Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How Might We Design Innovative Learning Experiences for Students & Teachers?

Last week we spent five days exploring this question with twenty-three teacher leaders in LASD who all committed to being “Lead Learners” on their site for the 2014-2015 school year.  During the iLearn Summer Academy, we explored how different learning can look, connected with our inner creativity and engaged with innovative instructional practices.  The entire week was a journey of discovery and learning for everyone involved!

As a “Lead Learner”in Los Altos School District, teachers commit to spending a full week immersed in rethinking learning experiences for students, but more importantly have also committed to being a force of change at their school site.  With the encouragement and support of our school principals, each “Lead Learner” has autonomy in how they choose to share the work with their colleagues.  We require each Lead Learner to document their year long journey using an ePortfolio with three general areas:

  • iLearn:  What is their journey like as a learner?  How are they continuing to learn and grow as an educator?
  • iTeach:  How is what they are learning impacting their instructional practice?  What is different in their classroom as a result of this learning?
  • iInspire:  How are they sharing what they are learning with colleagues?  

Teacher Adventuring Through MineCraft
iLearn Summer Academy is different than many teacher learning events, because we don’t set out to make sure each teacher walks out feeling competent implementing a prescribed solution for a specified content area.  Instead we engage our teachers in active conversations, questioning sessions and collaborative experiences to develop possibilities that might be implemented across content areas to meet diverse needs of their students. We trust our teachers as professional educators and value the ability “to learn, try, fail, reflect and try again” together.  We recognize that this isn’t an easy process and build in support along the way.

During this active learning experience, questions guided both our learning & our schedule.  Here are a few of the questions we explored together:
  • How do you incorporate passion driven learning into the classroom?
  • What are the qualities of innovative practice?
  • What does it mean to be “a designer of learning?”
  • What does blended learning look like? sound like? feel like?
  • How might we improve teacher collaboration?

Active Learning & Playing Go Together
While we may not have explored each question to it’s fullest, we have certainly planted seeds and inspired passion in our teachers that will positively impact students across LASD.  This is our third year investing in “Lead Learners” and we couldn’t be more excited by the cumulative impact our Lead Learners are having in LASD.  This unique learning experience is created and facilitated in-house by three amazing instructional coaches and financially supported by the Los Altos Educational Foundation.  A big thank you to Kami Thordarson (Innovative Strategies Coach), Karen Wilson (STEM Coach) and Erin Zaich (Technology Integration Coach). To get a glimpse into the iLearn conversation via twitter, check out the #iLearn14 Storify.   Stay tuned to learn more and follow the collective journey of our “Lead Learners” during the 2014-2015 school year!

Additional Background Information on iLearn Summer Academy:

Contributed by: Alyssa Gallagher, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Community Partnerships

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