Posts tagged Deeper Learning
Dessert vs. Main Course
This week, The Shift is learning about Project Based Learning with the Buck Institute.   We are diving into what it might look like to coach other teachers as they embark on their own PBL journey.  A big part of what we’ve explored so far revolves around helping teachers feel comfortable and supported in trying something new.  Your first step into PBL doesn’t have to be perfect, and any teacher needs to accept that some failure might happen. Being transparent with your students about your own learning helps!

Our biggest takeaway so far is an anecdote describing the difference between giving your class a “project” vs engaging in “project based learning”.  Typically, a project is something that is assigned to a class after the learning has happened. The amount of new learning that happens during the project is minimal and the students are generally regurgitating what they already know.  A project is like dessert.

Project Based Learning, on the other hand, IS the learning.  A teacher poses a problem or driving question to the class and lets students explore that problem in their own way.  Learning and teaching happens throughout, depending on student needs. Sometimes there is whole class instruction, sometimes the learning is done with smaller groups, sometimes it is teacher driven and sometimes student driven.  In the end students have, individually or in groups, created products that demonstrate their deeper learning around the original problem. As teachers get more comfortable facilitating this type of learning, it is often the students who pose their own problems or questions to be explored.  Project Based Learning, done well, is like the main course of a great meal...and we are hungry!


Actual #pblcanada footage
Answers from High Tech High
We were sent to High Tech High and the Deeper Learning Conference with questions, and we brought back a heap of answers.

You can read our on the ground impression here after Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of the conference.

Before we headed to the conference we also asked others who had seen the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” to provide us with their own questions.  We tried as best we could to answer them, splitting the work up between our Principal Nicholas Varricchio and ourselves.  You can read our answers here. If you haven’t seen the film, and would like to, you can still see the film here.



And of course, if what you’ve read about our visit sparks new questions, feel free to leave us something in the comments
Diving Deep
Day two of deeper learning had participants tackling the true essence of the name of this conference: diving deep into learning. The sessions today were not one or two hour sessions, rather a deep dive into one idea for 6 hours. Funny enough, those six hours flew by as we were led through a series of activities crafted around the design thinking process.



The session we attended today, hosted by representatives from School Retool, was called “Empathy-based hacking for school-wide transformation”. Our session was facilitated by Jason Strong, Cassandra Thonstad and Marthaa Torres. As a starting point, we discussed insights learned from Shadow A Student challenge. In Halton, we had completed our version of this challenge and were able to bring our reflections to the table. This was the starting point: empathize with our students.
Putting aspirations down on paper  

From Aspirations to Small Hacks

We then talked, in groups of two, about our passions, our struggles and our own individual visions for how school can be different. This was a big challenge, as we were asked to speak to our partners for four minutes without interruption. Talk about taking a risk and being vulnerable! Four minutes feels like a eternity when you are putting your own beliefs out on the table. Immediately after those four minutes, our partner responded with the ultimate act of validation and active listening, by repeating, re-interpreting and summarizing what you had just said in those rambling four minutes. We capped this off by putting our ideas back into our own words - in 8 minutes, starting from rambling 4 minute visions and ending with a more cohesive idea.

Last task before lunch, we chose one of the Deeper Learning Big ideas. These were curated list by School Retool of the major strategies for engaging deeper learning, coming from the Stanford D.School, IDEO, School Retool, Big Picture Learning, Envision Schools, High Tech HIgh, among others..



After a lunch break we came to the bread and butter of this session, finding a way to implement change in our own buildings. Too often, when thinking about change, we aim to high and go too big. If we try to change too much, too fast, we run the risk of alienating the stakeholders that we need to work with. School Retool works around the idea of hacks, small changes that can lead to big transformations. We had already done the hard work by talking about our aspirations and big ideas. Now it was time to brainstorm, quickly and without pausing to think, any small change that might help us realize our goals.


The philosophy behind “The Hack” is simple. Act quickly, don’t overthink it. Be prepared and willing to fail as any failure is an opportunity to learn. Finally, start small with a short timeline. Extremely short, like actionable starting TOMORROW. By bringing change to the level of a small, scrappy experiment, it allows for you try something new without having to reinvent your entire school After brainstorming it was time to prototype. Individuals created their hack, bringing the brainstorming to life. Throughout this lengthy process, High Tech High students were made available to offer feedback on our prototypes. This created a wonderful iterative process and gave the teachers in the room a real working example of how students can be asked to prototype their own projects.


What was truly amazing about the day was how 1000+ educators could come together and create an exhibition of their own work. After six hours of deep diving our thinking was on full display, for everyone to view, comment on and ask questions about. And the spirit of sharing was contagious. Regardless of which session each person attended, they were able to speak about their own individual thinking as if they were a well polished expert.



So, after day two, not only did we learn about a model to facilitate small changes that can lead to big transformations, we left the conference armed with something we can implement tomorrow!

Deeper Learning Is...
That’s the prompt we were asked to think about during day one of the 2018 Deeper Learning Conference.  We were expecting to learn about Project Based Learning and High Tech High when we signed up for this conference.  We were caught off guard by the tone of the day. High Tech High played second fiddle to a much bigger idea, Deeper Learning.

The day started with 1200 educators in the High Tech High forum, with a salsa band playing energetic Latin-influenced grooves.  When they started to cover “Descpacito” and educators cut loose and started dancing, Jamie asked “is this Woodstock for teachers?”.  There was definitely an energy and buzz right from the beginning of the day.

So what is Deeper Learning?

Deeper Learning is...modelling the growth we want to see in our students.  Carlos R. Moreno, in his Keynote, stated that “Vulnerability is a part of good pedagogy”.  If we believe in teaching students the soft skills that they need to be successful in life, we have to model our own risk taking and willingness to be open and honest.  “We, as educators, need to be brave enough to share our own stories.”

Deeper Learning is…teaching our students to be competent.  There is a model to Deeper Learning and at its core lies six competencies.  65% of the jobs that today’s students will have haven’t been invented yet.  Armed with these competencies, students will be better equipped to work and learn in the world that is changing exponentially.




Deeper Learning is…a path to equity. Lindsay Hill said in her keynote that the system of school has been created using historical structures, put in place throughout our history to keep certain groups oppressed.” “We need to think about critical consciousness, racial equity, gender equity, classism, we need to talk about all of the ‘isms’ in our systems if we are TRULY about deeper learning.” The more we can talk about our biases, the more we can be the educators our young people need and deserve.



Deeper Learning is...trying something new, taking faith that the outcome may be unclear, but that growth and deeper learning as educators is guaranteed.  Michelle Clark, Co-Director of the Share Your Learning Campaign encouraged everyone to push out beyond their comfort zone.  As educators we were encouraged to leave our comfort zone, and to try something new.


Democratic Education

Deeper Learning is...giving students agency over their own education.  As Michelle said in her introduction, “We don’t give students voice, they already have one.  We just decentralize our leadership roles so that they can try them on to see the leaders they will become.  Many educators are attending this conference because they want to make school different. Gia Truong spoke about equity and how we can help our students feel like they belong.  If we can agree that we don’t like the story of school, perhaps it is time to change the storyteller.  Giving students more voice in their education is one way to do this.



Deeper Learning is...Beautiful work. Ron Berger, of Austin’s Butterfly fame, talked about the power of beautiful work: work that is not necessarily visually beautiful, but work that is made of actions in service of, actions of passion, actions of equity, of social justice.  Social Justice is needs to be at the core of the curriculum.

Deeper Learning is...evolving.  We are floored by how full our brains feel.  Both of us are looking forward to learning more tomorrow and refining our own personal definition of what Deeper Learning is.