Open webinar– you’re invited!


Join us for a webinar led by Reagan Weeks, principal of  Elm Street School and recent recipient of an Excellence in Teaching Award. She and faculty members will be sharing how they are implementing the vision of Inspiring Education at their school.

Date: May 29, Thursday

Time: 6:30 PM MDT

Place: Blackboard  Collaborate   Use this link to join the room.

Reagan will be extending thoughts and ideas from her conversations in the  Inspired Learning community where she has served as “experienced voice” for the month of May. If you aren’t yet a community member and are an Alberta K-12 educator, join the community to share your perspective.

This webinar is OPEN; please invite your colleagues to join us as we think learn more deeply about implementing the vision of Inspiring Education with Reagan.

From Reagan’s superintendent,  Grant Henderson, Reagan

 is an outstanding leader, an outstanding teacher and her commitment and dedication to student, staff, parents and the community is really incredible.

Her mindset is always continually how to change and innovate teaching practice to meet the full range of students the district is supporting.  — source


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Inspired Design Thinking

Note: This post is written by Marina Clark , Science Specialist, Calgary Board of Education and is cross posted from her blog, Learning and Courage with permission.

The province of Alberta has entered the river of change through the work of those who understand teaching and learning best: students, educators, parents, and community partners. Through a collaborative and multi-jurisdictional proposal, several school jurisdictions, community partners, and multiple stakeholders have engaged in focus group conversations regarding the redesign of Alberta’s K to 12 curriculum.

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It is with hope that we let the river guide us through this change, knowing we must shift to remain relevant. Through change, we keep what is essential and think ahead to the ways of knowing that will allow our students to be successful as society advances.

As the Science Specialist for my school board, I work closely with the Fine Arts Specialist. This year has been especially poignant for teaching and learning as we embrace the STEM to STEAM movement with the community, in events such as Beakerhead (@Beakerhead); we strive to nurture student learning so they are able to articulate and make visible their growth and development, as inspired by Reggio EmiliaHarvard’s Project Zero (@ProjectZeroHGSE), and Making Thinking Visible.

I am grateful to be an inspired learner of the nurturing of competencies essential for a creative and innovative society through work of some talented individuals. This has included the work of Robert Kelly, several inspirational creativity sessions at the Calgary Regional Consortium designed by Warren Woytuck, and the latest, the !DEAS Conference at the University of Calgary featuring the work of NoTosh and Ewan McIntosh (@ewanmcintosh).

As we sat and worked through The Lab process where Ewan led us through a process of generating ideas, I felt inspired. There was a moment when my colleague and I looked at each other and said, we have to use this at our next focus group conversation.

Back at work we met with @alison_boyd to map out the process. We defined our initial question: How do you envision learning as an artist, maker, entrepreneur, scientist? We used our notes, and the NoTosh website outlining The Lab (Design Thinking in 90 Minutes) to structure the session.

We entered with some trepidation but were determined to take the risk to experience something new. As Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.” We wondered how the focus group of artists, entrepreneurs, makers, science professors, film professionals, and community science and arts groups would respond and visualize the potential for learning in Alberta. True to the nature of their professions, they stepped outside their comfort zones, dug in to new problems, questioned, created, pushed the boundaries and designed new solutions. Meeting and exceeding our hopes for the day, they really and truly prototyped.

We began with some ideas and images of curriculum in Alberta, set the participants up in triads to interview one another about the nature of learning in their profession and then challenged them to generate a problem worth solving. Ideas were rich and varied, from making time for students to dig deeper in their learning, to finding new ways to connect classrooms and communities to reimagining models for teachers’ professional learning.

Next, the triads generated possible solutions. In ten minutes, some triads generated 25 ideas while others generated 95. The prototyping sketching process yielded further deep thinking of the focus group. In one minute, this sketch, envisioned by an artist from Studio C, how the relationships between school-based curriculum and community-based learning open new possibilities for students. The bottom of the image is the generation of Programs of Study from government moving more broadly from districts to schools to learners and communities.


At the conclusion of the session, we had the participants participate in the focus group questions and post their ideas to the wall of our Learning Commons – the project nest and the central location for curriculum development prototyping. The ideas from this group will be used to inspire future focus groups.

In closing, feedback was sought and provided. Participants commented:

  • I liked getting right to it, leaving no room for complaining or whining
  • Positive process
  • We were very focused
  • Best ideation process I have ever experienced

Now all we have to do is take all of the brilliant ideas and relocate our project nest to a cabin in the woods where we can hunker down with a bottle of wine and dig deeper into all of the new possibilities for the future of education in Alberta.

Interested in learning more? Want to join the conversation? Visit or email


Reference: Wheatley, M. J. (2010). Perseverance. San Franciso, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

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Student Voice-What are the Possibilities?

Note: This post is written by Dawn Imada Chan, Connected Coach and Consultant, and is cross posted with permission from the Inspired Learning Community.

My interest in student voice has been a serendipitous journey that started in my early years in the classroom, impacted my work as a school principal and has evolved into a bit of professional passion. So I have taken with great interest both the student-centered focus of Inspiring Education and Alberta’s Speak Out initiative. In particular, I have been reading the Speak Out blog where Alberta students post about the issues and questions that are currently on their minds. Over this school year alone there has been lively conversation around topics such as the impact of school sports, government funding for school buses, reflections on shorter school weeks and creating learning-styles based classrooms, among others. I found it insightful to see the wide variety of views presented and even the vast selection of issues presented by the student bloggers as a whole.

A few years ago, as I researched further into this concept of student voice, I found Robert Hart’s Ladder of Child Participation (see page 8 of this document). Over the years, I have found various organizations (including school boards) modify the ladder to their specific contexts for student voice, but the essence is the same. If you are new to Robert’s ladder, you may find the image below from Compasito or this explanation from Cornell Garden Based Learning helpful.

Since finding Hart’s Ladder, I use it for reflection and to assess my own actions, both in classroom and school settings, to determine where the choices I have or will make regarding student voice fall on this scale. The goal of course is to be in the range of active participation (4-8) versus the non-participatory range (1-3).

I’ve also read interesting steps various Canadian boards have taken to bring students to the table and engage in decision making. Here are some examples:

Revisiting Inspiring Education and given its focus on becoming more student focused, what does student voice look in our classrooms and schools? How can we further elevate student voice in these settings? What possibilities exist to integrate student voice province-wide with the Inspiring Education vision?

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Webinar — Inspiring Education– You’re invited!

Join us for a webinar around Inspiring Education led by Jennifer Ferguson, Learning Services Coordinator with Northern Gateway Public Schools.

Date: April 29, Tuesday

Time: 6:30 PM MDT

Place: Blackboard  Collaborate   Use this link to join the room.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach will moderate as Jennifer leads us in discussion around Inspiring Education extending thoughts and ideas from her conversations in the  Inspired Learning community. If you are a community member and haven’t explored them yet, they are rich in resources, ideas, and questions. If you aren’t yet a community member and are an Alberta K-12 educator, join the community to share your perspective.

This webinar is open; please invite your colleagues to join us as we think deeply about Inspiring Education with Jennifer.

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Tips and Tricks for Game Design in the Classroom

NOTE: This post is written by Caryn Swark, teacher,  St Patrick Fine Arts Elementary School, Lethbridge and is cross-posted with permission from Brainpop and from the Inspired Learning community.

Most games – card, board, or video – require students to think, solve problems, create, and adapt. But why not go a step beyond playinggames and have students actually create games? Game design requires students to…

  • ORGANIZE themselves, their thoughts, and their information as they make rules
  • ANALYZE  information, and become very familiar with the learning objectives
  • ENGAGE with information in an active, creative way

The great news is, there are lots of simple ways to use game making in your classroom, and kids are so engaged in the process that they don’t require a lot of teacher intervention. Once they get going, their own imagination takes over and directs the process.

You can use games for a variety of purposes. Just a few assignments I’ve given around game design: an end of unit novel study board game, a video game that will teach people about a social issue, and a card game that uses prime factorization. Basically, anytime you have a topic that requires students to demonstrate knowledge about a topic, you can have them create a game.

Game design is easy and doesn’t require a lot of materials. Gamestar Mechanic is an awesome resource for video game design, and its user friendly interface teaches effective game design with minimal teacher intervention. You can have kids make up card and dice games with almost no preparation, and all you need for board games is some cardboard – you’ll be amazed what they do with it.

Remember, too, that games are meant to be played. After your students finish, make sure they get a chance to share and explore. I usually do this by having an hour long class and dividing them into two groups. For the first half hour, half of the students stay with their games to explain them while the other half of the group travels around, and then we switch.

Making games isn’t just fun and engaging for students of all ages – it’s a fantastic way to review knowledge and apply skills!

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Action on Inspiring Education – Let’s Go Already!

NOTE: This post is written by Carolyn Cameron, principal of Greystone Centennial Middle School and is cross-posted from her blog with permission.


I listened to a passionate Greystone teacher, Jenna Wilkins, describe her frustration with all of the talk that is going on around the province about Inspiring Education, the Ministerial Order on Student Learning and Curriculum Redesign. It’s not that she is opposed to any of this. In fact, the opposite is true. She is so keen about all of the talk, but in only her second year of teaching, she is already frustrated with the lack of ACTION.

Welcome to my world, Jenna! After 29 years as an educator, working in a system that moves forward with painstaking slowness, I sometimes wonder how I managed to keep optimistic and hopeful while swimming upstream in my push for positive change. The traditional educational structures are solidly in place, the political pressure to maintain the status quo is strong and the fear that is created among the community when we talk about trying new ways of doing things that are aligned with current research about learning is very real. Change feels uncomfortable while tradition feels safe.

How, then, do we make the new vision for student learning, that is shared in our province’s Ministerial Order, a reality in our classrooms and schools?

We turn talk into action by understanding and valuing the idea of innovation. Innovators create new ways of doing things by asking great questions, playing with ideas, trying things out, reflecting on experiences and failing…often! These are exactly the kinds of skills we want our students to develop. So why aren’t we allowing ourselves the same kind of opportunities as the ones we want to provide for our students? Schools need to become places where we, the adult learners, are supported to take risks, try new initiatives through small scale pilot projects, learn from mistakes and then share the learning with others.

Simon Breakspear describes the process well:

We have had lots of opportunities to prototype innovative practices for our learners at Greystone. Some of the ideas we have had success with are:

  • looping
  • flexible block scheduling
  • student collaboration
  • staff collaboration
  • co-created student project work
  • team teaching in flexible learning spaces
  • common team planning/feedback time
  • student led conferences
  • student generated rubrics
  • formative assessment practices
  • competency based report cards
  • inquiry based learning
  • staff book studies
  • Bring Your Own Device Initiative
  • Innovation Week
  • alternative classroom design
  • flexible groupings for targeted instruction in Literacy/Numeracy

We continue to be a work in progress with these and many other initiatives at Greystone. We are still, and always will be, refining and improving upon our practices. We know that taking action, before recognizing clearly what the final result will look like, is a necessary first step in the innovative process. While we don’t jump blindly or carelessly into new initiatives, we also understand and value the process of exploring different ways of doing things that are aligned with our vision for student learning, through trial and error, reflection and sharing. I just hope that Alberta Education is prepared to support this kind of innovative practice in all schools around the province so that action will be taken to make the vision of Inspiring Education a reality for our students.

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Save the date! February 20, 2014 at 6:30 PM MST

SAVE THE DATE- This Thursday at 6:30pm MT join us for a free webinar by Rhonda Hergott, Inspired Learning’s first 2014 experienced voice about PBL (Project Based Learning).

Rhonda was recently featured in a new white paper (A Rich Seam) by Michael Fullan for her PBL approach. pg 23

Here is the link to join the room.  It is open to the public –invite your friends. There will be a chance to win prizes too!

Rhonda Hergott
Before entering the teaching profession, I was a professional dog trainer and then became a software developer. I have been teaching in the Ontario elementary system for 10 years teaching all grades from 4 – 8. For the past 5 years I have focused on grade 7 and 8 science and math. My passion is engaging students in the learning process and creating life long learners. By implementing project based learning into my program, I have successfully created an inclusive, safe environment for students to practice their 21st century learning skills. When not in the classroom or behind a computer you can usually find me in the hockey arena cheering on one of my 3 children or camping and hiking with our golden retriever.

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