7 Ways to Transform Your Classroom

Background: This is a blog post

I originally wrote for a presentation on Classroom 2.0 Live! It is based on some ideas sparked in another post, Transformative or just flashy educational tools?, which only had 6 suggestions, but David Warlick inspired the 7th in his comment. The 7 aspects below, were developed when principal Stephen Whiffin and I were conceptualizing some of the important aspects we would be exploring at our new Inquiry Hub school, (more on the school here and here). We believe that much of what we are doing at the Inquiry Hub can be done in any classroom. So here are seven key aspects we are exploring at the Inquiry Hub that can help transform any classroom into a more engaging, and student-empowered learning space.

Note that in both the blog post and the accompanying slide show, each section includes an inquiry question that educators can persue to extend their own learning.

7 Inquiry Hub Aspects

1. Inquiry

(Give learners choice.)

Inquiry based learning is a key tenet of the Inquiry Hub. When students get to choose their own topics, with guidance and support from their teachers, peers and community members, these learners will produce thoughtful, rich and compelling answers.
By helping students connect, create and learn together, we will encourage them to look outside of their box and seek a world of potential.
* Transforming Classrooms with Inquiry: It starts with educators asking really good questions. There are a lot of resources on Inquiry Learning, here is a great list of resources to get teachers started. The Calgary Science School’s Exemplary Learning and Teaching posters are excellent examples of the resources shared in the list.

Which of these resources will help you develop more inquiry based lessons?

2. Voice

(Give learners a voice.)

Neon Mic' by fensterbme on flickr

When students explore their interests in-depth, they will often discover insights worth sharing with others. At the Inquiry Hub, we believe that an integral part of learning is the ability to share what you’ve learned with others in meaningful ways.
* Transforming Classrooms with Voice: Be it a presentation to a small group, the entire school, the local community or online (with the world), work with students to craft their message in thoughtful, well represented ways.

How can you use recording devices, now available on almost every phone and on every computer, to get students prepared for presentations or to get students to share their work publicly?

3. Audience

(Give learners an audience.)

An important skill to learn is how to ‘write to a specific audience’, and there is no better way to promote this than to give learners a legitimate audience for their work.
* Transforming Classrooms with Audience: Through the use of blogs, wikis, digital portfolios and social media tools, you can invite the world to be a participatory audience in the work that our students do. An Authentic Audience Matters!

What can you do to increase the audience of your students’ work beyond the class or just you, their teacher?

4. Community

(Give learners a community to collaborate with.)

Collaboration is a learned skill that is essential in today’s world. Our goal will be to have students collaborate on projects that matter, in many different communities.
* Transforming Classrooms with Community: Provide opportunities for projects to extend beyond age-group peers to include younger and/or older students, parents and teachers, community members, subject area experts, and students from around the globe.

Who do you know in your community (or your online network) that can share their expertise with your students?

5. Leadership

(Give learners opportunities to lead.)

“In a learning organization, leaders are designers, stewards, and teachers.” ~Peter Senge
At the Inquiry Hub, students will be provided with many opportunities to be designers, stewards and teachers. We believe that every student has the potential to lead!
* Transforming Classrooms with Leadership: Buddy up with students in younger classes. Create activities and events which truly allow students to ‘run the show’. Here is a resource I developed for teaching leadership and developing a school-wide leadership program.

How can you create more authentic leadership opportunities for your students in your class?

6. Play

(Give learners opportunities to play.)

We can learn a lot from (and within) play. Play promotes discovery and invites the idea that we can have fun learning, even from our mistakes. From the MIT Media Lab’s advocation of ‘Lifelong Kindergarten‘ to Google’s promotion of employees getting 20% of their work week dedicated to personal-interest projects, it is quickly becoming apparent that ingenuity and creativity are both sparked from an environment that incorporates play into learning.
* Transforming Classrooms with Play: There is a lot of pedagogy in play (at all ages). Do we provide “gaps” in our teaching? Time and spaces where students can be creative beyond the scope of the content we are teaching?

Watch this interesting slide show, think about how ‘Game design’ invites creative play, and question how you can embed some of these ideas into your lessons?

7. Networks

(Give learners digitally connected spaces to learn.)

A key principle in the new learning theory, Connectivism, considers networks to be a central metaphor for learning. The theory suggests that ‘learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions’. The COL Inquiry Hub will use a hybrid model that blends classroom, community and online experiences, and so students will be exposed to a multitude of learning networks.
* Transforming Classrooms with Networks: Skype is a great tool to bring classes from across the country or across the globe together.

Who can you connect your class with, and what tools can you use, beyond Skype, to connect the learning that’s happening in other physical and digital learning spaces?

– – – – – – – – – –

Our principal, Stephen Whiffin, came up with the Inquiry Hub’s slogan:

Connect | Create | Learn

* Learning is social, and connecting meaningfully is vital.

* Creating Work that Matters is what students remember in the years after they leave your classroom.

* Work that matters, shared publicly and meaningfully, inspires authentic learning.

How will you (continue to)

transform your classroom into an

inquiry-driven, collaborative, and

engaging learning environment?

(Link to the Blackboard Collaborate recording, and
also to the Classroom 2.0 Live! Webinar show page.)

Images by iStockphoto except for:
‘Voice’ – Neon Mic by fensterbme on flickr, and ‘Play’ by me, David Truss.

44 comments for “7 Ways to Transform Your Classroom

  1. October 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Similar to Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s – but still the right message.

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