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Let Them Play!

The Amazing Ideas Generated in #yrdsbtalk

What’s the Story?

Since May 2014 two educators, Kristin Chaisson-Bombard, KBombard and Stephanie Weyrich @S_Weyrich from the York Region District School Board have been organizing, hosting and curating professional Twitter chats on relevant, provocative professional learning topics. For a complete list of archived chats go here.

Kristin and Stephanie started their partnership as a mentor/mentee connected to the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP). In Stephanie’s words,

“We were both very driven to find ways to connect with other like-minded colleagues and continue to grow our learning networks. Kristin approached me and asked if I would be interested in developing what would become #yrdsbtalk. With many educators using Twitter, we thought it would be a great way to connect and learn alongside other educators. Our chat focuses on YRDSB initiatives and foci. Our partnership focuses on ongoing collaboration and open communication. Our relationship (that all began through NTIP) has been vital to co-planning and on-going growth of #yrdsbtalk. It’s been an incredible learning experience and continues to inspire and push my professional pedagogy and programming each week. We are so grateful for the amazing, thought-provoking dialogue and learning every Tuesday!

#yrdsbtalk has done a lot for our district in terms of creating a community of learners, highlighting innovative work, bringing forth questions and problems of practice and getting people tweeting as they develop their own professional learning network. Although I am not a night person and even if I am awake, I am certainly not functioning at full capacity after 8:00 pm in the evening, I can still go in and review the archived chats the next day to see what the learning was about.

#yrdsbtalk on Modern Learning

This week’s chat was focused on Modern Learning, one of the key foci for our Board Improvement Plan for Student Achievement. I happen to be one of the co-chairs for that strategy along with my colleagues Rick Rosemin and Paulla Bennett. Over the last year and a half we have been creating this strategy with the goal to propel our classrooms, schools and workplaces into the 21st Century!

It is amazing to see the ways in which this strategy has begun to take root among our educators, students and communities. It a strategy that, at its core, is meant to be led from the classrooms and not at the system level. It makes me think about Cynthia Coburn’s article, Rethinking Scale: Moving Beyond Numbers to Deep and Lasting Change. She identifies four different ways in which school improvement efforts go from pockets of innovation to scale including: depth, sustainability, spread and shift in reform ownership. Although all can be applied to the #yrdsbtalk, the idea of shifting the reform ownership is particularly provocative for this strategy. We will know our success as a system when the conception, experimentation and learning is owned throughout the system.

The Questions

The questions that Kirstin and Stephanie create with the guest, in this case, Jenn Giffen, one of our new Digital Literacy Resource Teachers, they have invited are well-crafted to guide the chat into deeper places of learning. The questions they used for the Modern Learning chat were:

TOA is Theory of Action based on our district’s work with Instructional Rounds.

The question that was most intriguing for me was the third: How can we foster and enhance family and community engagement in support of student learning and well-being?

There is nothing in this question that directly addresses Modern Learning and yet it sparked the deepest dialogue and most prolific exchange. The Modern Learning strategy is a call to educators and parents to understand the dire need to engage and empower our learners. Often, what I hear in terms of barriers to Modern Learning, is the need to evaluate student learning, meet all of the curriculum expectations and report to parents. It is this belief that coming through a culture of accountability, we have forgotten our responsibility to spark learning, know our learners, engage and empower our learners through authentic, rich and connected learning. The role of parents, families, and community is a vital component to creating an education system that truly is responsive, flexible and inspiring.

I loved this tweet that came as a response to this question:

We need to invite our families and communities into our schools to play alongside our learners.

I met someone new through the chat last night, Geoff Ruggero, a teacher in our system. He had posted this on Twitter and because of the chat, I saw it.

We had a great conversation back and forth about the the number of tries the students had until they got it to work.

If you want to see more, look at this Learning Commons Twitter feed: Centre of Discovery. He uses pedagogical documentation to share their journey with the world. I am looking forward to my visit!

So this is the hope…we created a strategy that calls our system together — at all levels — to play, discover, experiment and take risks so that “students will be engaged in authentic, relevant and deep learning that enables them to create, connect, communicate and share their learning with the world and to be future ready.”

We are off to a great start.

Our new slogan should be #letthemplay — our students, staff, families and community. The possibilities are endless!

Thanks to Stephanie and Kristin for bringing us together in learning.

Written by

REFLECTIVE STANCE writer, thinker, drawer, painter, designer, mommy, teacher, leader, learner of all things debbiedonsky.com

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