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Deep Learning

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

(Image by Andy Bay from Pixabay)

So many of my daily experiences lately seem to be connected in unexpected ways to the readings and resources we’re exploring in this module. This week has been no exception. In fact, the topics of deeper learning tasks, intrinsic bias and meaningful technology integration have provided multiple opportunities for reflection, growth and connection this week.

The Power of Agency

Chapter 3 of this week’s reading, A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning, Fullan and Langworthy described something they call ‘learning leadership’ in which students become the leaders of their own learning. For many of us, especially those working in a PYP environment, we call this learner agency- the idea that students should have voice, choice and ownership in what, when and how they learn. Most modern-day educators value this idea, at least in theory, but many have a hard time with the logistics of it and revert back to more traditional mindsets and methods when they meet challenges with implementing agency.

This weekend, I had the chance to join 150 other passionate educators for a day of learning at the ADE Conference in Hong Kong. One of the sessions I attended was on this very topic and was presented by some former colleagues of mine, Justin Ouellette and Cindy Kaardal. In the workshop, they shared about their journeys to embed agency into every facet of their teaching and the impact that this has had on the learning of their students. One big takeaway for me from the session was the purposeful allotment of time for choice and reflection. Students in grades 4 & 5 at International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) operate in a ‘studio’ model where they plan their learning, meet with advisors, take workshops, and then provide evidence of their process through reflection on Seesaw. After leaving this session, I immediately wrote my PYP coordinator and asked her to make time for this is upcoming grade-level meetings, especially with Grade 5 exhibition on the horizon.

So what does this have to do with deep learning? Well, the short answer is- A LOT. The more agency a student has, the more intrinsic motivation they will develop. This motivation ultimately leads to habits of deeper, more meaningful learning. For me, this is the very essence of ISTE Student Standard #1- EMPOWERED LEARNER.

Designing Deep Learning Tasks

One of my very favorite things about being a member of the current COETAIL and ISTE cohorts is that I’m starting to wear the hat of a designer with confidence, something I didn’t really do until recently. Sure, teachers have long been ‘designers’ of lessons, units, and assessments, but there’s a new push for teachers to tap into their own creativity and become designers of learning experiences, much of which is supported by technology these days. This idea is reinforced in this week’s reading Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning by Fullan and Langworthy (2013) when it states the following:

“Digital content and learning resources have the potential to fulfill much of the “content delivery” requirements of teaching, allowing teachers to focus more naturally on creating compelling and personally relevant learning experiences that engage their particular students.”

This is something that came up many times on Saturday at the ADE event in the keynote, lunch discussions and in workshops. So how can technology support us in becoming designers of deep and meaningful learning tasks? And for me, how can I, as a coach, support the teachers in using technology to design these kinds of experiences for students? The truth is that I don’t actually have the answers to these questions yet, but here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Use what we know about students’ interests and abilities to design learning experiences that will meet the curriculum goals and spark student interest.

  2. Have students co-create the parts of an assessment or the success criteria in an effort to promote ownership.

  3. Find opportunities for students to connect their learning to an authentic audience or purpose.

  4. Model and teach the skills and dispositions of lifelong learning through new pedagogies.

  5. View teaching as an iterative process that can be built on and improved.

Okay, great. So how does this translate into my work as an Innovation Coach and how am I helping move these ideas forward in my context? Here are a couple of things I’m trying:

Getting Hands-On: I have been more deliberate in following up with people who express an interest in collaborating and encouraging more risk-taking with new ideas. In the last week, this has meant experimenting with Early Years students to add LED lights to homemade robots, setting up a green screen studio in preschool, starting a student bulletin board makeover competition for upper grades, exploring digital sketchnoting with Grade 3 and helping a teacher connect his students to experts for a social studies class. Will all of these things be wildly successful? Doubtful. Will they help to create the culture and conditions to foster deeper and more meaningful learning tasks for students? Hopefully.

Model my Learning: I have been fortunate to have a lot of opportunities to attend and plan professional development in the last month. While this is personally meaningful for me, I also hope that it serves as a model to my colleagues and professional learning network to continue immersing ones’ self in continual learning. One of the events on the horizon is a Teach Meet where educators come together informally to share out micro and nano sessions for peers. This is my first experience with this kind of PD, but I’m excited to be helping to facilitate it because I think it helps build capacity and community.

What about you- how are you planning for deeper learning and designing meaningful experiences for the students or teachers you serve? How are new pedagogies and digital resources helping you to deepen learning?

And because I’m still on a high from the ADE Conference, here’s a snapshot of my takeaways and a link to a Wakelet collection in case you want to learn more!

#ADEHK Wakelet Collection by Coby Reynolds

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