Make One Change: Learning Road Trip – A Professional Learning Experience!

IMG_7494

 

The idea was inspired by the great conversations that happen in the car as you travel to or return from a conference. It’s where all the ideas you have just experienced, or are going to experience, spark conversation about how we can change the system, improve our practice or impact student learning in our classrooms. Its where we dream big, we leverage great ideas, we start to plan for the action we will take once back in our buildings.

What we were after was recreating the road trip experience through a professional learning event. What was developed was a two day opportunity for educators from our division to travel to schools across our jurisdiction, see quality learning in action in a number of settings, and then have the time to develop an idea to bring back to their students in their classrooms. It was called the “Make One Change: Learning Road Trip” and it ended up being a pretty great two days together with a great group of educators.

 

Day 1 – Learning Road Trip

IMG_7492

 

We started off the morning meeting at our division office to board our rented coach bus, with our coffees, muffins/donuts, and materials in hand to embark on our learning road trip. The bus was equipped with televisions (although there were some technical difficulties) which we would use to show some thought provoking videos to spur on conversation while we traveled from school to school. Our videos included a video from Simon Breakspear about “Pursuing Inspiration” which acted as a great intro to our day, as well as videos from Seth Godin, Chris Lehmann, and Mitch Resnick


IMG_7527

 

 

 

As seat-mates engaged in conversations about learning, they wrote down big ideas, inspirations and extensions that came up on to Post-Its and placed them on the windows of the bus to collect them throughout the day. These would serve to inspire the work on Day #2 and were available to connect with new ideas throughout the trip. It was exciting to see the spaces fill with ideas throughout the day as our participants were inspired by the school visits. We also tweeted to the hashtag #make1changePSD throughout the two day event (Storify to come!).

 

 

 

IMG_7526

 

Our participants represented K-12 educators from almost every school in our division, and we were able to visit K-12 classrooms in four schools. We saw maker-inspired learning, literacy centres, differentiated instruction in multi-grade classrooms, personalized learning, critical thinking exercises and so much more. It was so great to have the administration, staffs and students of Parkland Village School (K-4), Memorial Composite High School (10-12), Blueberry School (K-9), and Seba Beach School (K-9) welcome in our group of 40+ to see the learning in action in their buildings. The experiences in each building served to get our participants thinking of what it was they would develop on Day #2 to “Make One Change” in their practice to impact student learning in their buildings.

 

 

 

Day 2 – Educator Innovation Day    

image1

On Day 2 we met at the 360 degree Wellness Centre (Thanks for the room Ken!) in Spruce Grove to embark on an Educator Innovation Day and create the initiative, project or intervention that would be the one change we would bring to our students. We worked through a Design Thinking process that members of our group adopted from Ewan McIntosh, a process that involves four phases – Immersion, Synthesis, Ideation and Prototyping. The Learning Road Trip acted as the bulk of the immersion phase, but we finished up the immersion phase with interviews to understand our group members thoughts and aspirations for their projects. From there, driving questions were developed in the Synthesis phase, carefully crafted to drive the ideation phase and worded as “How might we…” questions. In the Ideation phase, our participants were challenged to come up with as many potential ideas as they could in a ten minute period, with the group developing nearly a thousand ideas! Groups sketched out visual representations of their ideas in the Prototyping phase and arrived at a place where they could get to work on their projects.

The rest of the day was used to work on the projects, with groups accessing resources, planning out lessons and developing learning experiences to bring to their students. The final hour involved groups sharing their projects, and processes, with each other and discussing the inspiration and plan for action behind their “One Change”.  Our plan is to come together again as a group on May 11th to check-in on where the projects are in their development, to share successes and look to solve challenges that have emerged and keep the momentum going!

Overall it was a great experience, and it was so much fun to work with Carolyn Cameron, Travis McNaughton, and Shaye Patras to develop this professional learning experience for our division. We have surveyed our participants, and will look to gain feedback from schools as to the impact of this event, as we hope to bring more of these “Learning Road Trips” to the teachers of our division. We have a lot of ideas already bubbling up about different ways we can leverage this model and can’t wait to start planning the next one.

Thanks again to the schools who hosted us, to the participants for their engagement and enthusiasm (even on the hot bus), to the organizers and to everyone who contributed to making this day a success.

Innovation Week 4 – Day 2/3/4

What a great three days we had this week as students put their plans into action, working hard to make their visions for their projects a reality. These three days are always the most impressive, as projects that seemed lofty suddenly become reality in front of your eyes, and students blow expectations out of the water. If there is one thing that has stayed true in all four Innovation Weeks we have run, it is that we don’t challenge students they way they challenge themselves when given the opportunity.

After a weekend away from their projects, there was a great deal of energy in the building as the students got back down to work. Now because our students in Gr. 6 & 9 had to write Provincial Achievement Tests (PAT’s – government exams in Alberta) during Innovation Week, we waited until after the tests were completed to start our days. Students had brought the vast majority of their supplies in and were laying them out and finalizing plans in their Innovation Rooms. It wasn’t long before you heard the buzz of tools, the music from performance groups, and lots of conversation as groups worked together to get their projects underway.

After running three of these in the past couple years, our organizing committee was committed to improving the quality of learning, and we did so on two fronts. The first was incorporating a Design Thinking process that we learned from Ewan McIntosh (and he documents on his site here) and the other was improvements to our Proposal Forms. Spearheaded by Claudia Scanga and Katy Rogal, these forms had added spaces for feedback and reflection as well as better questions to help shape the process for students. They were photocopied on BRIGHT pink paper, and students were expected to have them at all times during the week (see in picture above). As I went around from room to room over these three days, I asked groups about their process, about their guiding question, and about how they met the criteria for the week, and the vast majority could all answer the questions I had for them, and I am quite certain it had a lot to do with our improved forms.

One thing I noticed when talking with students this time around was how much better our students were at managing the time, tackling projects that were achievable, and troubleshooting their own issues. In previous weeks this was definitely a struggle as students were not used to being on their own to guide their learning. We’d see groups choose projects too complex or too simple, we’d see groups struggle when they ran into difficulty, and we definitely saw groups have trouble with managing their own time. I am sure that most schools that would try Innovation Week would see similar issues their first couple times through, but I also see great power in the learning those difficulties provide. There is no doubt our students have learned from their adversity, or the adversity of others, and the improvements in this week are a testament to the three we have run before.

With 414 students participating, 81% of our eligible students (Gr. 9’s couldn’t participate due to PAT’s), it meant we also had most of our teaching staff participating as well. It is a unique interaction for teacher and student as the teacher is not there to do any instruction, but to simply be a resource for support and guidance, and it is often with students from other grades or classes that they don’t get a chance to work with. During the three working days, we had a lot of great feedback from teachers, with common themes including high quality projects, great work ethic and excited, focused learning.

As we wrapped up Day 4 on Wednesday, the prospect of the showcase and assembly the next day made for a lot of excited, and some nervous students as they prepared to share all their great work with family, friends, and visiting guests from our division. I’ll post the Final Day reflection soon, so stay tuned to see how this great week finished up!

Innovation Week 4 – Planning Day and Day 1

IMG_4891
So here we are again, time for our fourth Innovation Week as we wrap up another great school year. This time around our theme is “Invent, Improve, Innovate!” with the goal for students to:

  • Invent something new
  • Improve an existing object/practice
  • Innovate how something is done/used

We also included some detailed information on how the week connected to the 10 Cross-Curricular Competencies from Alberta Education, which I think we will explore in more depth for Innovation Week 5.

So this time around we did a lot of work up front with our Application Form, with our planning for providing feedback and for checking in with students, all with the purpose of setting higher expectations for the learning that would occur during the week and the quality of the projects being worked on. Probably the biggest addition to this Innovation Week was the addition of Design Thinking for the student planning of projects.

In May we were lucky enough to see Ewan McIntosh at the Ideas Conference in Calgary and he put us through a workshop on Design Thinking. The process followed four steps – Immersion, Synthesis, Ideation and Prototyping, and was a powerful tool for thinking, learning and problem solving. We loved it so much that the week after we returned from the conference, we used this process with our staff to tackle our annual Education Plan (documented on video, look for that post this summer).

We decided to use this process with our students, but we broke it up with the first two steps (Immersion & Synthesis) done last Tuesday for our Innovation Week 4 planning afternoon, and the third and fourth steps (Ideation & Prototyping) were carried out on Day 1 of Innovation Week 4, this past Friday. I want to provide a little snapshot into how that went:

Innovation Week 4 Planning Afternoon

For the afternoon we had students use the Immersion and Synthesis steps of the Design Thinking process to create their guiding question for their Innovation Week 4 projects. The process required groups of 3 (or as close as possible), which meant some groups were mixed with members doing different projects. The groups then interviewed each other, asking questions about the student’s project, why they chose it, what they hoped to accomplish etc. . One group member was the interviewer, one was the recorder and one was interviewed. We rotated the jobs each interview, which differs slightly from Ewan’s plan, but was necessary given our mixed groups. Each interview was 4 minutes long, with the recorder writing down EVERYTHING they heard. (12 minutes)

After the first round of interviews we addressed the idea that many of the interviews sounded more like conversations than interviews (common happening I’m sure). We did some coaching to help them understand that an interviewer needs to provide space (and silence) for the interviewee to think and process, and that they need to be patient and not jump in and start a conversation. We then suggested some deeper questions to ask, and challenged them to get more out of the next 4 minutes. We repeated the interview cycle one more time. (12 minutes)

We then took 4 minutes each to allow the recorders to review what they heard, to circle or highlight key words or things that were repeated, so that the person could really see what they talked about, and what was important to them.  (12 minutes)

From these highlighted/circled and reviewed notes, students were than challenged to come up with a big question, phrased as follows: “How might we/I…?”. They were asked to look closely at what they said in their interview so that they could formulate a question that was clearly important to them. The questions had to meet the following criteria:

  1. New to You
  2. Original to the Audience
  3. Important to Others (What is the Impact?)                     (10-15 minutes) 

As a group we then shared some of the questions and tried to provide feedback (students & teachers) that was helpful, specific & kind to make the questions even better. The goal was to remove jargon and have the question have a clear expectation and developed focus on what the students would be working on during Innovation Week. We then sent the students back to try and improve the questions by doing the same work on their own question. (15-20 minutes)

Once the students were happy with their question, they worked to complete the rest of their Proposal Form to take home and get signed by a parent. These proposal forms stay with the students, and are to be used to guide their process and to record feedback from teachers/students. They also have a place for their own reflections on how they used the feedback to improve their work. (10-15 minutes)

With the proposal forms ready, students were done the planning day and were all set for the opening day of Innovation Week 4 on Friday.

(We used this presentation to walk our students through the process.)

Innovation Week 4 Day One

For Friday, we placed the students into the rooms for Innovation Week based on their project. We had 5 “Hands-On” rooms, 3 “Building” rooms, 2 “Research” rooms, 2 “Tech” rooms and a “Performance”, “Music”, “Arts/Writing” and “Crafts” room. Here the students were surrounded by students doing similar work, with a teacher prepared for that type of project, and ready to dive in to the next two steps of the Design Thinking process: Ideation & Prototyping. 

For Ideation, the students were challenged to come up with 100 ideas that would answer their guiding question in 10 minutes. Now this was challenging, so I went a little nuts and tried to go classroom to classroom to get kids fired up about ideas…sorry the coach in me came out a little bit:


For 10 minutes they tried to get everything they could down on paper and we instructed them if they ran out of good ideas, to start coming up with silly, off-the-wall or impossible ideas. In some rooms we got a lot of ideas, and some not as many, but in the end our 414 students came up 8,684 ideas!!! (10 minutes)

From here they needed to select 5 great ideas and 3 silly ones, and rate them on a 10 point scale in three categories (See pictures above):

  1. New
  2. Useful
  3. Feasible

When all was said and done, they were to choose their top rated idea and move on to the prototype stage. (10 Minutes)

In the Prototype stage, students were asked to create a visual representation of their project. Some chose to make mind-maps (which I would recommend against) but many actually sketched out their project. Ewan has a great quote on his webpage about the process:

Sketching one’s ideas, instead of writing them, is a great way to both ideate and create your first prototypes. It tends to lead to higher quality feedback.

Once the students were done their prototype visuals, we were ready to open the floor up for feedback. (10-15 minutes)

Students were asked to provide feedback to the group next to them, and the feedback again needed to be helpful, specific and kind. Students were then told to go back and use the feedback to make improvements to their drawings. At the end of this process, it was lunch time, but the students were then set with a great picture of where they wanted to go. (10-15 minutes)

In the afternoon, students got down to work and finished their Friday by getting their plan together and beginning the initial work on their projects.

It was a great start to this Innovation Week, adding the Design Thinking process definitely helped students prepare and start to be creative before they even started work on their project, which will be very beneficial. We wanted to up the quality of learning going on in our building during this Innovation Week and with the work our staff put in well in advance of the week, along with the addition of the Design Thinking, I believe we are well on our way to seeing some really quality projects and really exciting learning.

Here is one more video, an interview with Kiana and Sara about their thoughts on the addition of the Design Thinking process to Innovation Week 4.