Friday, September 16, 2011

Our "21st Century Learning" Vision

I was recently asked by my superintendent of schools to share our school’s vision for “21st Century Learning”. While I am not going to share the entire scope of the presentation, I thought I would share the main ideas of our plan

The plan has four main components:

Access & Consistency
Our school currently has over 120 networked computer stations (550 staff & students) with a common interface. We want our students and staff to have a consistent user experience regardless of the station they are working at.

We have also made the decision to offer Wi-Fi to all our staff and students. Over the past two years we have focused our efforts in making the Wi Fi network stable and accessible. Through the expertise of our IT teacher (yes, one person) we now have the bandwidth necessary to offer Wi-Fi to all the personal electronic devices that both staff and students bring to school. (Currently it is set to handle up to 1000 IP addresses/devices but can be scaled to handle more).

From the school’s perspective, investing in this infrastructure is a strategic and cost effective decision that has tremendous implications for teaching and learning at our school. It is also worth noting that we have invested in upstream filters (at the source) for the school - blocking sites that involve illegal activity but allowing the rest (sites like Facebook, YouTube are NOT blocked). 

In my opinion, one of the main components of "21st Century Learning" is redefining how we communicate and collaborate as learners. Some of the initiatives that we have undertaken include: launching a new website that takes full advantage of social media, including: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and our own YouTube Channel. We have also created the capacity for students and parents to download our school calendar onto their own smart phones.

In addition we have launched school wide, "life time" email for every student enrolled at our school, allowing for enhanced communication between teachers and students. It also allows us to stay in touch with our esteemed alumni!

We are also in the process of launching a "cloud based" file sharing network for teachers and students, again allowing for easier communications and collaboration. (Some future initiatives involve “voice to email” service for our staff and enhancing other cloud based technologies.)

Teaching & Learning
I recently came across a tweet from Josh Stumpenhorst @stumpteacher in which he wrote: "Technology without good teaching is like putting on cologne without taking a shower. Get rid of the stink first."

21st Century Learning is not just about throwing technology in the classroom. It's about being intentional about teaching and learning the skills and competencies necessary to make our students successful in this millenium. Technology is, however, a necessary vehicle to access 21st Century Learning and its related skills.

Given this reality, we need to continue to develop our technological capacity but also be very intentional about teaching and modeling the skills associated with 21st Century Learning. Some of our current initiatives include:
  • Creating more time for teachers to enhance their own professional learning (see Building Experts post) 
  • Being extremely deliberate about teaching and modeling Digital Citizenship to all students in the school 
  • Teaching key 21st Century skills. An early priority we have identified is literacy and all its related competencies (Reading, Writing, Information Literacy, etc.). With this in mind, we have started a literacy initiative at our school 
 This is our plan, as it stands today. It will evolve. The route may change. There will be bumps along the way. We are committed to the plan and all its related challenges and risks.

 I certainly welcome any feedback and suggestions.


  1. Johnny, I love the way your school is moving. Reading your blog over the last 8 months or so,I am so impressed by the change I see happening in your school. It is motivating and inspires me to do more in my own context. You and your team keep up the great work!


  2. Darcy
    I appreciate your kind words. You said it best - it's all about the great team of professionals I work with. They work tirelessly to support our students and make our school community the best it can be.
    P.S. it's been great learning from you too!!

  3. Hey Johnny,

    I have been following your blog and agree with Darcy that I have seen some amazing strides for your school. I really believe that as a principal, you need to be the most visible learner in the school to set the tone for what should be happening in school. You are doing that very well. Keep it up!

    One suggestion that I would make from this post (as I have not seen the presentation) is starting with "why" you are doing what you are doing. You talk a lot about the "what" and the "how", but I know from experience of being in the situation, and seeing it from afar, if you cannot clearly articulate the impact you expect to have on learning first, you could lose a lot of buy in from your community. For example, you will have Wi-Fi in your school, but many in your own school might see that as a nuisance and quickly ask the students to put their devices away.

    Maybe ask what learning environment are you trying to create first, then look at the "what" and the "how" so people clearly know why you do what you do.

    I wish I could say this "why" is my own work, but it is from Simon Sinek. If you have not seen his Ted Talk, I would strongly suggest it for you and any other leader. It is awesome yet makes so much sense. Here is the link:

    You are definitely on the right path but I thought that I would offer a few suggestions that popped out.

  4. George, I really appreciate your kind words and your very wise words! I think "why" will be an ongoing conversation involving strategic initiatives. Thanks for the fabulous TED Talk link.

    Keep well and I look forward learning along side you!

  5. I appreciate the way you have taken a fairly comprehensive system and made it approachable for a typical Board member. I will be using a version of your diagram with my school board.

  6. Great Post! Thank you so much for sharing this informative on 21st Century Learning. Keep up the Good Work... Hope to see such articles on 21st century skills for students.