Posts tagged Three P's
Playing with Purpose

A little while ago The Shift wrote about the Three (Silent) P’s of Innovation.  Simply put they are

  • Permission: educators need to feel that they have the permission to try something new

  • Protection: innovators should feel that they are protected if something goes sideways

  • Policy: people need assistance in navigating the policies that may slow down innovation

We’ve worked within these three P’s for the past year, mostly helping to convince others that they do indeed have the permission to try, fail and learn.  Innovation is a part of the Halton District School Boards Improvement Plan, so teachers should feel that they are protected when trying something new. As well, administrators and IPLs are well versed in assisting teachers when navigating through the relevant policies.

But something was missing from the three P’s and we’ve recently realized what that is: play.  Students, teachers, administrators, support staff should all feel as excited for Monday morning as they do for Friday afternoon.  Wouldn’t it be great to hear the words “I can’t believe this is school!” more often from educators and students?

Let’s be clear about what we mean when we say “play”.  We do mean having fun and being excited. We also mean being filled with a sense of awe and wonder.  We mean that when the bell rings, everyone is disappointed because they don’t want the learning to end.  If our classrooms are filled with purposeful joy, we’ve won. Playing in an escape room is great, but how do we make sure there is a defined purpose behind that play?

Educators need to feel that sense of play in what they do as well.  Experimenting with different ways to make your classes more engaging, more student focused and more playful should hopefully also feel like play.  If we hold that mindset of play while we create experiences for our students, we will have more fun on the journey and we will be more forgiving to ourselves when things go sideways.  

Last Thursday a group of HDSB Science teacher got to experience a little bit of playing with purpose when they travelled to Toronto to learn about Integrative Thinking.  This was a chance for teachers and administrators to fully “nerd out” on thinking and learning and they had so much fun doing so. The first integrative thinking tool they learned to use was called the “pro-pro” chart.  Think about making a decision by coming up with a pro-con list. You then make your decision based on which option has the least cons. The pro-pro chart is a rich tool that allows you to look at the benefits of both sides of a problem in order to uncover an “ultimate” solution. The ultimate solution isn’t about choosing one side or the other, but a creative path that speaks to both sides of the problem.  We will be digging in more detail into this tool in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned for more soon from teachers actively playing with the pro-pro chart with their students.

The best part about integrative thinking and the pro-pro charts is that, when using them, it doesn’t feel like school, it feels like play.  Students are engaged because they feel like their opinions matter and that their voice can affect change. Teachers are excited because they can witness the thinking process happening in real time.  This is play, with purpose and it is absolutely required for innovation to happen. So let’s add to the three Ps to reflect that mindset: the four Ps! Permission, Protection, Policy, PLAY!


Innovation Journey
WI Dick Middle School in Milton is on an Innovation Journey.  Inside their school they had a large, open area called “The Mall” that was used for Quality Daily Fitness breaks.  Really, the space was being misused and ended up collecting large amounts of garbage throughout the day. As well, WI Dick Middle School had an aging Mac Lab that, while used, didn’t do much to promote creativity or collaboration among students.  The staff identified that they wanted to make improvements to how these learning spaces were utilized. Not to spoil anything, but they were more than successful!



The Mall has since become an extended classroom that teachers can use for group work, combined classes or breakout space.  It has been furnished with flexible seating, whiteboards, a dedicated chromebook cart and other supplies to drive collaboration.  But really, the repurposing of The Mall was a side show compared to what we were about to witness in the old Mac Lab, now rebranded as the “Innovation Lab”. To set up this space, science teacher Mark Maunder has taken the tired, aging computer lab and has transformed it into a dynamic, student centred space where they tackle design thinking projects, learn to empathize, build, code and solve creative problems.



There have been many times when we have had the good fortune of witnessing the energy of empowered students in our travels into schools around Halton, like the Learning Commons at JT Tuck, and Ms. DiGiantomasso’s Grade 8 math classroom at Aldershot. The Innovation Lab at WI Dick Middle School exuded that same level of kinetic energy!  This space is a great example of structure creating behaviour. In this case, by focusing on students creating in teams, and guiding them through the design process, Mark has set the conditions for empowered learning to take place in the room. He reflected on how some of the students that have had difficulty engaging in some other areas of school have found a safe space here where they are engaged, interested and valued.



The space itself has been thoughtfully designed to be flexible, inviting and dynamic.  Students work on whiteboard tables that are able to lift up and store vertically with ease.  The tables allow for risk-free ideation and much like the Thinking Classroom framework, allow students to work vertically.  There were some lost cost design solutions as well including LEGO donated by the community, and some repurposed cork boards and other reinvented materials.   They demonstrated how creating a space like this can also involve solutions don’t necessarily always break the bank.

One of the reasons for success in this project, which is still very much framed as a pedagogical experiment is the presence of The 3 Ps of Innovation (Permission, policy, protection) that nurtures the conditions to allow this new venture to happen.  Mark was given open permission to create this space and program with the focus on learning skills and soft skills as outcomes, rather than specific curricular outcomes and grades.  Mark has noticed that there are many more opportunities for fluid pairings with other subject teachers as needed to cover curriculum. This repurposing of space has worked because Principal Christine Bejjany gave teachers the permission to launch, with the policy and protection to try, fail and learn with a focus placed on learning skills as allowed a flexibility to the project to exist.

In future, the hope is to find ways of bringing this type of learning into all spaces, using maker carts and a design thinking framework in other classes and in other courses.  The insight and the forethought into scaling up is both exciting for the school and welcome that the space fits into a greater plan of change within the priorities of the school.


Summer Sign Off
Well Shifters, it has been a great semester!  Since starting this blog in February of this year, we have had so much fun learning about what teachers are doing in their classes and talking about what they hope to do next. We hope that we did a little to inspire you to think differently about what you teach and how you teach and that you got excited to take some risks.   

Working on this project forced us to learn a lot, and most of that learning was driven through trial and error.  Jamie used a Mac for the first time.  Matt built several rigs to help us with our sound recording.  We learned how to blog, edit video, talk on camera and listen to ideas.  We made lots of mistakes that hopefully nobody noticed.  Although, to quote Marisa Cavataio when we visited her Productions Class at Nelson High School, “The most important thing you will do in this class is make mistakes”.  

Our mistakes bore fruit!  We just recently passed 10,000 views on this blog, which blew away our expectations.  We’ve gained 110 followers too, so thank you for making that possible!  If you haven’t signed up for updates yet, consider adding yourself to the Shift List!

Our videos have been viewed more than 1000 times.  We made our Case For videos with no real idea if anyone would be interested in watching.  Hopefully if you’ve watched we’ve made you think about how you are Innovating.  We certainly learned a lot about how to create environments that demand students to be innovative.

We owe a lot of thanks to the team at School Programs.  Many of the IPL’s helped us get The Shift launched, or joined us to do some thinking and planning.  As well, we had some great mentors in Chris Duncan, Kevin Raposo and Sommer Sweetman who were super generous with their time and assistance.

We had so much fun connecting with Shifters in person at the Shift Conference at the Barn.  It set in our brains the improv ideas of “yes, and” and “feel more comfortable feeling uncomfortable” as a mindset to start innovating in our buildings.  

Looking back on the last 4 months, we decided to each pick our favourite post on the Shift Blog.  Matt really enjoyed speaking to Michael Primerano about going gradeless.  Every since that visit, there has been an ongoing conversation among shifters and in workrooms about how we can hack assessment to make class more about iterative learning and risk taking, and less about the mark.  

Jamie really enjoyed participating in the Innovator’s Mindset Massively Open Online Course (#IMMOOC).  The weekly video chats/conferences were great to listen to, but often it was the backchannel conversations that drove a lot of deeper thinking.  One conversation in particular gave rise to what we dubbed “The Three (Silent) P’s of Innovation”.  For anyone thinking about leading innovation in their buildings next year?  Make sure your teachers know that they have the permission to try something new, your protection when things start to go sideways, and your assistance to help navigate the policies that can slam the brakes on innovation.

If you are thinking about how to lead innovation in your buildings next year?  If so, have you signed up for the Shift Your Blank Summer Symposium yet?  It will be a good opportunity to connect with Shifters, set some goals and work on some ideas to improve practice.

Jamie and Matt, signing off for now. Have a great summer, Shifters!
The Three (Silent) P's of Innovation
This past Sunday many of us participated in session two of the Innovator’s Mindset Massively Open Online Course (#IMMOOC).  It is thrilling, honestly, to be participating in a community of educators who will give up their Sunday evening to learn.  Clearly there is a desire from those of us in education to receive Professional Development differently.  Lots of the conversation in the back channel revolved around alternative ways to deliver messages to staff.  

One of the the ways of delivering staff learning that Matt and I have experience with is a “March Madness” approach.  
Not that March Madness...
We can’t claim credit for this particular format, as there are many schools who dabble in this type of staff learning.  In a nutshell, various topics of learning are offered throughout the month.  Each staff member is expected to sign up and attend at least one learning session however nothing stops someone from participating in all of the sessions.  In the end, this delivery really respects the time of staff members, as they choose an afternoon that fits with their schedule.  As well, staff are given choice in what they learn about, allowing them the most professional growth.  One final pro-tip, you don’t have to do this type of learning in March only!  

Like most of the participants in the #IMMOOC, Matt and I spend our time multitasking while watching the video chat.  I’m watching the back channel and twitter, texting various participants when good ideas get thrown around and trying to pay attention to the speakers.  Matt and I have also started collaborating on a “Brain Dump” document while we listen, which we look back on often during the week.

This week, a big idea jumped out at us.  We’ve started calling it the Three Silent P’s of Innovation.  Permission, Protection, Policies.  If you are an administrator or leader within a school who wants to drive innovation, know that these three P’s are what teachers are worried about the most.

First of all, PERMISSION.  Teachers want to know that they have permission to try something new.  They want to feel encouraged to think outside the box.  Try this, the next time you are addressing your staff; look them all in the eye and say “You have my permission to try whatever crazy idea you have to improve learning in your class”.  If a teacher wants to try something new and different that would be good for students, why would they ever NOT be supported?

Second, PROTECTION.  It’s hard to try something new.  It’s uncomfortable, to put yourself out there with an idea that might ultimately fail.  Teachers who are looking to innovate want to know that it’s okay to make a mistake.  They want to know they have support.  Tell them, “If this doesn’t work, you won’t get in trouble.  You are supported!”

Finally, POLICY.  Actually, the navigation of policy.  Nothing will stop a big idea faster than thinking about the checklists of policies that need to be satisfied in order to enact that big idea.  Policy is important, it keeps us out of trouble (see above).  As a leader of teachers, navigating that policy for us will ultimately help us do more.  Be the bridge between the innovation that is trying to happen and the policy that already exists.  

This seems like a call to action...and maybe it is.  If you are an educational leader, an administrator, a program leader, the leader of a course or grade team, let the people you work with know they have the permission to dream, the protection to try and your help in navigating the policies that can often get in the way.  But the conversations needs to go both ways too.  If you are a teacher who wants to try something new, keep your leaders in the loop.  They would like nothing more than to support you in your journey, but that can’t happen if they don’t know your vision.