How far are you in innovating learning?

I am very far along in innovating learning. Currently, I teach in the most cutting edge high school in British Columbia, Canada. BC is ranked in the top 5 in the world as far as traditional education goes (for whatever that is worth…)

I meet new people often. Naturally, they ask me what I do. I say I am a teacher (among other things). Inevitably, the next question is: “What do you teach?” Nearly everyone, like 99% of people expect me to say either a subject or a course.

I always say that it is difficult to explain. What I have found after being in education for over 10 years is that everyone has an opinion on what it should be. Not everyone is an engineer or a pilot, but everyone has been through high school. So, they always press me to explain.

I say that I don’t teach subjects or courses. That nearly always puzzles people. “What do you mean?” is the next question.

Well, I teach in an open inquiry school where we expect students to work in an interdisciplinary manner. They are free to learn whatever they choose. In this environment, as a teacher, it is impossible to remain siloed in one subject area. I facilitate personalizing unique learning pathways. Instead of teaching a Social Studies class, I teach:

Creativity. Collaboration. Entrepreneurship. Responsibility. Planning. Negotiation. Critical thinking. Improvisational skills. More…

I am not teaching content. They are selecting their content and then I help them figure out the best pathway through it. Of course, this always touches on traditional values of school; like being a competent writer, reading a lot of books (of your own choosing!), understanding and applying the scientific method, learning about how to utilize technology, research skills, and more. What I am not doing, is boring them with content that they don’t care about.

Do you know Roger Schank? I strongly believe in his ideas of education transformation (not reform!). Content is quickly forgotten and easily looked up. It is about acquiring skills that apply to any knowledge that one wishes to pursue. This keeps human beings nimble and versatile — exactly what is needed in our hyper-evolutionary world. Skills such as experimentation, causation, and influence.

This is the innovation needed in learning.

After this explanation, the reaction tends to be mostly positive. Most people say they hated high school and would have loved this kind of opportunity. I know! Me too!

We are still not fully able to innovate this learning as we are still beholden by the only system that allows kids to graduate in this province. We are finding some creative workarounds. That said, it is a gigantic amount of unnecessary work. The moment the government sets us free, we will be able to push the limits very far indeed.