...gone - they went and did it. And they did it very well. A student had a problem and whoosh...another student went over and helped. A student had some free time and whoosh...they were over asking what else they could do to help. 1 student went down the water slide and whoosh...all of the other students followed.
Now we could say that these particular students were amazing, and believe me...they were - and believe me...we said it. But was that it - was it enough to simply say that these students were amazing? And the answer my friends, is no. Something else was taking place; and it was somewhere between downing my last cup of luke warm coffee and watching students text and facebook their friends about what they were doing and telling them to "check our our website...NOW!" that I realized what that something was. I was witnessing in real life, the shift in education that we are all looking for. Students did not get in trouble for "playing with their technology". They did not get told to "sit down and do their work" when they were up and moving around. And perhaps this is because they were working. Because they were focused and driven and involved and engaged and interested and, well...learning. Or perhaps it was because they were involved in a task oriented, team driven, collaborative, supportive, and open environment. And perhaps it was because yes, they were given tasks and jobs to do...but they were also told to have fun.
There are several things that I cannot stop thinking about. First and foremost, is our students. And when I say our students I do not just mean our students at Cando. I mean our students...as in we are teachers and these are our students. Yes, we need to take ownership of our students in our classrooms, but we also need to take ownership of all students in our school...and maybe, just maybe we need to take ownership of students.
Maybe I am not explaining myself "good enough" (that's for you Ruth!). The students involved in this project did not know each other. Most of the teachers involved in this project did not know each other. Yet we came together and created a wonderful educational utopia like environment of learning and collaboration. The question: why was this project so successful? The answer: because we worked collaboratively and made student learning our main priority. So to you PLC nay sayers...in your face! But seriously, isn't this why we became teachers? To feel like we are a part of something great? To feel like we are truly making a difference in student's lives? And to feel, well, to feel excited about learning...and to share that enthusiasm with others? If not, I feel sorry for you...because we are finally "getting it". We, as an educational system, are finally catching up to society. Yes our schools are out of date. Yes we need to be more relevant in terms of what young people's lives are really like and reflect what is really important to young people. But we are getting there. To use Anthony Muhammad's analogy...we have started the bus. Are you on it?
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