Putting Deep Learning into Practice

At some point, enough reading, enough thinking… it becomes time to put theories into practice. Obviously, those lesson plans and projects should be based on effective methods and strategies, those that we learned about during this COETAIL journey, those that will facilitate deep learning.

Here are some concrete frameworks and tools to achieve that goal, some that will get students excited and involved!

Image by Jan Kosmowski from Pixabay

Challenge-Based Learning (CBL)

Challenge-based learning (CBL) is a framework for learning while solving real-world Challenges. The approach is collaborative and hands-on, asking all participants (students, teachers, families, and community members) to identify Big Ideas, ask good questions, discover and solve Challenges, gain in-depth subject area knowledge, develop 21st-century skills, and share their thoughts with the world. The process and the result are authentic and lead to global discussion about real issues.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR)  is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. Applications of virtual reality include entertainment (e.g. video games) and education (e.g. medical or military training).

Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory.

Virtual and Augmented Reality:
Stepping Into the New Frontier of Learning (Maya Georgieva & Emory Craig )

During a Tech Fair (see below) I had the chance to visit the Eiffel tower while on campus in Brussels. I have been to Paris many times but never climbed this world-famous site as I don’t do well with heights (but visited the original underground hydraulic lift system though, on a specific Heritage Day, much more special). It was incredible as it felt so real (of course, I even screamed when I got too close to the edge); I loved how I could choose the time of the day, and see the sun rising on Paris roofs.
Another experience: a camera had been fixed on one of our American football player’s helmet during a practice game: it was amazing to be IN the game (although I still don’t get the rules lol). The objective was to help all players to analyze their tactics from within the game.
There are many possible educational use of this newest technology, for sure!

Game-based learning

Gaming is playing (that’s the case to say!) a great role nowadays in children and teenagers’ lives, and acknowledging this and using their interest for learning objectives. Check it out in the following blog post: Gameful Design: A Potential Game Changer. And you can find some workshop resources in The ALLURE of Play: Game Design for Deep Learning.

Project-based learning

Project-based learning (PBL): What is it? It is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. Student are given time to explore a topic and/or answer a more complex question, and will deliver they findings or share their creation to an audience other than their teacher alone.

Don’t hesitate to join this 30-minute free webinar on Getting Started with P.B.L.

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Design Thinking

Collaboration, here again, is a key concept, along with and problem-solving. The design process is a structured framework for identifying challenges, gathering information, generating potential solutions, refining ideas, and testing solutions. Design thinking is used to enhance learning and support creative thinking, teamwork, and student responsibility for learning.
Here are some resources for Getting Started with DesignThinking.   You can also join this Webinar developed by Dr John Spencer, or look at the Design Thinking in Education (HGSE) where you will also find links to ready-made activities, workbooks, and curricular guides.
d.school from Stanford University also curated a collection of resources from their classes and workshops for us to explore. Have fun!

At my school

Teaching and learning at the International School of Brussels is anchored in five interrelated, research-based principles. A lot of those principles are aligned with what we have been exploring in the COETAIL program, including with most of the above frameworks and tools, as the school states that:

  1. Learning is maximized when individuals own the process through personal relevance, choice, autonomy, and creation.
  2. Learning involves ongoing construction of meaning through a constant cycle of inquiry, critical thinking, feedback, and reflection.
  3. Learning is enhanced through connections, communication, and collaboration across diverse perspectives.
  4. Learning in a rapidly changing landscape requires high levels of information fluency, media literacy, and technology integration.
  5. Learning can best be transferred when it is embedded in authentic contexts and is used to address real-world issues in creative ways.

ISB hosted an Open Door Technology Fair that opened to the whole community in November 2019. The event brought together a range of technology companies with a focus on education. The purpose of the fair was to consider our ISB Learning Principles and how new and emerging technologies might help us achieve them. The fair gives students and teachers a hands-on opportunity to explore and create, thereby gaining insights into the possibilities and future of educational technology. 

Apple: a pop-up classroom allowing participants to unleash their creativity through drawing, photography, video, music, coding, and augmented reality.
DELL a programming workshop and  VR devices with interactive educational software.
Lenovo: VR in the Classroom, eSports, and the Orchestration Solution and showcase Google Expeditions.
Microsoft: “Hack your classroom with Hacking STEM” for teachers and  Minecraft: Education Edition for students. From computer science and mathematics to chemistry, Minecraft: Education Edition offers endless possibilities for students to learn programming and to stimulate digital knowledge acquisition.
HP: is presenting  VR/AR/XR Learning Experience , E-Sports Arena experiencelatex printing  and  scanning & 3D printing .
Pi-top: opportunity for visitors to experience first hand the initial “out of the box” challenge with a pi-top. 

Unleashing Deep Learning!

Deep Learning and Technology

Fullan and Donnelly (2013) in “Alive in the Swamp” report

In the fourth chapter of “A seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning”, Fullan and Langworthy look at digital tools and resources in education, starting with the “present state” of technology use, which, according to a study, has  [had at the time**] a “below-average impact on learning relative to other interventions” or approaches such as peer tutoring or effective feedback to learners.
**I think we can assume that the results would be quite different if the survey was done now, after nearly a year of craziness brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent lockdown, and Distance Learning sometimes followed by a Hybrid teaching model.

Nevertheless, here again, we are reminded that technology in the classroom for the sake of using new tools won’t be effective. Technology can only play an essential role in education if used in powerful and creative ways. And associated with New Pedagogies: the whole teaching model had to be revised.

Digital Tools and Resources in “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning” (Fullan)

The SAMR Model for Technology Integration

We already talked about the four stages of Dr. Ruben Puenedura’s SAMR model but it is relevant to come back to it, as we have expanded our own learning, and moved to the Deep Learning concepts: it makes even more sense to look at the different stages now.
I personally like the graphic description below very much, as it shows very clearly the roadmap (or should I say the “ocean map”?) to the integration of technology into classroom settings.
We have used it at my school and although I have a much deeper understanding of the different steps now, I remember thinking that, unlike some other concepts, this one, and especially with this representation, was extremely clear.

Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth, via @DavidGuerin

Vulnerability, Shame,  and Courage

Brené Brown is an American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host whose research, and interest, focus on the themes of authentic leadership and sincerity in families, schools, and organizations. She spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. In 2010, Brown’s TEDx talk on her research results went viral, gaining millions of views right away, and launched her onto a national, even international, platform.
Although she also wrote five #1 New York Times bestsellers, this was new to me. But as soon as I started watching the video below, I understood the reasons for her huge success: she is a great orator with interesting and inspiring content!

I spent a couple of hours that evening reading, listening, or watching more of Brené Brown… I haven’t seen the Netflix program “The Call to Courage” yet, but it is on my list!

Brené Brown in Daring Classrooms

Shame:  focus on self =>  ‘I am bad’
There is something inherently wrong with me; how it shows up is by favoritism, name-calling, gossip

Guilt: focus on behavior => ‘I did something bad’

Educators need to find a way to develop shame-resilient classrooms and remember that the antidote to shame is empathy. It helps to know that all of us (at least most) use”shields” as protection from shame. Knowing which one they are can shed a different light on some students’ attitudes!

THE DARING WAY™ (Brené Brown, 2015)

According to Brown, those shields make us:
* moving away: withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping
* moving toward: seeking to appease and please
* moving against: trying to gain power over others, being aggressive,  and using shame to fight shame.

Enthusiasm and attraction should not let us forget our critical sense though. Christina Torres loved how Brené Brown exposed “the need to question who we allow to shame us and how we reclaim our own narratives”. But in her article On Shame and ‘Daring Classrooms’: We Need to Fix Systems, Not Kids, Torres also explains how some of Brown’s “Daring Classrooms” lesson plans need to be handle with care particularly if given without context: it could be hurtful and triggering for some students, particularly “those who had experienced trauma already”.

In her July 2020 podcast, Brené on Shame and Accountability, Brown shares her thoughts about “why accountability is a prerequisite for change, and why we need to get our heads and hearts around the difference between being held accountable for racism and feeling shame and being shamed.” I was able to make connections between her explanations and the recent professional development on “Social Justice and Anti-racism in the Classroom”, held by the amazing Cornelius Minor. Definitely great food for thought!
I also bookmarked a few other interviews or talks, and I encourage you to browse through the “Unlocking Us” podcast series and its “Conversations that unlock the deeply human part of who we are, so that we can live, love, parent, and lead with more courage and heart.”

I believe that I will also go back to Brené’s talk about Shame, and will keep in mind the shields concepts, to help me reflect on what I do and what I say to students. I can also see how those concepts apply to our personal lives and our interactions in general.

Dialogical Learning

The book The Pedagogy of the Oppressed written by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire in 1968, is still, in 2021, referred to when it comes to education. I haven’t read it (it seems to be a substantial read according to some reviews), but it has been written about and analyzed quite a lot.
Recognizing the learner as an equal is essential for true learning to take place, Freire claims.  He exposes five ideas that he holds essential for dialogue:

Humility = A humble approach that acknowledges students’ powerful role is a great way to ensure improved student learning as well as improved instruction.

= belief in students’ capacity to learn can help them to believe in themselves

= This faith in students paves the way for a deeper trust to be established, and trust is critical in any relationship where real, meaningful learning is a goal.

= Acknowledging the importance of love can be difficult because it requires us to be vulnerable, but love is an essential element to any meaningful relationship, especially for relationships seeking growth and learning

Critical Thinking 
= Connecting learning to student interests – Asking good questions – Using learning structures and teaching strategies that prompt student thinking

But this dialogue is not only important between students and their teachers: it should also take place between teachers, coaches,  and administrators. These conversations will lead to deeper and meaningful learning – Freire the importance of a dialogical approach.


How are you vulnerable with your students? 
As a non-English speaker, it happens that I am looking for a word, or can’t pronounce one correctly. Years ago, this situation could have been painful for me. Now, I just say it: “I can’t remember / I don’t know how to say it / this word is difficult for me to pronounce”. A majority of our students are bilingual (or more), and some of them are still developing their English proficiency. Therefore, I show them that what really matters is to make yourself understood. And if you make some mistakes along the way, this is not the most important. Recognizing some vulnerability and asking for help is healthy. Role-modeling in those areas is very important too.

How do you recognize learners as equals so that true learning can take place?
Respect is, I believe, the best way to show students that you treat them on equal footing. This is then a great starting point to develop good conversation, and in some cases good relationships, sometimes over years. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same regular contact time with our students, but my bonus point is being in contact with students up to six years when they attend Middle School and High School at ISB.

Learning Deeply, Digitally

A fellow COETAIL-er, Shalene, recently wrote in a post this catchy phrase on Deep Learning that helps us to remember well its definition: “Deep Learning is quality learning… that sticks!”
What I like best is the emphasis put on the quality (so important!), but alongside the fact that the learning is acquired “for good”.

Photo by Marek Okon on Unsplash

To help us achieve this ultimate goal, if we keep reading “A seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning”, Fullan and Langworthy describe, in the third chapter, how to implement deep learning through specific tasks. As we already know (see my previous post), it needs to happen through a partnership between and among students, and teachers, to be authentic and problem-solving based. And, obviously, where digital learning is a strategy.

Deep Learning Tasks

But the crucial question always comes down to: how to get there? What does Deep Learning look like? 
Fullam explains that deep learning tasks are stimulated by the notion of ‘learning leadership’: students need to take ownership of their own learning,  by defining and pursuing their own learning goals using the resources, tools, and connections that digital access makes possible.


The Learning Design Process (Fullan)

The examples detailed in this article written on the ASCD‘s blog also helped me to recognize what DL looks like in the classroom: What is Deep Learning?  Who are the Deep Learning Teachers?
The author details one example of the more traditional learning, and one of the deep learning. It is very clear how students in the latter are fully engaged in an authentic experience that helps them deepen their understanding and develop complex learning skills. Another essential aspect is how much their learning bring value beyond school, as they are working from potentially real-world experiences, some that students may face later.

Teachers can make a [lot of] difference in their classrooms, but they can’t change the school’s philosophy without the leadership team’s involvement and support. In his book “The Moral Imperative Realized“, Fullan examines the moral purpose of school leadership and its critical role in “changing the context” to commit to serve every student. Look at his explanations in the short video below (start at 00:28!):

Dr. Monica R. Martinez is a vehement advocate both for inclusion and new pedagogies: schools need to meet the challenge of preparing ALL students** for college, careers, and the world today, through a new framework for educators and schools, excellently detailed in Deeper Learning Resources. Actually, I can’t resist adding the subtitle here, as it represents well her objectives: “Creating a foundation for a collaborative learning community, where teachers are learning designers, and students are active Learners“.
** You NEED to watch her enlightening TEDx Talks “A Latinas Story of Attaining A Higher Education” on her personal story, and in which she urges for a truly inclusive education system.

For Martinez, Deeper Learning is indeed “a set of student outcomes that includes mastery of essential academic content; thinking critically and solving complex problems; working collaboratively and communicating effectively; having an academic mindset, and being empowered through self-directed learning” … and it should become the “new normal” in schools.

Deeper Learning - Theory Of Action
By Monica R. Martinez, with Dennis McGrath

Making sure that the learning is equitable for all the students is indeed another responsibility that lies with educators. Jacquelyn Whiting put in place a great exercise to show students that Everyone Has Invisible Bias. This Lesson Shows Students How to Recognize It.
Bias and Social Justice are themes that became more prominent in the past year, mainly through the Black Lives Matters movement

For the first time in a few years, I didn’t mind starting the new year with a Professional Development day: usually, back to school during the coldest Belgian month, with no students on campus, and the challenge to sit in meetings all day after the Christmas break… The COVID-19 pandemic brings very few (very few!) positive adjustments, but this is one of them: first of all, we were granted some planning time at home in the morning, which was a very cozy transition from the Holidays.
Secondly, the afternoon was (well!) spent attending a “
Workshop on Social Justice and Anti-racism in the Classroom with Cornelius Minor“. It definitely gave us cause for hope and optimism for the work ahead, although we know it will take time to deconstruct and reconstruct some of our bias and habits, but we are now formally committed, as a school, to address the issue, as specified in this the framework of “We all need to return to better” published on our school website.
I found those 4 hours very inspiring and energizing. But obviously, it also brought a lot of questions: How can I start that journey? And most importantly, how can I, as a teacher-librarian, offer support to my colleagues? And our students?

Then it struck me: I NEED / WANT to develop a project on that topic, and here is, finally, the first idea for my COETAIL Final Project!!!
I still don’t know what I should put in place, and with who, nor how, of course. But I want it to be on a Social Justice theme.
If you have any suggestions to work with grade 7 to 12, on this theme, don’t hesitate to contact me!

New Pedagogies at the International School of Brussels

Personally, I have witnessed some significant shifts in focus at my school in the last few years, from mainly a content-based education, with daily homework in all courses (still in place in 2013, when my daughter was in grade 9), to problem-solving inquiries lessons and the implementation of 90-minutes blocks (allowing to structure lessons in a completely new way!), the redesign of the space to create Commons, to self-evaluation, and finally the growth of student agency, to name a few. One of the main objective is now to “teach students to learn, rather than feeding them with content”.

Learning Principles: Teaching and learning at ISB is anchored in five interrelated, research-based principles:

  1. Learning is maximized when individuals own the process through personal relevance, choice, autonomy, and creation.
  2. Learning involves ongoing construction of meaning through a constant cycle of inquiry, critical thinking, feedback, and reflection.
  3. Learning is enhanced through connections, communication, and collaboration across diverse perspectives.
  4. Learning in a rapidly changing landscape requires high levels of information fluency, media literacy, and technology integration.
  5. Learning can best be transferred when it is embedded in authentic contexts and is used to address real-world issues in creative ways.

Partners in Learning

Photo by rawpixel from Burst

Babies and toddlers learn from people they love and that love them, usually their parents, and then, in pre-school and during the first years of elementary school, teachers generally provide not only learning but also active care, taking into account the emotional needs of the child, building a relationship that tends to fade when students get older. Lecturer Jacqueline Zeller’s research  on “Relationships and Learning” highlighted, in 2008, the role that teacher-child relationships can have on learning:  “[…] teacher-child relationships appear to be an important part of children’s social and academic success in school.” 

New Pedagogies and Deep Learning

Nowadays, you can easily find information online on any subject. The focus in school should therefore shift from teaching that superficial knowledge to developing the qualities students need for success in their future adult life: complex understanding and meaning, while being ready to develop in an evolving technological landscape.

In “A seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning” Fullan and Langworthy describe how learning should happen through a partnership between and among students AND teachers, for a transformation of the teaching and learning. This new learning also need to be authentic and problem-solving based.
Deep Learning is about understanding and using the 6 C’s :

Character Education





Critical Thinking

It strikes me how much these have in common with the ISTE Standards for Students, looking at a different perspective, sure, but with similar benchmarks and the same ultimate goal: empowering students and guaranteeing that learning is a student-driven process! Actually not so surprising when you know that ISTE is one of the article’s sponsors: they are advocating for the same ideas and creating tools to encourage educators to be brave and take that road, the one leading to student agency.

If you find (as I did!) that Fullan & Langworthy’s study is a little content-heavy, the video below will give you a helpful overview of the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning. I particularly appreciate that it was developed by “doing it” rather than being a jargon-filled theory put in practice afterward, and, as an international educator, happy to read that it started a synergy between schools in different countries.

How the New Pedagogies are Different

The diagram below summarises how the new pedagogies and deep learning are different from the traditional model of education (image from: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning)

1) Deep learning goals involve the creation and use of new knowledge in the real world.
2) New learning partnerships emerge between and among students and teachers with a learning process whose focal point is mutual discovery, creation, and use of knowledge.
3) It responds to and is enabled by digital access both inside and outside of schools.

My school has always be tried to be current in terms of pedagogy trends and innovations; for example, I remember colleagues attending Harvard Project Zero workshops years ago, then other Professional Developments like Bambi Betts’ PTC Summer Institutes for our Team Leaders, looking at new models of education, implementing inquiry-based learning, continually seeking improvements.
That led to organizing the first Learning by Design conference in March 2017. Its main focus was: A call to re-imagine the way schools facilitate learning, and the themes were: engage, empower, connect, innovate.

In February 2019,  building on the experience, and implementing a more authentic student participation, the second Learning by Design (LbD) conference was: Re-imagining school requires a commitment to changing culture, courageously challenging old assumptions, and a willingness to play with and test new ideas – even if they fail.
Over 450 ISB faculty and staff, educators and international school leaders from other schools, and leading education experts, came together for this event aimed at re-imagining school.
Ten outside experts in a wide range of subjects related to education came as learning facilitators. This last term is a carefully chosen one: the model was not for a conference speaker to deliver his presentation, but for the experts to facilitate the discussions among the participants.

Here are some of the  sessions that were offered:

As I looked through the program today, so much of the conference content resonate differently now, thanks to my new knowledge and understanding brought by the COETAIL program.

Today I can see better how I need to transform my practice to engage differently both with our students and my classroom colleagues, in order to support not only students learning but also OUR learning. The shift to offering more to our community than the traditional library role started a few years ago at our school, but this is a process that I personally need to implement deeper and I am happy my COETAIL journey is helping me to get there.