After following the education debate for numerous years on twitter and doing my utmost to effect change, I have grown tired of the conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly passionate about education change, I am just tired of hearing about it and people saying what “should” be done rather than actually demonstrating what can be done. For me, it comes back to the cliche – actions really do speak louder than words.
An inquiry can be a big question or a quest. This is an excellent example of a quest. It involves numerous different competencies, most of all being collaboration. This particular quest was so big that it required a team to accomplish. That is the mark of true collaboration – something that is so big that not one person could possibly do it on their own:
So, please watch the video above as I feel it demonstrates what learning should look like now. The video itself was another collaboration from a different team of talented filmmakers at The Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. They call themselves: PSII Productions. Here is another incredible example of what true collaboration in school can look like:
I did about 40 shows in the Inner Harbor this summer. It definitely made me tougher. I was hoping to do 80 shows, but I had an old flare up of a hernia injury that took me out for a couple of weeks and limited my show numbers after that. Next season…
Here is a photo essay of this experience, documented by the budding, professional PSII Production Team. Photographers: Teagan Gosling, Jasmine Wong and Avery Stefanson.
It has been a phenomenal year of facilitating the arts at the awesome Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. I have learned so much – especially about making films. We humbly began here, and within one iteration, we have taken off (see films below).
Of course, there is still so much learning to do. Overall though, these students worked incredibly hard to put together high production value art on almost no budget. Indeed, the goal is to make it to the pros and generate revenue. This will take various forms next year and the skills that we have acquired making these productions has us on the right trajectory. I can only imagine where we’ll be in a few years time.
Working on a giant production with so many moving parts is a tremendous vehicle for learning important cognitive processes and competencies as well as a great deal of professionalism. The key to a successful future is being able to accelerate learning and build a team of incredible talent who are super nimble that can stay ahead of the giant changes that are happening in the world.
Please watch these films below. They are proof of how far students can push and accelerate their learning if given the opportunity. I am honored to have been embroiled in the creative and collaborative process of making art with these talented young artists.
The Chief Learning Officer. I love the ring to it. I am convinced that this position is going to be the number one leadership role in organizations in the very near future. The world is changing so rapidly, it is exponential (especially in tech). The key to success will be how an organization can accelerate learning for its people; A fine-tuned, talented, diverse team of people who are in an accelerated learning mode that is effective at all layers will be the champions.
As a teacher at the awesome Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), I have set out to create a very entrepreneurial mindset in our students. Not that that necessarily means business, but just the attitude of, “Get out there and make something happen!” It has definitely accelerated their learning.
The brilliant John Seely Brown, one of the world’s top innovators, has co-authored a paper entitled, “Lessons From the Edge: What Companies Can Learn From a Tribe in the Amazon“. It is a fascinating example of a group in accelerated learning. The paper stresses that it is imperative to “Re-think the way you learn from and adapt to the world or risk vanishing forever.” The authors outline 3 specific lessons to ensure that an organization remains on the forefront of innovation and change:
1. Cultivate Talent
2. Leverage Resources
3. Stage Your Moves
These 3 lessons, I think, will form the backbone of the Chief Learning Officer’s role. Of the 3, I believe that the most important factor will be the development of talent which will be the focus of the remainder of this post.
What a computer programming university student learns in the first year becomes obsolete by their fourth. The pace of change is just too rapid. The internet has leveled everything and the pace is only going to quicken as more and more people throughout the world gain access to tools that enable them to create. Indeed, it is an exceptionally exciting time as innovation can come from anywhere. And I mean anywhere. The world is only getting more and more connected and with initiatives to bring the internet to remote areas of the world (Google blimp), it will be amazing to watch the products that get developed. This in turn puts tremendous pressure on old, stodgy businesses that have enjoyed “First World” advantages for years.
Thus, it is essential to not just find talent, but develop it from the ground up and then ensure that the organization maintains an accelerated pace of learning. This is a monumental task and the key to survival.
Specific strategies to accelerate learning and develop talent:
Every single book, article, excerpt or quote I have read over the last few years on innovation in education includes entrepreneurship, technology and creativity. There is nothing more exciting in education than being embroiled in the creative process making things of value to better the world. There is no reason for students to have to wait to enter the pro ranks. This is especially true when it comes to tech. The gatekeepers are down and students can lead and push limits right away. It is an incredibly exciting time.
Limbic Media and VIATeC are providing tremendous opportunities for our students and helping me steer education onto the forefronts of innovation, technology and creativity.
The team at Limbic are awesome and have been providing professional mentorship through building projects that the company needs. My computer team at PSII are stoked and grateful to be receiving cutting edge engineering technology training and directly applying it to real world situations.
VIATeC is, “the one-stop hub that connnects people, knowledge and resources to grow and promote the Greater Victoria technology sector.”
Adam Foeller, the facilities Manager, is such a nice guy and is providing our students with a ton of opportunities. Currently, we are working on a project for them that when finished, will tour to hundreds of conferences and events. Not bad for our budding computer engineering program. Adam says that he has basically endless projects for us to do, so we are very excited to see what can be created as we evolve in skill and talent.
I had absolutely no idea that I would be doing this this year. None whatsoever. It was sparked from a bunch of wooden theatre swords that the students were just messing around with which drove me nuts. “If we are going to play with swords, we are going to do it right darn it!” I I bellowed.
So, I called a meeting to see who would be interested in choreographing some stage combat. I did not realize that it would turn into what you just watched above. But holy cow, I am sure happy it did. This is what emergent curriculum looks like.
We went through a 4 month rehearsal and production process.
In terms of thinking in old school courses, the students covered: English, Digital Media, Film, Info Tech, PE and Dance Choreography. Pretty good interdisciplinary inquiry. However, at PSII, we are trying so hard to get away from organizing things in courses. We would rather like to organize around competencies. The students hit these making this film: Media and Info Literacy, Collaboration and Leadership, Critical and Creative Thinking, Cultural Awareness and Understanding, Personal Responsibility and Planning. We believe these are greater forms for assessment.
Adding on to all of that is the unparalelled experience of seeing a labour intensive, lengthy process through to an end. It is not about handing in assignments that only a teacher will see. It is about making valuable work to share with the world.
But even beyond all of that, the most important aspect of education is to light the fire. I mean, isn’t that what it is all about? These learners are fully engaged, doing deep research and experimenting with numerous creative avenues. These are the skills that every innovative organization wants to see.
At The Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry, we are doing everything we can to move away from an outdated education system. Things being as they are, we need funding from the government. That means that we have to follow the BC curriculum in order to receive it. This leaves us tied to mandated learning outcomes. I have looked through nearly every single BC course and I have to say that the curriculum is in drastic need of alteration.
What is really challenging, is that our students are getting a mixed message that doing inquiry is in clash of doing courses which they need to graduate because it does not fit into the minutiae. Organizing material into courses is arbitrary. It is good to remember that. There are other ways to organize learning, that in my humble opinion, are far superior. Like competencies. And big ideas.
It is painfully apparent that education is in dire need of change. We are not just talking about it, theorizing, we are doing it – every single day. Some of the kids are having a difficult time buying into it for a variety of different reasons of which none would matter if we did not have to follow the BC curriculum which was originally designed for a system to produce factory workers. The time has come to move forward.
Starting up a school takes wicked savvy admin skills and is such a feat, it is no wonder that seldom few attempt it. I have directly learned the madness involved from our fearless leader, Jeff Hopkins (hands down the best leadership I have ever had the pleasure of working with).
We are not just trying to start any old school either, we are trying to show the system how to change. Again, no small feat.
Today I witnessed courage. There is quite a shy, wilting little young woman who took one big step forward during our first improv class today. She busted out of her shell and gave it her all. It was awesome to watch. Can I give you evidence that she learned? Nope. Whenever you push past your boundaries, that is true learning, no two ways about it. It takes bravery, and bravery is what we must teach in school.
There are many out there who are waiting to be told what to do. At PSII, the training is trying to figure it out for yourself. If ever there was a skill to learn, that is the one that will stead them through the gargantuan changes shaking absolutely every industry on Earth. And it is not alone, of course, they have an incredible team of teacher experts as their guides, facilitators and confidants.
Some students are directionless, flapping in the wind. They have never not not been told what to do their entire school career. Doesn’t it just leave you breathless?
Enter the paradox of freedom. They have an infinite number of things to choose from now and so some choose none, overwhelmed with never having had to take responsibility for their own learning.
So, they turtle into what they know, even when absolute freedom lies at their feet. Thinking about education as courses one has to take rather than an inquiry one must pursue is deeply embedded into the psyche of western civilization.
But lo! It must change. It absolutely must. For if it does not, if we continue to condition people to wait to be told what to do, humanity will be in peril. It is that heavy. Courage we must have. I yell at the top of my lungs on top of a hill overlooking capital city, “COURAGE!”