Design Cohorts Launch

Design Cohorts Launch

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)

21C’ing Our Way Forward

21C’ing Our Way Forward

21st C Learning Specialists – If you haven’t worked directly with one of the 21st Century Learning Specialists in the last few years, there’s a reasonable chance that you might not know who we are or what we do.  In fact, the most common question asked of us is probably “what exactly is it that you people DO?”  However, even if we haven’t had the privilege of getting to know you personally, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve been exposed to some of our work.

 The Places We Go, The People We See

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For instance, if you’ve watched any of the RockyDocs videos or those published to the Rocky View YouTube channel, you’ve most likely watched something that we created. If you’ve been to a major class or program exhibition featuring student work somewhere in the division, you may have attended something that our team has supported directly alongside the teachers championing those programs. And if you’ve attended a divisional professional learning session where administrators or facilitators had you immersed in collaborative work, talking with and listening to many of your colleagues rather than a “Sage on the Stage,” there’s a chance we were involved behind the scenes with preparing that session.

While the work of our team is sometimes a bit of a moving target, our primary mission is to help teachers and administrators deliver on the goals of Rocky View’s Four Year Plan – particularly those related to developing the key competencies of a 21st Century Learner.  Part of the reason our work changes and evolves from year to year is that we’re constantly iterating, trying out new things, and working hard to stay on top of developments in educational circles around the world.

Another reason why our work might be in a state of transition this year in photo-2016-09-13-8-01-37-pmparticular is that we’ve had some recent personnel changes.  Josh Hill and Rick Gaudio have taken a leave and a sabbatical respectively. Taking their places are Jason Ness (from Building Futures Cochrane) and Janelle Phillips (from Mitford Middle School). Joining the team in a new position that is shared with the Technology Department is Sara Martin (from Mitford Middle School). Dan McWilliam, who is in his 3rd year in the role, has his work cut out for him, showing the new folk all the ropes.

In spite of the transitions, our team has plenty of work on its plate already, starting most significantly with our Design Cohorts that kick off in September. Pairs of teachers from around the division will have the opportunity to take on the roles of students as they are immersed in an authentic Inquiry and Project Design Challenge. While some will create iconic trailhead signs to be placed throughout the division, others will take on the roles of architects and environmental designers, and a third group will contribute to a curated collection of photographs and artwork that encapsulates the many facets of Canadian identity in this, our sesquicentennial.

With a first person understanding of the scope and sequence of these projects, teachers can then bring similar projects to their own classrooms. We’re excited to see students inquire and create collaboratively in processes that bring authenticity to their learning.  We’re also excited to be able to capture those processes and their products so that they might further inspire others to take up this kind of work.

We also will be continuing elbow-to-elbow work with teachers who are doing innovative things in their classrooms (Fellowships), as well as working with administrators who hope to bring these practices to their schools through Professional Learning efforts (dSchools).  You can learn more about this work at our website, www.makinglearningvisible.com, which is itself also on our to-do list, in need of some redesign and a couple fresh coats of paint.

While we know we won’t be able to collaborate with every teacher in the division, we hope we’ll have opportunities to connect directly with as many of you as we can.  If accessing our team through our main “menu” isn’t a likely option, we hope to have the chance to connect with more of you on Twitter (#rvs21C) or through our travels around the division.  Please feel free to contact any of us via email if you have questions or ideas to bounce our way.

Dan McWilliam, Janelle Phillips, Jason Ness, Sara Martin

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