By: Dean Shareski

One of the great ideas of PLP is the use of experienced voices. These are people who have established a clear online presence and have spent considerable time connecting and sharing in much the same ways as the we hope the participants of PLP will aspire to.
In the Ontario-Lower Hudson cohort Ira Socol, Scott Floyd, Tom Barrett and Susan Carter-Morgan all led groups around their areas of passion and expertise. In each case, quality discussions blossomed.
One example came in Ira’s group which centered around the concepts of Universal Access and Social Justice. In one discussion Ira asked,

If you look at your school, really look at your school, who do you think it is designed for? Consider everything, from architectural cues to time schedules, classroom shapes and furniture, “important” courses, rules of behaviour, places to eat, to rest, styles of “teaching.” Who made these choices? Why? Which students do “better” because of those choices? Which do “worse”?

Here are some highly insightful responses:

In my first classroom, the chairs were attached to the desks. This made group work or collaboration difficult. These desks fit into the room best when they were placed in rows. Sometimes you could group 4 together. For most students, it made sitting very uncomfortable. Even now, the desks seem small in most high school classrooms. They are designed for children and not for young adults. I remember the black board in my first classroom was on one wall only and power supplies were designed in such a way that if I wanted to rearrange the room I would have needed an electrician. This made the black board the front of the room. The bulletin boards were at the back and side, so posted student work was visible to me when I stood at the front, but not to students who faced forward. The clock was above or near the door and served to countdown the time until students could exit….Kim McGill

Despite making claims to be a progressive high school, my school is designed for teacher centered industrialized education. Students travel from class to class each day, and experience each course in segregation from one another. There a few school rules, which enable students to explore there own learning, and have freedom to explore during the school day when they are not programmed to be in a classroom.
I fully agree with Ira’s comment that we are ingrained in our environment. I almost think it would be better for my school district to be more progressive if we made the capital expense to tear down the school and rebuild it.
As a digital person, teaching in a school like this is difficult for me. My mind doesn’t work in a linear fashion, whether that be because of growing up in a digital society, or possibly an undiagnosed educational disability that I might or might not have. I am not sure how we expect students to learn that way.
I don’t think we know what is natural or un-natural, since society is so ingrained in the physical and mental structure of a school…. Josh Block

And the conversation continued….

What I find interesting in this process is that Ira served to illicit ideas that I’m sure both Kim and Josh had considered before but were given a platform and someone with background and research that confirmed or expanded their ideas. Again, this is just one example and it happened in Scott’s, Tom’s and Susan’s groups as well. Experienced voices are a very key part of the work of PLP.

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Dean Shareski

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