Taking the First Step can be the Hardest

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Last week the administrators of West Vancouver returned to work for our annual beginning of the year conference. This is a wonderful opportunity to both reconnect with one another and share ideas around moving the learning in our schools forward.

One of the ideas presented was Sugata Mitra’s SOLE project (Self-Organized Learning Environment). The goal of much of our professional development last year at Ridgeview was to initiate and sustain a culture of inquiry; and just as students have varied learning journeys, teachers are no different so this was one way we explored to support them. As Matt Trask, the new Vice-Principal at Westcot Elementary suggested, SOLE is “inquiry with training wheels”. It provides a framework for teachers who are unsure of the first step with inquiry teaching, because that first step can be the hardest. That said, the SOLE project can be part of anyone’s toolkit – no matter where you are on your inquiry journey. It can be a regular one hour stand alone lesson or the kick-off to a full unit of inquiry. The possibilities are yours to discover.

In my opinion, SOLE is an excellent tool for educators because it’s framed to reinforce the process of learning in the acquisition of knowledge. Through these short projects students unpack big questions, utilize technology in a focussed manner, negotiate team dynamics through group work, learn to permit themselves to ask (and answer) questions that they are curious about, reflect on their learning and develop the confidence to share their knowledge in large and small groups. All skills which have a demonstrated importance in the British Columbia Education Plan and coming changes to the new provincial curriculum.

I have shared the presentation from our administrators’ conference below. I have always been guided by the quote “tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand” and for that reason this was framed as an authentic learning experience where the administrators were the students. For their time learning about the SOLE and for the purpose of encouraging its use in our classrooms, I felt it was important to live the SOLE so that we could connect the possibilities to our own sites. With that, the presentation along with the SOLE package is something you can use with your teachers/colleagues or try with your students. Feel free to use it, edit it, and improve it as you wish. Enjoy being curious.

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