Good ideas tend to spread

November 25, 2015 - 5 minutes read

abblett-webWhether ideas inspire excitement, positive change, laughter or tears, good ideas have always been sticky. In West Vancouver Schools, we often see or hear about things happening in the district that make us marvel at how quickly great ideas flourish in our schools. While word-of-mouth is still very powerful, instant communication may also be contributing to ideas that resonate faster than ever before. Storytelling, social media and digital learning are all contributing to growth in new areas of teaching and learning in West Vancouver, and we are excited about the way that students, parents and teachers are embracing these new opportunities.

We’ve seen this many times over the past few years, as something that starts in one school becomes successful and then grows to other schools. It was from individual classrooms and schools that ideas around self-regulation, inquiry, digital access and outdoor learning took hold. It is sometimes hard to track their growth – it comes from students, teachers, parents and the community and when they stick – they become the new normal. When we see this happening, it is the district’s role to what we can to help expand those opportunities to more students in more schools.

An example of this in action includes our new robotics club, which started at West Vancouver Secondary school (WVSS) this fall. Todd Ablett, a new teacher and past winner of the Prime Minister’s Award  for Teaching Excellence,  has begun to spread his passion for mechatronics and robotics through our district. In addition to an after-school club at WVSS that has grown from a planned three days to five days per week, he has been doing guest lessons with every grade 6 and 7 classroom in the district. The plan is to continue to grow the program – hopefully into a secondary school Academy program next fall, and also a grade 6/7 program through Ignite Your Passion. The excitement was palpable at this month’s public Board meeting as everyone in the gallery took out their phone to record the group shooting balls across the Board room using student-built robots.

In a similar way, students are becoming more excited about the slightly ‘older’, but nevertheless modern field of coding. In part driven by the Hour of Code initiative, there are efforts to expose all students to the possibilities around coding, not just those who select it as a secondary school elective.  More and more we are hearing from students, teachers and parents that we want to engage younger learners with these skills. The district is working on ways to move beyond this initial exposure and build in regular opportunities for young people who are passionate about this type of learning in their elementary years as part of their school program.

It was interesting to read recently that there may be a “significant decline” in IT literacy in our tablet / smartphone era. Given the seemingly continued importance of these skills, projects like Hour of Code may be even more important.  The district is working on ways to build in regular opportunities for young people with a passion for this type of learning to engage with activities in their elementary years as part of their school program.

The structures at the district level are evolving, but we have strong internal communication networks and an unwavering commitment to ensuring our schools are relevant and connected to the world in which our kids will grow up. While there will always be opportunities to offer something ‘new’ in education, we have found that most of what we are doing is about going deeper and getting better at what we already do. In the meantime, we will also keep our eyes open for ‘the next’ organic opportunity that starts small and spreads quickly.

Chris Kennedy
Superintendent of Schools