Honestly, I cannot say for sure what it is, but she is right. Our school is fantastic and is involved in all kinds of interesting and innovative projects. And I think a lot of it has to do with the support of a caring, curious, and innovative administrative staff who model life long learning. And I am referring to the leaders in our school, and even beyond, at a district level.
At our school:
- Students took part in a Entrepreneur Fair and carefully thought of a sales idea, crafted a business plan, and then made and sold products for a profit.
- Students are invited to use classroom and school space in a non-traditional manner. There are alternate seating spaces in classrooms and our Library Learning Commons. Students are often found tucked into corners of the hallways as they seek out quiet corners to record their voices for various projects.
- Students are given an hour each week to learn about their passions and wonders during Genius Hour. They form their own inquiry questions and share their learning and/or creations with their classmates and online.
- Students are given authentic tasks. Ex. the choice to cook for their family for homework, instead of writing spelling sentences.
- Kindergarteners regularly use iPads for digital storytelling and more.
- Students reflect on their learning regularly through the use of blogs and ePortfolios. They then share their learning with their parents, peers and the whole world! This gives students an authentic audience for their writing.
- Students learn about other communites and connect with other classrooms through Mystery Skypes.
- Students interview and learn from experts through skype sessions with adults who work in the field that students are interested in.
- Students learn through cross-curricular Project Based Learning
- Primary students are learning about farming by growing their own potatoes.
- Students create movies about topics they are passionate about in hopes of creating real change in the world.
- Students are using the 4 Cs and creating their own wikiseats.
Clearly, I work with amazing educators who embrace 21st century learning. But to go back to Lindsey's question again, how did we get to this? My thoughts:
- We work with a principal (Antonio Vendramin) who is obviously an enthusiastic, life-long learner himself. It makes an amazing difference because his enthusiasm and involvement in projects sets the tone for an innovative school culture which then further supports the climate of learning, exploring and innovation at all levels within the school. We know that we have his support when we bring up new project ideas and sometimes it is even him that comes to us with the cool project ideas (like the wikiseat project).
- Teachers here are learners too! We are all looking to improve our practice and are constantly striving to give our students the best learning opportunities.
- District leadership: I feel so fortunate to work in a school district that values and celebrates the process of learning (not just the content of the prescribed learning outcomes). They support our growth by providing teachers in Surrey with great opportunities like after school professional development workshops, the digital learners dinner series (where we get together for a nice dinner at the local golf course and listen to some amazing key note speakers), encouraging communication and collaboration by displaying the backchannel #sd36learn at all district events, etc.
- Which brings me to social media: Many of our staff (administrators included) have an online PLN and we learn so much from them and are always sharing what we have learned with each other. I think this is important as it pushes us forward. We are all learning alongside our students everyday. That is huge.
- BYOD: We allow students to bring their own devices, and we supplement the rest of the class with the the schools iPads, iPod touches, macbooks, etc. Not every class has adopted this policy yet, but I think most have and that truly allows us opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise.
- Combined Grades: We have a lot of combined classrooms (note I didn't call them splits) which I think encourages collaboration between students, as well as between staff. We have huge grade group teams! Which is fantastic...you know the old saying 'two heads are better than one'...well, we have even more than two! So there is always someone with a great idea!
Thank you all.
I wonder what else I am overlooking?
What do you think supports the culture of innovation?
What are some of the best attributes of your school?