Smaller rural schools, traditionally marginalized by geography and economies of scale, are using 21st century technologies to create new opportunities to participate in their world by designing exemplary, new multi-literate teaching and learning opportunities for students. Academic researchers, and business, political and community leaders alike have called for schools to embrace 21st century skill sets, to develop collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills in authentic real world contexts with community roots. The experience of many educators in schools at the secondary level, however, is that imposed structures, like the timetable and mandated social and academic curricula, combined with historical organizational attitudes and inertia serve to challenge efforts to create meaningful community engagement projects.
JT Foster School, a 200 student, grade 7 - 12 rural school in the Canadian province of Alberta, has embarked on a three year project based in action research, to engage students in developing the 21st century skills they will need to meet the social, academic, and mathematical demands they will face in the future. JT Foster School’s Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) project was designed to explore ways to improve students’ in-school mathematics practices to align with those needed and expected in the 21st century global community. In 2010 - 2011, the school community engaged in a self-reflective process to collaboratively develop themed-based units of study which would involve students from all grades 7 - 12 and include work in all academic disciplines. In describing the process of planning, teaching and reflection, this presentation will highlight how project-based, cross-curricular, cross-grade inquiry learning is allowing students traditionally disadvantaged by demographics and geography to learn to compete, cooperate, and collaborate in their world. It will also highlight the challenges faced in changing a school community culture in spite of structural demands.
|Keywords:||Multi-literacy, Inquiry-based Learning, Secondary School, Project-based Learning, Community, Educational Structure, Cross-curricular, Pedagogy, 21st Century Skills, Alberta Initiative for School Improvement|
Principal, J.T. Foster School, Livingstone Range School Division #68, Nanton, Alberta, Canada
Associate Principal, AISI Coordinator, J.T. Foster School, Livingstone Range School Division, Nanton, AB, Canada
Teacher, J.T. Foster School, Livingstone Range School Division, Nanton, AB, Canada
Teacher, J.T. Foster School, Livingstone Range School Division #68, Nanton, AB, Canada
University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada