Challenge accepted! Inspired by the documentary Most Likely to Succeed (produced by Ted Dintersmith) which challenges school communities to reimagine what teaching and learning could be in today’s innovative world, Katie Martin and Kurt Hangle began to do just that. Reimagine. What would it look like if students were empowered to have more ownership of their learning? How can the competencies be intertwined with curriculum to design rich learning experiences? How can teachers work together to create learning opportunities for students across multiple disciplines?
Three years after watching the documentary and exploring these possibilities, Katie and Kurt pursued the opportunity to go to High Tech High for their Deeper Learning Conference. What’s the big deal about High Tech High? It’s the school featured in that documentary Most Likely to Succeed. Talk about getting water right from its source!
Katie and Kurt could feel the positive energy and upbeat atmosphere right from the very first speaker, Chris Emdin, who encouraged the audience to get up and move to the music. Why? Because “the lack of movement is the anchor of education. Ditch the anchor!” says Emdin. Keynotes given by students, the student exhibition, and engaging and thought provoking break out sessions were just a few of the highlights from this learning excursion for Katie and Kurt.
“This conference was about believing that as educators, we have the power to challenge educational norms,” was the biggest takeaway said Kurt. “Knowing what we know about how society is evolving, how can our teaching practices keep pace to meet the needs of today’s learners?” added Katie.
This was a question they posed to their colleagues on the first day back in September when they shared their experiences and learnings from High Tech High. Seeing first hand how accepting the challenge to reimagine teaching and learning had enormous benefits for their students, Katie and Kurt invited their colleagues to think about whether it was time to ditch the anchor on some educational norms. What could ditching look like? Well, Katie and Kurt gave their colleagues some questions to ponder.
- Are we providing our kids personalized learning opportunities?
- Are your students consuming or are they creating?
- If your students questioned why they are learning what they are learning, could you give them an answer that was practical to their life?
- Is there joy in your classroom?
- Would you let your students propose an alternate assignment if they could meet your outcomes?
The provocation from Katie and Kurt was not only thought-provoking but will allow for some ongoing exploration and reflection for many throughout the year.