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.