During our chapter review discussions much has been written about the constraints of curriculum, testing and credits. These school realities are described as barriers to change; how we organize the school day, our use of technology, teachers’ use of inquiry based pedagogy and more. Thomas and Brown remind us that “(w)hen change comes slowly, adaptation is easy.”(Ch. 9)Â Â I would like to say thatÂ if we choose the easy route, students will not benefit from advances in pedagogy, technology or learning models.Â Our students deserve better.
We need to view school as “a set of new possibilities” (Thomas and Brown, 2011) not as the cornerstone of ‘the way it has always been’. Some teachers say, ‘Students will not work unless the task is laid out for them.’, ‘Inquiry leads to chaos.’, ‘Students are not motivated to look beyond the easy answer.’ I would like to share an example of how learning can change even in the credit-bound world of high school.
The project From Blue to Red,Â Â sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency,Â is a multimedia, multidisciplinary collaboration between Lord Beaverbrook High School (LBHS), professional artists, scientists and astronauts. At the core of the project is a story written for young children.
I had the privilege of being involved in the project from the perspective of a LBHS feeder school. Our grade 4 students were asked to provide feedback on the story while it was in the development stage and to participate in a live Skype session with Dr. Robert Thirsk. The opinions of our young students were valued, woven into the work of the project and acted upon.
For the high school students, this project is a living verification that school, even high school, can be different. Describing the depth and breadth of the project would take a documentary. The key matter here is that students experienced school in ways that challenged their thinking and caused them to create, communicate, collaborate and take risks. The intensity of the learning was remarkable; our traditional view of high school was warped. The barriers came down.
Thomas and Brown’s view of a new culture of learning may seem to some to be an unattainable ideal. I believe it is not only attainable but possible within our schools not just in the future, but now; here; today. We can “marry structure and freedom to create something altogether new.” (Thomas and Brown, 2011, Ch. 9)
McIntyre, R., & Whelan Kotkas, S. (2012). From blue to red. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Tiberious Publishing.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011).Â A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for aÂ world of constant change. [Kindle Edition]. doi: 10.4236/ce. 2012.33057
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