Last week I attended the Zone 1, 2 and 3 College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) annual Summer conference in Jasper. In attendance were system leaders and top government officials, all who are tasked with moving the vision for Alberta’s education system (Inspiring Education) forward within their own scope of influence. Each and every presenter gave powerful talks about the importance of continuing the journey of transforming the educational experience for students so they will emerge from grade 12 as young adults who are “ethical citizens and engaged thinkers with an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Over the three days our newly appointed Deputy Minister, Greg Bass spoke with great passion about the need for our teachers to consider important competencies when planning, carrying out and assessing student learning and Ellen Hambrook, an assistant to the Deputy Minister in the area of curriculum, provided an exciting update on the Curriculum Redesign initiative currently in the works. In addition to these reaffirming presentations, a panel of Superintendents from 3 jurisdictions shared, from their central office point of view, how Inspiring Education is playing out in their schools. As I sat there listening, I found myself asking this question over and over again, “How do we get from here to there?” As someone new to central office, and only weeks removed from sitting on the library floor with elementary school students, I am all to aware of the gap that exists between talking about transforming our education system and actually doing it.
Then we listened to our keynote speaker, Hall Davidson, who serves as director of Global Learning Initiatives with Discovery Education. Through a variety of very practical examples, he provided us with a look into the engaging classroom and what Inspiring Education might look like at the ground level. He started by introducing us to the wonderful Web application called Poll Everywhere and used it to crowd source the room as his presentation got underway. Many were using it for the first time. Then, the room was further amazed as he showed us how to take short videos using our mobile devices and upload them directly to his YouTube account within seconds. Next, he demonstrated Mystery Skypes, a concept taking innovative classrooms by storm, and most in the room had never heard of them. He went on to play with a variety of iPad Apps and showed clips of ways teachers used them to engage students and most looked on in sheer awe. This went on and on throughout the afternoon. At one point he asked the 120 participants if they have Twitter accounts and 5 of us raised our hands.
This is my point. The majority of system leaders and government officials in the education sector are far removed from where the transformation is actually taking place. There are some amazing things going on in classrooms everywhere and district leaders need to take every opportunity to get in there and see it for ourselves. Perhaps then we can figure out how to take many more teachers and administrators from here (talking about it) to there (doing it).
I encourage you to watch this video, remixed and created with the help of grade 5 and 6 students at the school where I was principal last year. I would argue that we were “doing it.” Or at least trying.