Make One Change: Learning Road Trip – A Professional Learning Experience!



The idea was inspired by the great conversations that happen in the car as you travel to or return from a conference. It’s where all the ideas you have just experienced, or are going to experience, spark conversation about how we can change the system, improve our practice or impact student learning in our classrooms. Its where we dream big, we leverage great ideas, we start to plan for the action we will take once back in our buildings.

What we were after was recreating the road trip experience through a professional learning event. What was developed was a two day opportunity for educators from our division to travel to schools across our jurisdiction, see quality learning in action in a number of settings, and then have the time to develop an idea to bring back to their students in their classrooms. It was called the “Make One Change: Learning Road Trip” and it ended up being a pretty great two days together with a great group of educators.


Day 1 – Learning Road Trip



We started off the morning meeting at our division office to board our rented coach bus, with our coffees, muffins/donuts, and materials in hand to embark on our learning road trip. The bus was equipped with televisions (although there were some technical difficulties) which we would use to show some thought provoking videos to spur on conversation while we traveled from school to school. Our videos included a video from Simon Breakspear about “Pursuing Inspiration” which acted as a great intro to our day, as well as videos from Seth Godin, Chris Lehmann, and Mitch Resnick





As seat-mates engaged in conversations about learning, they wrote down big ideas, inspirations and extensions that came up on to Post-Its and placed them on the windows of the bus to collect them throughout the day. These would serve to inspire the work on Day #2 and were available to connect with new ideas throughout the trip. It was exciting to see the spaces fill with ideas throughout the day as our participants were inspired by the school visits. We also tweeted to the hashtag #make1changePSD throughout the two day event (Storify to come!).






Our participants represented K-12 educators from almost every school in our division, and we were able to visit K-12 classrooms in four schools. We saw maker-inspired learning, literacy centres, differentiated instruction in multi-grade classrooms, personalized learning, critical thinking exercises and so much more. It was so great to have the administration, staffs and students of Parkland Village School (K-4), Memorial Composite High School (10-12), Blueberry School (K-9), and Seba Beach School (K-9) welcome in our group of 40+ to see the learning in action in their buildings. The experiences in each building served to get our participants thinking of what it was they would develop on Day #2 to “Make One Change” in their practice to impact student learning in their buildings.




Day 2 – Educator Innovation Day    


On Day 2 we met at the 360 degree Wellness Centre (Thanks for the room Ken!) in Spruce Grove to embark on an Educator Innovation Day and create the initiative, project or intervention that would be the one change we would bring to our students. We worked through a Design Thinking process that members of our group adopted from Ewan McIntosh, a process that involves four phases – Immersion, Synthesis, Ideation and Prototyping. The Learning Road Trip acted as the bulk of the immersion phase, but we finished up the immersion phase with interviews to understand our group members thoughts and aspirations for their projects. From there, driving questions were developed in the Synthesis phase, carefully crafted to drive the ideation phase and worded as “How might we…” questions. In the Ideation phase, our participants were challenged to come up with as many potential ideas as they could in a ten minute period, with the group developing nearly a thousand ideas! Groups sketched out visual representations of their ideas in the Prototyping phase and arrived at a place where they could get to work on their projects.

The rest of the day was used to work on the projects, with groups accessing resources, planning out lessons and developing learning experiences to bring to their students. The final hour involved groups sharing their projects, and processes, with each other and discussing the inspiration and plan for action behind their “One Change”.  Our plan is to come together again as a group on May 11th to check-in on where the projects are in their development, to share successes and look to solve challenges that have emerged and keep the momentum going!

Overall it was a great experience, and it was so much fun to work with Carolyn Cameron, Travis McNaughton, and Shaye Patras to develop this professional learning experience for our division. We have surveyed our participants, and will look to gain feedback from schools as to the impact of this event, as we hope to bring more of these “Learning Road Trips” to the teachers of our division. We have a lot of ideas already bubbling up about different ways we can leverage this model and can’t wait to start planning the next one.

Thanks again to the schools who hosted us, to the participants for their engagement and enthusiasm (even on the hot bus), to the organizers and to everyone who contributed to making this day a success.

Wait and See

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by ElvertBarnes

Wow, when I was a kid there weren’t many things I hated hearing more than “Wait and see”. I admit it, I wasn’t a patient child and I am not the most patient adult. When I know that something exciting is going to happen I suffer through the anticipation. I think the reason I am this way is that I have been blessed with a pretty active imagination. Once I get an idea in my head, I can quickly turn it into something so much bigger than it probably will turn out to be. To be honest, I am ok with it, because while my imagination can lead to the occasional minor disappointment, it also helps me be a better husband, brother, son, teacher, and coach.

Where I really get in trouble is when I get an idea in my mind about how I can improve the education I provide for my students. Yesterday, I wrote about an iPad for every Teacher and I got a lot of feedback. A lot of the time I hear the reasons why an idea can’t happen, often its about cost, and I have to accept that while an idea might be good, we’ll have to “Wait and see if the money is there”. I don’t do well with this. Our division is on the verge of opening up the WiFi in every building so that students can access the network with their own devices. We are lucky here, I know many school divisions are a ways away from this step, but we have had to wait for some time. I didn’t deal well with waiting for this either.

I read a blog post by a principal in our division Shaye Patras, in the post he wonders why our schools haven’t changed in the last 100 years while every other profession, field and industry has? I believe it is because of the year-to-year micromanagement that is required to balance budgets and run schools. I remember speaking with George Couros last year when I was working as an Assistant Principal and discussing making decisions on technology in our building. I asked him how he moved forward in his building and started 1-to-1 initiatives in some of his classrooms. There were many things he told me about, but the main idea was that he had to break from traditional practices and creatively come up with ways to find the money and buy what his students needed. I find it sad that it takes so much work to make change happen.

This is no indictment of school administration, of school division executives, of education departments or even governments. Its more of a challenge to everyone to be sure that they are doing everything they can to make change possible.

iPad for every teacher? Can we look at stopping our purchasing of textbooks and dedicate the money towards this initiative? Can the government give a tax break to any teacher who buys their own iPad? Can a school division work out a purchasing agreement with Apple to get a better deal? Can a Parent Council take this on as a key fundraising project?

I am not satisfied with “Wait and See” solutions, or waiting for others to solve our problems. The only way we can break free of the chains of this type of thinking is to change our thinking. The only way to change our schools is to break free from what we have always done. At some level, someone needs to step up and change what is being done, so that we don’t have to have our students “Wait and See” if they can have the quality education they deserve.