During a global pandemic the smartest thing to do would be to sail the 7 C’s. That’s exactly what my students and I have done for the last 14 months at Caledonia Regional School in New Brunswick. Through a mix of in-person, blended and online learning, we have managed to maintain community while up-skilling our technology abilities that represent a foundation of The Schools of the Future.
In many ways C.R.H.S. represents a school of the future. Student choice and voice extends beyond slogan into actual practice where forward-thinking administrators create the school schedule based on students’ communicated interests. The STEM Program’s laptop cart was repurposed to provide equity for students without technology at home. This was a huge dedication because in a tiny rural New Brunswick school, we may not see another laptop cart for a decade due to cost. We truly put equity and inclusion above even curriculum which is something I believe a school and school district of the future would do. The gesture does not go unnoticed by students and furthers our collective sense of belonging.
So how do the 7 C’s help us showcase our vision for the school of the future? I think strengthening the 7 C’s is the ultimate goal and the technology and pedagogy employed are the helping hands that every teacher and student need along the way to that goal. Allow us to highlight the ways in which technology has added to student and staff growth this school year. Each represents a window into what a school of the future experience can be for all stakeholders.
Creativity – (Canva.com)
I asked and I received. Canva is an online graphics suite which is rather pricey but several educators have the privilege to join Canva Education. Since being selected into the program I was able to score the incredible software for every student I teach at C.R.H.S. In order to get all the students familiar with the service I thought of some fun challenges. We dabbled in fashion design making t-shirts that we felt would go viral and sell fast on Amazon. We made memes, the language of this generation, and we created vision boards which show a entire collage of a student’s interests, values, dreams and needs. Now, all of the students at C.R.H.S. use this service for their subjects essentially eliminating the “Poster Project” of old and ushing in the school of the future.
Critical Thinking – (Flipgrid)
House Hippos! Are they real? Teaching Media Studies 12 this year I knew there needed to be a way for students who were separated all year to have the same media-rich experience. Using Flipgrid I provided brief clips of classic marketing scenes from shows like Madmen and the jaw-dropping Canadian commercial about House Hippos. Watching these students open their minds and hearts while pouring out their beliefs and inner thoughts for classmates in a media format all too familiar to them was special. Some of the students never got to physically see the others in the class, but by using Flipgrid and critical thinking pedagogy I very much feel their course experience was second to none.
Communication – (Microsoft Teams)
When your community is challenged the most important thing is clear two-way communication. Microsoft Teams provided staff, students and in some cases even parents with that desperately needed two-way communication. This sometimes blurred the lines between home and school for staff and students but rightfully so. In the school of the future the learning and relationships don’t stop once a person leaves the school. Sometimes it was sending a student a link they couldn’t find or even using the built in Praise app to provide a student with encouragement or recognition. Sometimes those things are just easier to do on a Saturday morning, and Microsoft Teams was there 24/7 when we needed it.
Collaboration – (Office.com)
“Oh no! We’ve got a drug safety presentation for Mr. Kelly and we can’t physically gather to create it!” Students were impressed with the collaborative nature of the Office.com suite of tools. As a teacher watching 5 students build a presentation from research together in real time with me added as their 6th partner was outstanding. Collaboration might have been the hardest skill to grow in a time where we were told to stay meters apart, but with the Office suite I truly feel we experienced the future of school as students worked together…..apart.
Character – (Soundtrap)
We’ve been through a lot. Sometimes it can help to talk about it. Using Soundtrap’s incredible online music and podcasting service students were asked to interview a peer about pandemic life and to truly listen. Then after the chat the two students were separately head into Soundtrap and create the other student a song based on what they felt the other student needed. Uplifting, emotional and instrumental. Nothing beats have a song created for you and this project will continue at C.R.H.S. and represents the spirit a school of the future needs.
Citizenship – (Minecraft: Education Edition)
Minecraft surprises me weekly and I’m five years (or more) into using it with students. This year the students took part in the Logics Academy Canadian Minecraft Challenge which had a Future Frontiers focus. I’ll always remember the team that made their first building on Mars the “Interdenominational Church of Elon Musk” and the team that had a vaccine passport element to entering the colony. Students had to examine every element of our society in order to justify and generate their new communities in the new locations. Everything from currency to language, healthcare, religion and education were examined and reimagined by students making this one of the best citizenship grow moments I’ve ever been a part of.
Computer Technologies – iPad
This generation has been said to be the “Desktop Never” generation but that hasn’t quite materialized yet. Maybe because I keep making them use desktop PCs. When an iPad is swapped in however, you can see that the schools of the future will be filled with these much more personal and touch-inviting devices. Every students who graduates from C.R.H.S. comes through my tech program and each of them complete one of Apple’s Everyone Can Create programs. Drawing, Photography, Video and Music Production are the four choices and the personal yet professional work I see produced on these sheets of glass each year is exceptional. Laptops have their purpose and I demand a lot of usage of laptops/desktops, but I can see that iPad and devices like it will rule the school of the future.
I hope you’ve enjoyed sailing the 7 C’s and seeing a bit of what we do and what we think is direction we need to head for the school of the future. Every day we try our best to move closer to that goal balancing relationships, technologies and safety.
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, Apple Distinguished Educator, TeachSDGs Ambassador and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB