Flexible Learning Environments SUrrey Schools and Discovery education

May 2017's Canadian Academic Leadership Summit (#DEPD) included networking opportunities, school tours and sharing of best practices from Surrey Schools around the topic of Flexible Learning Environments.

School Visits

First stop at Georges Vanier Elementary.
In the Learning Commons, students were using the Superimpose iOS app to green screen a frame, themselves and artwork. While in the Makerspace beside the LC, students were constructing bird houses/iPad holders.
Students were iterating their Simple Machines prototypes and spoke well about their progress. According to the Ministry of Education, B.C.'s new curriculum helps students learn by exploring their interests and passions. Whether it's computers, hockey, or art, passion is a motivator for students, and students can connect with their interests to excel in the classroom. We certainly saw this during ur walkthroughs.
At Surrey Schools Resource and Education Centre, an abundance of students were showcasing their coding and robotics skills. I appreciated the inquiry-based connection between Social Studies concepts and building a game in Scratch. Students were engaged and willing to share their learning no matter what the booth.
Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning (SAIL) is a blended learning environment.

The physical environment was quite open with individual, collaborative and presentation spaces named: Pitch!, Make!, Collaborate!, and Present!. The space is flexible and beyond the design of the traditional school classroom, reflecting a space where students construct their learning. Students focus on inquiry and project based learning through an interdisciplinary program while exploring real world topics. The opportunities here were interesting and exciting to watch, listen and understand. My own school division has a Connections for Learning blended environment which is in the midst of changing how the learning environment can be for "disengaged" students. SAIL offers some fantastic experiences for students which I see should be offered in ALL schools.

Johnston Heights Secondary (IB World) School - grades 8-12

Using the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme as a framework, students are encouraged to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers. There is an emphasis on intellectual challenge whereby students make connections between their courses and the real world. The elective courses (somewhat like Alberta's Career and Technology Foundations) for grades 8 and 9 students allows for sampling of a variety of topics. The opening up of the traditional High School "Shop" areas for elective courses was intriguing and the flow of students throughout these spaces would allow for some interesting learning experiences. The Learning Commons truly is an open space for learning, creating and networking. The Teacher-Librarian is also directly involved with students in their research projects.

SHARING and NETWORKING

The opportunities to share and learn from the participants was valued and important. North Vancouver, Kelowna, Edmonton, Stony Plain, Lethbridge, Toronto, London, Lindsay, and Sault Ste. Marie were all represented. Some of the highlights:

* teachers as designers of the flexible learning environment

* digital lead learners at each school site

* earn-a-device program where teachers attend 2 hour x 4 PD sessions to learn about integrating technology into the learning environment

* coding classrooms with challenges, resources and ideas in connecting coding with curriculum

* a look towards a refresh'ED' framework for the division for ET/IT based on what is being noticed, named and requires nurturing

* division website with VISION scrolling in different languages, an opportunity to share the data but most importantly student stories

Flexible Learning Environments

Hall speaking about Flexible Learning Environments

Hall's experiences and flamboyant nature made for a memorable presentation. His connection between nature, math and the buildings we use daily really tweaked our thoughts around the learning and living environment we place ourselves in. I certainly will take the summer to read Alter's Drink Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave. As well, examples of how technologies such as enhanced online Tech Books, green screening, video conferencing, augmented and virtual realities (like Discovery VR) allow learning to be flexible and individualized.

Unstoppable Momentum - Dr. Mark Edwards

Mark spoke about his vision for preparing students for life in the 21st century which included a laptop for every child in grades 4 through 12 for their 24/7 use and providing laptops at school for the children in grades K-3. He understood too that in order to sustain the changes he proposed and for the technology to be used effectively, the district also needed to institute comprehensive professional development opportunities for its teachers. Partnerships and collaboration with outside groups and organizations also support the initiatives in place in Mooresville. Mark also referred to Fullan's Book The Six Secrets of Change as to where everyone (in a leadership position) lifts and is lifted, encourages, mentors, loves and shares EVERYDAY. (See Fullan's handout HERE - love your employees, connect peers with purpose, capacity building prevails, learning is the work, transparency rules and systems learn.) I really like this framework and reviewing what is work fighting for at all levels - teachers, administrators, divisionally.... I'll need to read the book and work through Fullan's handout.

I also liked the two questions that Mark says gives him feedback RIGHT AWAY on the culture within a school:

* What are you doing?

* Why are you doing it?

Austin Dolan showcased the variety of resources Discovery Education Streaming Plus, Science and Math Techbooks. I hope to have a few teachers who will trial these Techbooks next year. As well, continue offering the DEN Ambassador Fall program. The Spotlight on Strategies continue to be an amazing resource used in our school division as well as Virtual Field Trips.

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