When do you start a movement? How do you start a movement? What happens when things actually move? These questions and more have been swirling in my head since the gathering of the Deeper Learning Network Community of Practice at High Tech High last week in San Diego.
Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Deeper Learning Network is made up of ten school networks from across the country that serve a diverse group of students in urban, rural, and suburban schools -- more than 445 schools in 36 states. All ten networks have designed and support schools that allow students to master academic content knowledge and skills as well as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and metacognitive skills.
As part of the work of the network we have formed a Community of Practice that meets twice a year to share best practices, examine student and teacher work, and look for opportunities to build tools and support policy changes that can support deeper learning in our network schools and all public schools.
We have been grappling with questions like:
- What does a deeper learner do?
- What are the characteristics of a high quality deep student work?
- What does a teacher need to know and do to support the creation of high quality deep student work?
- As support organizations, how do we facilitate adult learning so teachers can facilitate deep student learning?
We have immersed ourselves in student and teacher work. We have collaborated and challenged each other. We have imagined tools to support deeper learning and now we are making those tools. We have targeted potential state policies and we are making concrete action plans to influence policies that will encourage deeper learning -- but is it enough?
Many members of our Community of Practice are left with the nagging feeling that we are falling short of our potential as a network and a community of practice. Once you have witnessed the profound experience of a human being becoming self actualized and turned on to learning, you become motivated to try and replicate that experience for as many people as possible. While our ten networks serve almost two hundred thousand students, it is really just a drop in the bucket. So, how do we transform the lives of millions of learners?
Personally, I have moved from questions of practice (although I still have those questions) to questions of activism.
What would happen if we could motivate the hundreds of thousands of students and their families in the Deeper Learning Network to demand the same opportunities for their fellow students across the country?
What would happen if our teachers stood up and demanded that all of their colleagues across the country have the same opportunities to collaborate, design engaging curriculum, build relationships with their students, and create transformational learning experiences that lead to success in school and life?
What do we need to do as leaders to inspire a movement for deeper learning? Has the time arrived where we stop facilitating change and instead, we demand it?
Where do we start? How do we start a movement for Deeper Learning? Please share with your ideas and vision!