The Bluewater Student Summit

Setting up the Summit Room

I had another of one those singular experiences yesterday, one of events that I know I’ll be carrying with me for a long time, and that will color a lot of what I’ll be talking and writing about in the future. As you know, I have been working in the Owen Sound area of Ontario, Canada, with the Bluewater school board, covering an enormous part of the province. I delivered a keynote for their beginning of the school year event, a workshop that afternoon (more about that later), and a special public presentation for the community that evening.

While Wake County (where I live) and many other areas are seeingunprecidented population growth, rural parts of the country, continent,and world are witnessing a drain of their population (learn more about The Flight of the Creative Class ISBN 006075690X). Bluewater is concerned about a decreasing enrollment, and has taken an unusual measure. They’re treating their students like customersand trying to learn what their customers want.

Students Preparing their Cameras

This is how I spent yesterday, facilitating their first Student Summit. It started with set-up at the CAW convent center in Port Elgin,Ontario ( a magnificent ride up from Owen Sound). It was high tech andhigh proximity. Eleven high schools and feeder schools wererepresented with students from the full range of achievement — overachievers and at-risks. Each table had a recorder with video camera whorecorded as much of the conversations as they could. Each table had awiki page with which to record their thoughts and conclusions. Theirtasks ranged from general tech access issues to, “How would you goabout training your teacher for a video game tournament?” Each tablealso created a New Century School House style classroom, describing the classrooms they believe are more appropriate to them and their time.

I can’t share any of the data besides a closing panel with the teachers who were present, talking about what they heard and learned in the conversations. I hope to podcast this conversation soon. I do know that the district learned that there is much that they are doing right. They also learned that there is much yet to be done, before they are truely teaching learners that their children are, instead of the students their classrooms were designed to teach.

This was an enormously rewarding experience and a visionary action on the part of the board’s leadership.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.