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A School that Practices Learning-Literacy

I had the pleasure and good fortune of speaking at the Connecting Leaders conference this weekend in Vancouver. Organized by the British Columbia Principals and Vice Principals Association, the conference consisted of two days of keynotes, breakouts and meetings.  I keynoted the second morning (Saturday), delivered a breakout and the closing remarks around 11:30.  Pretty standard fair.

After the conference adjourned, the association held an Educational Leadership Forum to assist in revising their Leadership Standards for Principals and Vice-Principals in British Columbia.  Eight panelist were invited to deliver 7 to 8 minute talks, exploring specified topics that are relevant to school leadership.  I was panelist number seven and was asked to talk about literacy.

The panelists were:

  • Taken before the event
    Dr. Bruce Beairsto — Former Superintendent of Schools with the Richmond School District in British Columbia
  • Dr. Avis Glaze — International educator, speaker and former administrator with the Ontario Ministry of Education
  • Julie MacRae — Director of Education/CEO of Regina Public Schools, Saskatchewan
  • Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl — an Applied Developmental Psychologist and Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia
  • Dennis Sparks — Emeritus Executive Director of the National Staff Development Council
  • Robert C. Kidd – President of Overwaitea Foods
  • Dr. Charles Underleider — Professor of the Sociology of Education at The University of British Columbia
  • David Warlick – In high cotton ;-)

The event was brilliantly organized with eight round tables in the room, each devoted to two of the addressed topics.  Around each table were invited and distinguished principals, vice-principals, district administrators, university folks, and representatives from the BC Ministry of Education.  Four of the panelists spoke on their topics and then the eight of us dispersed to our assigned tables where we discussed our first assigned topic.  Then the remaining four returned to the stage to address our topics.

My note-taking app of choice is Mindo
I wanted to share some ideas about an expanded vision of literacy that reflects today’s prevailing information environment –– my standard respelling the 3Rs with a healthy sprinkling of ethics.  A recent teenage suicide in BC, resulting from cyber bullying, was a fairly pervasive backdrop throughout the conference.  But I wanted to go beyond my standard 3Es and try to describe what I would expect to see in a school that practices contemporary literacy (learning-literacy).

What really helped was being able to listen to six of my stagemates share their perspectives before I had to speak, each of them provoking a new twist on one or more of the qualities I had listed.  I certainly hope that the frequent tweaking of my notes (see above & right), on my iPad, at my end of the stage, didn’t distract anyone.

So, a school that practices learning-literacy will be a school where

  • The distinctions between teacher and student begin to blur.
  • There is less reliance on textbooks and authority, and more reliance on the work of learning.
  • There is a natural convergence between the rich information skills of literacy and numeracy and the information and data that define the content areas.
  • Teachers teach from new learning, as master learners.
  • Digital Footprints become a central part of the school’s culture, building evolving personal and school identities based on learning and “doing” with the learning.
  • The library magnifies the world outside, but also reflects the culture inside, curating collections of learner produced media products.
  • Where learners learn, teachers model learning, and the school teaches the community.

How does this ring for you?


  • http://lawslonator.blogspot.com/ Doug Lawslo

    Brilliant! The list at the end is the most succinct summation of what needs to happen to change the current educational paradigm. A simple label change: Student becomes learner and teacher becomes master learner. If we can change the mindset to match the labels… Then we can become the Greater Fool that succeeds.

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  • http://milestomes.com Miles MacFarlane

    I also appreciate your final list. It’s a tremendous shift in teaching and learning extending beyond the time and space of the school building. Very exciting!

  • Pingback: MilesTomes Weekly for October 28, 2012 » Miles' Tomes: Teaching and Learning

  • http://edwards.sheri42.org Sheri Edwards

    “Where learners learn, teachers model learning, and the school teaches the community.” I agree that this list is a needed focus for school reform, especially the last sentence.

    Doug Lawslo makes a good suggestion too: “Student becomes learner and teacher becomes master learner.”

    I always appreciate your synthesis of what you learn. Thank you.

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  • Judy Johnson

    I like the list you provided. I agree that education should move in that direction. However, with the new accountability laws, teachers are not always to do what they want to do. In Louisiana, our new evaluation system has based half of our salary on the test scores of the students, and the other half on informal and formal observations. This really ties our hands to a certain degree.

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Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Books Written

Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
(2007) • Lulu
• Amazon
Raw Materials for the Mind

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