During the summer of 2012, I was lucky enough to be involved in a writing project commissioned by the TCDSB to articulate the board’s vision of 21st Century Learning. I assembled the team made up of John Notten, Anthony Carabache, Kevin Kerr, Brian Kennedy and eventually Sandra Mustacato and together we came up with the idea for Project NeXt. This page will outline parts of the project but the details can be seen at the board website page that is dedicated to this project.
The point of this page is to update the progress of the project and outline the impact it is having on the TCDSB and myself as an educator.
The Beginning of the project
I should start by going back in time and start at the beginning. I was approached by senior staff to participate in a summer writing project that was focussed on creating a board articulation of 21st Century Learning. We had some examples from other boards, namely Ottawa Catholic and Hamilton-Wentworth and used them as a starting point. We met at Jack Astors one day (minus one member) to introduce ourselves, (I was the only one who knew everyone), and hash out some ideas. We picked Jack Astors because they have the paper table cloths that they encourage you to write on so the first designs of ideas and brainstorming for Project NeXt was in crayon! This was an amazing session that was a highlight of my career thus far. I was a bit unsure going into this what the experience would be like but after that meeting I was sure we were on to something special.
We had great conversation and sharing and came to some decisions:
- Our project would not be as text centred as the others we had seen; ours would be interactive and engaging
- Our project would be an example for people to follow as it contained and used tools that are available to all teachers (no special programming or coding knowledge required)
- We needed it to be in a form that was forward thinking (online, ibook etc.)
We also decided on the core pillars of our Project. We adapted the often used Cs of education and condensed to:
CREATIVITY COMMUNICATION COLLABORATION CRITICAL THINKING
This would be the basis we would work through and what we were each charged to think about for a couple of weeks when we would come together again and share what we came up with. Little did we know, (actually I knew this would happen but the rest were blown away), that one member would not need two weeks, in fact he barely needed his ride home to figure out how he would impact the direction of our board permanently.
The neXt desk
John Notten is the Head of Visual Arts at Mary Ward and was the first person I thought of when I was asked to get a team together to work on the articulation for 21C. the reason I chose John was that I did not want this to be about technology but about a new way of teaching and thinking in the classrooms of the TCDSB. I knew that John was perfect for this because we spent most of my time at Mary Ward discussing education and I like to think that our conversations help each of us solidify our own pedagogy. When I asked John he wondered if he was the right person for the job since he would not consider himself tech savvy. I convinced him and was lucky enough to find out that he was not working on a sculpture for Nuit Blanche as he had been the past 2 summers.
Throughout the meeting John was as active as anyone but I felt he was hanging back a bit. Usually the amazing ideas flow from him freely but this time he was spending more time listening than talking. At the end of the meeting when we were all discussing what our assignments were for the next meeting, John suggested off hand that he “just wants to weld something!”. We left with most of the team thinking he was kidding but since I was the one that knew him best, I knew that there was something to what he said.
Sure enough, the next day he sent us all some designs for his sculpture idea that he would simply call, the neXt desk. The rest of the team was blown away by the idea and I knew that we had our symbol. The essence of our conversation was that people often have a hard time putting their finger on what exactly is 21C Learning so we needed to give them something concrete. John wanted to adapt a very recognizable and traditional symbol into something people had never seen. What he came up with was a 13 foot high structure that absolutely leaves all who see it speechless. Project NeXt had its image and now all we needed was some content. Time for the rest of the team to catch up to John!!