Ingvi Omarsson’s post on 14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools points out some important changes that are needed for schools to become truly 21st Century learning spaces. My school is going through the process of building a new site as part of an earthquake upgrade. It is cheaper to build a new school than try to upgrade Centennial School (there is not ‘secondary’ in its name for historical reasons, it started as a grade 11/12 ‘freedom with responsibility’ education space that was cutting edge at it start in 1967). Ingvi’s post made me think how we are building a new space for learning and looking at the very points that are made in his post.
Here is a quick video of the architecture prints of the school:
The process involved the whole school, including the teachers, CUPE staff, parents, and students as they worked around what they wanted their school to be like. From the conversations, three working groups were formed with teacher leaders running the groups: Culture, Community and Connectedness; Citizenship and Sustainability; and Inquiry, Innovation and Creativity in Learning. More on what these working groups are doing under the 14 things obsolete in a 21st Century School.
1. Computer Labs
The design of the school looked at possibilities around computer labs and the need to find innovative ways to bring the technology into the classroom. One dedicated room, off the Learning Commons (Library), was set aside for students to have access to the internet, while allowing some space for teachers to have their students work on projects. Although it might not be ideal, it does remove barrier to access by allowing more teachers to use technology (tablets, smart phones) in their classrooms as opposed to hiking down to the dedicated room. It’s not too cutting edge, but it is a start. Still in progress.
2. Isolated Classrooms
All the classrooms were designed to be in ‘pods’ where there would be working spaces for students to work outside of the regular classroom. All the classrooms are open and, through the Inquiry, Innovation and Creativity in Learning working group, we are looking at multi-disciplinary, thematic and multi-level groupings. Ongoing improvements.
3. Schools that don’t have WiFi
Well, we should have WiFi, as we will be on a special grid that should increase the speed and volume of access. Unfortunately, we still have to move from ‘not allowing students’ access’ to open access for all. We will get there. Still in progress.
4. Banning Phones and Tablets
This will be one of the greatest things we could do to provide greater opportunities for our students. I know of several teachers, particularly in Sciences and Socials, that allow their students to use their devices to help improve their understanding of the content and connections. Next step is to have some Mystery Skype-type opportunities. Ongoing improvements.
5. Tech Director with Administrator Access
This is district controlled and under CUPE (union) contract. There are conversations around who can have this access, particularly around tablet apps. Still in progress.
6. Teachers that don’t share what they do
We have teachers doing some amazing things. They have shared this with their colleagues in the building and within the district. Some have shared provincially. It would be great, though, if more shared through social media to collaborate with the world. Ongoing improvements.
7. Schools that don’t have Facebook or Twitter
This one I have trouble with as Facebook or Twitter are merely tools that might not even be ‘in vogue’ in 5 years. However, if we turn that to schools need to have a presence on social media sites, then I’m all behind that. We use Twitter for almost all our athletics, leadership and volunteer groups (they each have their own account, run by students, watched by teachers). Facebook is more for small group pages to keep students up to date on progress in clubs, etc. Ongoing improvements.
8. Unhealthy Cafeteria Food
Now, here is where we rock. We have an amazing culinary arts programme that provides great, healthy food choices for our lunch menus. We are also part of a BC agriculture programme where fresh fruits and vegetables are delivered bi-weekly and distributed to the whole school (usually in period 2). Excellent!
9. Starting School at 8 o’clock for teenagers
Now this is where we are trying to change things. We are currently going through a process to move towards a common lunch (at the moment, students could have lunch in periods 1,2,3,4, or 5). However, the Culture, Community, Connectedness working group is looking at modifying our schedule to a common lunch (period 3) and then have various classes, where most will start at 9:00 am, except for a few select electives that fit nicely into the morning class spots. Optimistically moving forward.
10. Buying poster-, website-, pamphlet design
We already do all our designing through our student courses of Digital Programming and ICT. The website, however, is set for district consistency. Ongoing improvements.
11. Traditional Libraries
The new school will not have a library. It will be a Learning Commons, with multiple levels depending on what students want from it. There will be quiet study spaces, group spaces, lounge spaces and reading areas. I really look forward to seeing this in action. Optimistically moving forward.
12. All students get the same
With our wide range of choices for electives (ACE-IT trades, mechanics, culinary arts, media arts, computer programming, multiple athletic courses, AP courses, trades maths and sciences), not one student would have the same experience in their education and learning while at Centennial. There are literally thousands of opportunities within the school and even more, when we add the distance learning opportunities. We have cross-enrolled students taking some courses with us and some with other campuses in the district. Ongoing improvements.
13. One-professional development fits all
Professional Development is in the realm of the teachers. They have autonomy over what they want to work on, as well as where. We have learning groups looking at assessment, grading, technology, differentiation and many others. There are scheduled professional development days which are planned with administration and teachers to provide areas of interest to the school. Excellent.
14. Standardized tests to measure the quality of the education
Unfortunately, our province continues to use standardized testing on grades 4, 7, 10, 11, and 12. The grades 4 and 7 have an opt-out clause for parents not wishing their children to participate, but the grades 10,11, and 12 are mandatory for the graduation tract.These tests are used by organizations like the Fraser Institute to ‘rank’ schools in annual report cards. They are not used to evaluate teachers, but the added stress of exams worth 20%-40% of the final, blended mark remove many opportunities to go deeper into the disciplines of Mathematics, Science, Socials and English. There is some talk at the Ministry level around moving away from these exams, particularly in light of the new BC Education Plan. And organizations like Great Schools are working on documents that support multiple ways of assessing students without the use of such standardized testing. Optimistic, but not there, yet.
I am optimistic about the future of Centennial as we move forward towards the district concept of Learning Without Boundaries.