A few years ago I was invited into a classroom where students were asked to reimagine school for a project in their Business class. They had some interesting ideas including a portfolio that would accompany them from year to year, student ed-tech teams to support teachers and students to integrate technology effectively, and a committee to bring student ideas to the forefront. That was then and I can happily report that all of these things are happening in some shape or form at my District today. But what I found interesting, was that their suggestions were not as radical a re-imagining as I had expected.
In fact when, for the purposes of this blog-hop post for our Innovator’s Mindset Book Club, I asked my daughters and my nephew what they thought, they didn’t really have much to contribute either. Could it be that they are so fixed on their reality of what “school” is that they can’t even imagine anything different?
Here is my moonshot thinking as of this moment in time around what I would do if I was creating a school from scratch.
Physical Learning Spaces
When I was at the FETC summit, Tom Murray spoke to the Cemetary effect. I hadn’t really thought of that before, but since then, I can’t help but get the image of the cemetary out of my head. In my school reimagining physical learning spaces would be a priority. The building itself would have tall windows so lots of light could get in. The atrium would have real plants, flowers, and a garden maintained by classes. Classrooms would have moveable furniture that would allow a teacher to configure the classroom differently based on what was happening in the class. Chairs would be comfortable. Each classroom would have a reading nook with bean bag chairs as well as a lab with a sink for hands on experiments, an area for Chromebooks or laptops and a “recording studio” with green screen off to the side for classes to sign out when needed. There would be study carols for indivdual work and work pods with whiteboard desks for collaborating.
Structures & Timetable
We typically have elementary and secondary schools. I would love to have a K-12 school where authentic mentorship opportunities could arise for older students, and younger students could benefit from the time and modelling of the older students. And if a 7 year old wants to join a class that is technically not at “grade level”, I would encourage that to happen.
We also know that teens do better with a later start-time, so the start times would be earlier for the young children and later for the teens.
Working with your peers is essential to the sharing of good ideas. Currently teachers workrooms are distinct rooms and so opportunities to have cross-discipline conversations are minimal. In some schools, teachers even eat lunch in their Departments. I would have a great big open space for teachers to work and plan.
We would creatively timetable so that there was at least two hours a week within the school day for teachers to come together to learn together, ask questions together, and plan together.
Essential Questions, Inquiry, Design Thinking
Because information is so readily available today, instruction would be centered around essential questions and big ideas in the curriculum in a very student-centered classroom. Students would engage in inquiry-based learning and design thinking pursuing areas of interest Rich learning tasks will give students the opportunity to pose their own problems and have choice and voice. Students in this school environment don’t just aspire to be leaders, they are BEING leaders by solving real authentic problems in the context of school. STEAM & Makerspaces would be a part of every child’s experience.
My ideal school would be 1:1 (this after some very convincing conversations via our Innovator’s Mindset Voxer group). Equity of access should not be an issue. This is not to say that there won’t be opportunities for collaboration and creativity that do not centre in any way around technology, just that if students need to use it, they can.
A Culture of Yes
I really agree with Couro’s point in Chapter 4 of the Innovator’s Mindset that saying yes when it comes to the best interests of our learners creates a culture of of trust. Along this vein, I heard Pam Moran at FETC speak about how she said yes to creating a Treehouse in the cafeteria; she listened to the kids and helped to make it happen. They use a YELP framework which I really like:
Get to YES,
When I look at this list, I wonder how many of these things are actually possible to do right now, with very little additional resources?
Check out what these other Ontario Educators have to say about what their school would look like:
And feel free to add your own post here!