Greetings from the Learning Department’s 21C team! Not sure who that is or what we do? Check out our introductory article, and then join us back here for an update.

Trailblazers investigate iconic Alberta images at The Stockman’s Museum.

Trailblazers investigate iconic Alberta images at The Stockman’s Museum.

If you follow #rvsed or #rvs21c on Twitter, you’re probably well aware that we’ve been doing some fun, out-of-school things with a number of RVS teachers these past couple of weeks. On those days we do tend to get a little excited and spam the Twitter account with updates and retweets of the work everyone is doing. We apologize to anyone whose #rvsed Tweet got buried in a stream of 21C exuberance.

It’s just that it’s difficult for us to control ourselves when we see and hear enthusiastic teachers diving into an interesting inquiry and creating excellent finished products in spite of some heavy time pressures. We believe one of the hallmarks of good instructional design is understanding it first from the inside – as the learner. Accordingly, a consistent feature of all the design cohorts is that teachers first act as learners and actually work through a designed exercise where they must explore an inquiry topic and use newly acquired tools or skills to create a product of significance.

In our Trailblazers Cohort, teachers inquired about the natural and man-made iconic symbols of Alberta at Cochrane Ranche, and exhibited their learning in a narrated SoundScape. They then put their new photography and graphic editing skills to use, creating icons of Alberta to be submitted to The Noun Project – an international effort to create a visual language.

Canada 150 teachers inquire about the identity of historical artifacts.

Canada 150 teachers inquire about the identity of historical artifacts.

Our Canada 150 Cohort explored what we can infer about Canadian identity by examining the artifacts we curate, like the ones they explored at the Glenbow Museum.  They went on to compose photographic pieces of art to accompany artist statements they made about their findings.

Lastly, our Architecture Challenge teachers took on the role of Professional Planners at the U of C, as they uncovered the ways in which public space serves our communities. After an inspiring tour of the Faculty of Environmental Design, including conversations with a Professional Planner, they began to plan scaled architectural models that will accompany infographics highlighting their findings.

 Teachers pool the knowledge about public spaces for their Architecture Challenge.

Teachers pool the knowledge about public spaces for their Architecture Challenge.

You may notice that in each of these projects, teachers are asked to acquire and share knowledge (Inquiry), to create something that meaningfully displays their learning (Project), and to showcase this in a way that is authentic to the discipline they are exploring (Exhibition). These three phases are the key elements of our own instructional design process and what we believe can make for powerful design for student learning as well.

The part that we sometimes fret about is making teachers speed through all of those phases in a single day. In truth, the most important part of the design cohorts is when teachers design for their own students. While we believe the teacher projects have authenticity, the real value is in seeing the process from the inside and getting to use different tools and protocols that lend themselves to collaboration and creativity. In a future blog post, we’ll look at how these first days later translate into exciting student projects.

Our Visual Instructional Design Framework.

Our Visual Instructional Design Framework.

Thanks for reading! Janelle (@Janelle3904), Dan (@DMcWilliam), Jason (@JasonTeaching), & Sara (@mrssaramartin)

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