A Rich Seam and EQAO

Okay, so this will be a short one!  I am just starting to read, A Rich Seam, which was emailed to all principals in the Algoma District School Board today, and will form a good portion of the work we do in the next two PD days, and hopefully, in the next 8 years!

I have only read through a bit of it, but already, I am wondering about the connection between this document, and the EQAO announcement that I wrote about last.  The following line, taken from A Rich Seam, “Until we find new ways to define and measure success – ways that measure schools’ adoption of new pedagogies and students’ achievement of deep learning outcomes – crucial system factors will stand in opposition to innovation.” (sorry….I am unsure of how to properly cite in this new forum…..forgive me!) has got me stirring.  One of two things is possible, both of which I think are fantastic.

1.  EQAO is ahead of the curve on this, is in sync with this thinking, has been involved in the work as outlined in this first of essays on the 21st century school system and is being proactive.

2.  EQAO is not working in step with this report/thinking, but has come to similar conclusions in its own.

Either way, it is good.  Are we finally leaving behind schools and strategies and curriculum and processes that clearly disengage the majority of our kids?  Resisting the urge to use an expletive here, I sure hope so.  It is too late for my eldest, now in University, who survived despite the system put in front of her, but daughter number two, currently in grade 10 may be able to find a school system that engages her.  I hope.  We have come a long way in 30 years, but I still see kids as disengaged as I was, in 1984. One of the reasons I eventually sought teaching as a career, and even more so, administration, was because I wanted to provide kids with a learning experience that engaged them, taught them, opened their minds and made them global citizens.  One does not do that by writing science definitions on the board.

So, I have only read a bit of this essay I referenced and am already excited that it is only the first of some, and perhaps many to come.  I am tentatively excited again.  I have been talking a lot about technology in the last few years.  I have written a bit about it too, but I am afraid that my enthusiasm has not yet translated into much in the way of changes in teaching in my schools.  I am sorry, no wait, I am not even sorry, but a power point of slides, though a projector,  that illustrate the parts of a cell, or the timelines of ancient Greece is no more using technology than is making bunny shadows when the Power Point is done.  It is still the transmission of basic facts from a sage, to those horribly disengaged students, many of whom are hoping to remember about 7/10 of the parts of the cell, so they can go onto to something else just as mundane.  I know this is hyperbole, and that there are great things going on in all schools, including my own, but I think we have to be very, very critical of our system if we want to change it, and we have to change it.  It will change on its own if we don’t, so we have to take the opportunity to manage that change ourselves, instead of having it done to us.  But I digress, yet again….

So before this degrades into something already more rambling than it already is, I will conclude.  I love technology.  My latest love is an app for my iPhone called “Plane Finder”  It shows on a map, all the commercial planes flying in the world.  So when  a contrail goes over me, I look at it and find out info about the plane (I can even point my phone at it, and use the lens…really cool!) including direction, airline, type of plane, altitude, etc.  It all started one summer day (Oh God, there he goes again) when I was at my camp, and I could clearly see a large 4 engine commercial jet flying over us.  Based on my somewhat limited knowledge of commercial aircraft, it was either a 767 or an Airbus A380.  So, my neighbour’s grandson, a 15 year old digital native, hops on our Seadoo, goes across the lake to get a signal, and comes back with info on the Korean Air flight from Soeul to JKF!  In the meantime, I had photographed the plane, and zoomed in on the camera screen, and I could clearly see blue and red colouring (photo attached, unsure of resolution in this app, and hence you might not be able to zoom as I could) on the tail.  Branden returned with his phone and showed me the data!  I was hooked, yet again, to another piece of software.  I now also have two apps that detail plane ownership, based on tail letters, one for the US and one for Canada.

The point is, this technology for me is just fun and interesting.  I drove my family nuts for a few weeks, running out of the house to check out the planes way off on the horizon!  However, this is the world we are talking about.  In a stunning ode to the old days, I could tentatively show this to kids, have them spot a plane, then research a pile of data about it….based on interest:  some could look into the plane, others into the geography of the flight, others into where the plane is going and why, or where it came from and why, etc, etc, but I am afraid even that is not 21st century deep learning.  It is just a spark, and a weak one at that, but, I believe, that somehow, someway, there is so much more we can be doing, and while I know for sure I do not know exactly what to do and how to do it (that is what my PLN is for….:D) I know that I hold the tool in my hand.  It is as if I have a hammer in my hand for the first time, and Notre Dame’s construction awaits.

So, I will read the rest of A Rich Seam and see what my little mind can find to get excited about.  The scariest part is, while I do not know where it is going, I know that it has to go there, somehow.  I have 8 years or so left in this business (so many other experiences await me!) and I really think that the system I walk away from will be drastically changed, and I hope I have a small part in making that happen.  And, just in case that sounds just a wee bit narcissist, it is not intended to be.  I want to be part of the change that is going to make our system much better for my daughter who is hoping to be a part of it, and for my grandkids, if they ever come, for whom I worry, as the world becomes more and more complex and challenging, as it continues to shrink in scale.  The world’s problems, both physical and social are growing and in order for the next generation to find solutions, they need to know have had nothing but deep learning experiences from JK-12 and onwards.  And no, a power point is not going to cut it.

And, in case anyone happened to read the blog before, I am even more intrigued now with how the EQAO changes are going to look and the change they themselves may drive in our practice.  I still think that the EQAO changes are good for kids, but perhaps even more important for the system that professes to be “teaching” them!  I guess ultimately, that is a good deal of the problem isn’t it?  Our system “teaches”.  Our kids need to “learn”.

Korean Air Airbus 380 as photographed above Hornepayne, Ontario, early August 2014

Korean Air Airbus 380 as photographed above Hornepayne, Ontario, early August 2014

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