I started our first day at #ConnectedCA with a hearty helping skepticism. What is this new-fangled conference method where there’s no introduction? What do you mean I’m supposed to just tour the school all day? I’ll be out of here in an hour. I couldn’t be more wrong.
Elementary vs. secondary
I often forget about the obvious differences between elementary and secondary education. CSS brought this immediately to the forefront because it is a grades 4 – 9 school. Besides being a lot more laminated items on the walls, they also post their learning expectations, their new unit vocabulary and they build their assessments with their students. It is common place to see student work displayed in the classroom, in the halls and in the library. Each one of these strategies would be so valuable to continue in the secondary classroom, yet they’re rarely used.
CSS has bought into a 1:1 model of devices to students using either iPads or Macbooks. As someone who manages a lot of tech for our student population through the library, I had to see the library in a technology-rich school. What I found was that there was only one charging cart in use in the library and that the librarian mainly spends her time collaborating, finding resources and helping students. I envy this model for the simple reason that I should be best utilized in teaching, not just managing tech.
The biggest difference in the pedagogical approach at CSS is that they implement an inquiry-based model in every course and every assignment. While there is a standard curriculum, there is a lot of choice in how students will complete the unit expectations. I can definitely see how a teacher-librarian would help staff and students to gather resources for each individualized project. The results of each inquiry were phenomenal, but more importantly, the emphasis was on the process of the project.
Repurposing a 20th century building for 21st century learning
The building has undergone some very interesting renovations, and quirky spaces were repurposed.
- a display case that has been remodelled to display books
- the PD library has a prominent place behind the library`s main projection screen and is used often
- a fishbowl-type wall was built to create a new collaborative space
- a storage area was changed into a dance studio and daily physical activity space
I plan to steal and implement all these ideas in my aging school as well.
Issues I see
Sometime the conclusions the students arrived at did not meet curriculum expectations. This is one of those common flaws in a model where learning is so individualized. Also the librarian was only a .6 position at the school. As well the staff, parents and students start school half way through August (but have a week break in October) in order to add 16 additional days of PD for collaboration.
Overall, I was very impressed with the principal and the staff`s courage in their pedagogical risk-taking. They have worked hard to convince their community that the inquiry model and 1:1 technology ratio is worth fighting for.