Are our schools hotbeds for innovation and creativity? Does our present curriculum equip students with the tools and knowledge they will need for their futures? How can we ensure that our learning environments are neither hidebound by the familiar and comfortable nor blinded by innovation that might turn out to be an apparition?
How are your schools addressing the groundswells that have reshaped the way the world now communicates and does business?
When asked to envision your ideal classroom and ideal approach to teaching and learning what do you see? Do your current teaching methods match your students’ learning expectations?
Imagine if you could create just such a place, and teach and learn in just such a manner. How would this change the way you and your students think and create?
This is the focus of my action plan.
We know the world is changing. We know most of the jobs or degrees of the future don’t yet exist. So, how are we preparing students? We need to create spaces for students and teachers where creativity, technology, and industry converge — as a matter of course. Last year, my school committed to creating such a space in the form of a Digital Learning Studio (DLS).
I have delved into research and collaboration with schools at various stages in their own shift toward a ‘Maker Movement’. Later this month, I will visit The Fessenden School in Newton, MA to meet with resident specialists at their iLab, as well as NuVu The Innovation School in Cambridge, MA to talk shop and learn from industry leaders. I also hope to visit experts on home turf, as I learn more about Velocity at University of Waterloo and other centres of innovation in the province.
Time to ‘Make Room’: Why
Producers not Consumers The digital world has two distinct groups: those who produce content and those who consume content. While the means of content production are now in the hands of the many, the know-how and experience remain the preserve of the few.
Tools For Life A hammer can build a house… or it can break a thumb. A computer can display the world… or it can distract from daily life. In both cases, the way we think about the tool dictates how we use it. The DLS would give students the broader skills—critical thinking, design thinking, storytelling, creativity, empathy, prototyping—necessary for their digital future. While the most innovative equipment they will use is important, it too will one day be obsolete. But these broader concepts will never expire.
A location on campus has been designated for our future DLS. Selected tools and equipment have been screened, vetted, and short-listed for purchase, and some of it is already being used. Teacher experimentation with new 3D printing software is stretching curriculum, student participation in VEX and Lego robotics clubs is on the rise, and teacher engagement in Design Thinking professional development directly links innovation and student entrepreneurship. We are moving in the right direction.
At the heart of the DLS is the desire to support teaching and learning in and outside of the classroom. The studio space itself, nestled strategically between both our Upper and Lower Schools, will serve as a visual reminder of this commitment to innovation, design education, experimentation, and prototyping.
I am always looking for new ways to improve, innovate, and build on ideas. As I attempt to capture the trials and triumphs on this journey, I’d love to hear from those on similar paths. I’m also interested to hear from those on divergent tracks, those who have different perspectives on this shift in education and have counterpoints to offer.
For anyone interested in the Maker Movement and would like to know more about this shift in education, a good starting point might be the documentary Most Likely To Succeed (Sundance 2015):
I also recommend viewing the short video Humans Need Not Apply. This video will prompt deep reflection about the “impending redundancy” of human labour and human creativity. How are our schools preparing our students for this future? Food for thought.
I welcome your comments.