To varying degrees, the three most common elements I am hearing right now around new and evolving instructional and classroom innovation from teachers and schools involve inquiry, technology and self-regulation. Many school communities are talking about classroom design–what the schools of the future will look like and, for some, the future is now as they look at pedagogy and the spaces required to maximize these visions. There is more, of course, but these elements seem to dominate the conversation that only a year ago was often described as 21st century or personalized learning. The direction has not changed, but the vision has become more precise, more tangible.
A worry around inquiry is the term’s overuse to describe anything that involves asking a question. There are a number of definitions as they continue to be refined in different contexts, but I like the one from the Galileo Educational Network that sees it as:
. . . a dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlement and coming to know and understand the world. As such, it is a stance that pervades all aspects of life and is essential to the way in which knowledge is created. Inquiry is based on the belief that understanding is constructed in the process of people working and conversing together as they pose and solve the problems, make discoveries and rigorously testing the discoveries that arise in the course of shared activity.
Inquiry is a study into a worthy question, issue, problem or idea. It is the authentic, real work that someone in the community might tackle. It is the type of work that those working in the disciplines actually undertake to create or build knowledge. Therefore, inquiry involves serious engagement and investigation and the active creation and testing of new knowledge.
I wrote a full post last spring on inquiry available here. While the term was previously reserved for the world of International Baccalaureate, it is taking hold, in varying degrees, in all of our schools.
There is no shortage of work taking place in our district, or other BC jurisdictions around the ethical use of technology to improve student learning and engagement. Last week, the Minister of Education, the Honourable George Abbott, listed a five-point plan around educational transformation in British Columbia (here) that included Learning empowered by Technology as one of the key principles. There is amazing innovation happening with technology in a number of areas in West Vancouver. The work at Caulfeild Elementary is an example of this, and has been interesting to follow as they have launched their Inquiry based Digitally Enhanced Community (IDEC). Principal Brad Lund is writing a regular blog (here) keeping the local and larger community updated on their journey. Following up on the larger journey in our district, the Digital Literacy blog (here) is an excellent up-to-date resource on both the micro and macro efforts around using technology to fuel student learning.
Dr. Stuart Shanker has brought self-regulation to the masses. He has been a regular presenter in British Columbia, as mentioned in an earlier post on his work here, and spent two days in West Vancouver at the beginning of September, that included him speaking to all staff. We are hoping to have him back soon, and have dedicated some time from Moray McLean, one of our occupational therapists, who will support each primary class in our district over this year around work in self-regulation. Jody Langlois, Director of Student Support Services, has also shared thoughts on this through her blog here.
Beyond all the Shanker momentum, MindUP is another example on the same theme of self-regulation. What started with training for one school staff has spread to several, with more training to be scheduled soon. West Bay Elementary Principal, Judy Duncan, recently blogged (here) about her school’s experiences.
The conversations on the elements of inquiry, technology and self-regulation are a marriage of pedagogy and environment. Of course, in a world of increased student ownership and personalization of learning there will likely be more diversity rather than less to what a classroom should look like. Some may question the concept and purpose of the “classroom” itself. And, while this is an interesting conversation, we need tangible shifts we can implement now. As we imagine classrooms for the very near future, it will be interesting to track the place of these three current tenets in their design.