Wonder-Full Learning

In a debate our recent EdTech ECI830 class, the topic about whether schools should continue to teach information that could be Googled was explored.  While both groups iterated the importance of a teacher to guide thinking, I think that a support for a drastic shift in how education in Canada is delivered became apparent.

While I fully agree with the continued need for teachers working with children, I think that our purpose is evolving from a “keeper of knowledge” to a “facilitator of knowledge”.  Let’s face it, Google and other search engines have vast amounts of factual and procedural information, which is the composition of millions (perhaps billions) of experts and so-called experts.  If Google were to challenge me to a trivia contest, I would lose as quickly as I do a frisbee tournament.



However, just because we have immediate access to information, does not make us, as teachers, indispensable (and I am not just saying that to keep my job).  The role of educators needs to evolve to empower and guide students to use the information at our fingertips in a positive and effective manner. P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning) P21 Changing Roles of Teachers stated that the role of teachers is changing to be

a) a planner for 21st century careers

b) an instructor for different ways of learning

c) a technology designer for learning.

This article also discusses that focussing on Bloom’s higher order skills such as the 4Cs creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, students become more analytical and able to problem solve better in real situations.

In conversation with my principal, I was asked what I would change about our current (and somewhat archaic) education system. I replied that I would like our curricula to focus on overarching and more abstract concepts such as home living skills (which might include math, health, social studies, and ELA concepts).  This year, I have taught my entire Grade 7 Social Studies curriculum in about 15 lessons.  I taught over-arching concepts of government, resources, mapping etc, and then the students applied these concepts to learning specifically about one country.  They have been creating an all-encompassing powerpoint or movie presentation about their country.  They use words like coordinates, time zones, gross domestic product, and globalization freely in their research time because they applied it immediately to their learning. I find that the more we compartmentalize learning, the less students are engaged and the less they actually retain.  Finland, one of the leading countries in education, is moving towards this model. Finland Scraps Subjects for Topics

Call me a rebel, but I have been stretching the curricula for a few years now.  Recently, my Grade 6/7 students took on a social action project where we were learning about residential schools and intergenerational trauma.  Long story short, my role as teacher took a drastic change into facilitator, where the students researched the local history of Regina Indian Industrial School, wrote letters to government, invited guest speakers in, planned and executed a fundraiser that collected almost $3000, and managed their media presence through local and national radio and television stations. Image result for regina indian industrial school shelly reed


We abandoned all of our “subjects” to embrace this topic, about which they were extremely passionate.  And, quite honestly, we used Google and technology pretty much every hour of every day. It was an excellent opportunity for me to teach students about how to negotiate the internet and the world around them.

George Lee Students Raise Money for R.I.I.S.

Students were engaged, making a difference, and we still met curricular learning needs for their grade level.

Real learning is messy. And Wonder-Full.  While outcome-based learning is a great accountability tool, let’s face it:  Google could replace our text books and our knowledge in a nano-second.  But teaching our students to think, to reflect and to FEEL… that’s where education really needs to exist in this day and age.

Again, it’s just my two cents worth.



9 thoughts on “Wonder-Full Learning”

  1. Awesome post Shelly! I love your ideas, and it is so cool to hear your examples! The idea of becoming a facilitator over a teacher is very intimidating but I think you have a very good point. Our role is changing and if we want to stay relevant and necessary, we need to change too! I think it is so important to keep students engaged and interested in being learners not just in the classroom but in life too and it sounds like you are doing an awesome job! I teach high school, and I think the transition to this type of learning will be a little more resisted. How would you suggest moving forward to a more “topic-based practice” over subject-based in a high school, especially when universities are still accepting and reinforcing the traditional model of education? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question, Shelby! And it’s one that I really don’t have an easy answer for. The tricky part with high school is that students see multiple teachers for compartmentalized subjects and therefore, it is almost impossible to do anything cross-curricularly. That is, unless you can create an environment of collaboration across several subject areas. The other and somewhat opposite consideration is to ensure that students are ready to enter and be successful in our archaic university system. By straying too far from the norm, high schools may end up creating brilliant problem solvers, social activists and analysts, but may not be able to regurgitate information according to university expectations.
      I realize that my comments may sound harsh, but it is very frustrating to try to create significant change in education and have enthusiastic colleagues like yourself, only to have it de-valued by an inflexible and outdated system.
      So, my answer, Shelby, is to try to do what you feel you CAN do without compromising your students. I push the envelope all the time, but my situation in the elementary schools would be significantly different than yours.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I completely agree with you! It is difficult to foster that type of environment when we are held to stricter standards for higher education. If I let my students go on without knowing how to write an essay, they would be done for, however I have done many different types of inquiry and self-guided learning projects and I am always impressed with my students’ results. It’s just not something I can do all the time unfortunately. I appreciate your response and I hope one day things will change and what you are doing in the elementary setting can carry on in the high school setting seamlessly!!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Shelby, such a great question and Shelly I think you nailed the response. In my high school you find someone, if possible, from another subject area and you create the opportunity yourself for cross-curricular learning. Then of course you get the “how is this being marked”?”, especially in higher grades because they need them for post-secondary. But I think this is a great step in the right direction. I must say it infuriates me when I see people on social media saying how little they learnt in school that is useful in life. We must do better!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I totally agree Kristen. My friends often bug me as well about what “useful” information I am teaching in the classroom and it definitely can get under my skin. We must do better!! Cross-curricular learning is such a cool idea and difficult to implement but I think it is worth the work if students end up learning more authentically!


    3. Great post, Shelly! I really like your comment that teachers are becoming “facilitators of knowledge”. I also appreciated your thoughts during our Zoom session that teaching is a lot different now than it was even a decade ago. Inquiry based learning when students can fully immerse themselves in a subject is much more meaningful and engaging. Google is a tool we can use, but thinking, reflecting and feeling is where the real magic takes place! Our job as educators is show students the way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts this week Shelley! While there are some areas of our curriculum that could use some updating, I think that in many ways it allows for teachers to stretch the curricula in order to make learning relevant and meaningful for students. Especially when teaching subjects like Social Studies, the over-arching themes allow for teachers to take the approach you have done (15 lessons over the year) and engage students in learning that is significant to the place, time and situation they are in. Your example about your grade 6/7 social action project is an excellent example of this. I teach grade 3s and 4s where there is a large focus on learning to read and write. I think this focus on literacy lays the foundation for students to engage in projects like yours as they move into the older grades and can access, assess and apply their learning in creative ways.

    Liked by 1 person

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