Tyler’s Loving School in 2016

Michael, Tyler’s older brother by a year, is teasing him about how much he likes school.  Tyler attends Centennial High School as a grade 9 student while Michael, in grade 10, is learning 100% online from home.  Michael had some difficulties “fitting in” at high school so he and his parents decided that this would be best for him.  Tyler on the other hand is loving grade 9 in his new school.  Tyler’s younger sister Stephanie also loves school and in particular her amazing grade 2 teacher.  Stephanie likes to call him“Ty”.

Centennial is a brand new school designed and built for the future.  Back in 2010, a vision for Centennial was developed to create a school that would best serve the needs of students over the next 50 years rather than the past.  It is designed to have many small learning communities of about 150 students in multiple grades and content areas.  In a school of 1400, it still has a small “family” feel to it.  Most learning is cross-curricular and project based.  Every student has an individualized learning plan (ILP) and a learning facilitator to guide and support them.

Tyler shrugs off Michael’s teasing, pats Stephanie’s head, grabs his backpack, says “goodbye mom” and runs out the door to go to school.

It’s a crisp morning in late October so Tyler quickly walks the 1 km to Centennial.  Along the way, he communicates with a few friends using his mobile device.  He speaks freely with the device, giving it instructions to retrieve and send messages.  At one point a message from his learning facilitator arrives.  Ty stops to bring up a 3D holographic video of his learning facilitator and they carry out a “face to face” chat about last night’s learning activities (aka homework).

When Tyler arrives, he sees a group of his friends and joins them.  They talk excitedly about their current projects.  Tyler and 6 other students have scheduled the looking glass in their learning community today to connect with students in Australia to share and discuss what their ideas and research on preventing flood disasters.

First stop for Tyler and his team mates is the Learning Commons.  They grab a nutritional drink (they’re too young for a Starbucks iStock_000011759967XSmallcoffee although they ask), sync up a few “books” to their learning slates, and settle in on some couches where they confirm each other’s responsibilities for their Disasters project and what they each will be doing during the looking glass hour.  With their learning slates, they logon to their school provided digital learning spaces, post updates of what they will be doing today so their learning facilitators are informed and able to assist.  When Tyler’s friend Michelle enters her digital learning space, she see a “happy birthday” notice, including 3D video and holograph messages, from 20 or so of her friends, the principal, her learning facilitator, and her parents.  Her day is now shaping up to be just that much better…

The kids hustle off to their learning community and join the other 140 or so students for 10 minutes to hear a live 3D video message from the Superintendent of Schools wishing them a great week.  Tyler has an opportunity to invite the Superintendent to drop by for their looking glass interaction to which she agrees and then it’s time for the students to get working on their projects.

Ty and his team head over to the looking glass that they’ve reserved for the next hour.  They sync up their learning slates to the looking glass so that they are able to push and share their work via the glass with the Australian kids once they’re online.  Ty motions to the glass, which looks like any normal window, and activates its digital nature.  The glass comes to life as a digital interactive surface and acknowledges Ty and his team mates.  “Do you want me to contact the other participants Mr. Tyler”, the glass says.  Ty says “yes please”.  When Ty scheduled the glass, he provided all the pertinent details needed by the glass to coordinate the activities and participants.  The glass proceeded to connect in the Australian kids and the two groups make their introductions, each seeing the other in life size form.  Meanwhile the Superintendent connects in from her office and pushes the looking glass image (she can also see the kids) up on her office wall in life size to enjoy while she works on preparing for an upcoming leadership meeting.

The Australians share a story of a flood disaster that occurred early in 2011.  Through vivid video, statistics, news stories, and personal anecdotes of how this event affected them and their family, Tyler’s team is fully up to speed.  Of course Tyler and his team had researched this earlier while at home using the Internet and even saw some of the same clips iStock_000011819618XSmalland stories.  But having it shared live by kids their own age in this way really impacted Tyler and his team mates.  The students on both sides of the world take turns sharing their research and ideas, pushing pictures, 3D models, and data from their learning slates through the looking glass, each seeing the same things.  Together, they manipulate the images, video, and data directly on the looking glass surface to analyze their work.  They converse and share, and then they wrap up with deciding next steps, new task assignments, and scheduling their next looking glass appointment.  One of them agrees to create a wiki on their learning space and invite the others, including the Australians, in to share their notes and learning products over the next few days.  Before signing off, the Superintendent congratulates both groups of students on a very interesting and useful exchange of information and ideas.  She also signs up for weekly learning updates from this team’s project space as their project is of personal interest to her.

While they were working, various learning coaches (aka teachers) came by to participate with them, to provide adult insight, advice, and also, to learn from the students.  At other times, the learning coaches provide lectures on specific content areas, processes, etc. that students sign up or or arrange for.  Most work is self-directed but each student’s learning facilitator is co-responsible with the students in their success along with their parents.  Students learn the required mathematics, writing, communication, history, science, art, music, and physical education content, and skills as they work through projects.  They learn to work collaboratively, to understand that inter-dependence increases all of their learning and understanding collectively far greater than self-sufficiency or independent learning and work.

Tyler is tired but thoroughly satisfied when his school-based learning day ends (there is no bell or required ending time).  He decides to take the evening off and that tomorrow he will work online and remotely at home through his digital learning space connecting withiStock_000011562895XSmall other students, learning coaches, and of course his learning facilitator as needed throughout the day.  Sometimes he just likes working in his room and with live 3D video it almost feels like he and his team mates are really together regardless of where they are.  He wonders what school might look like in 2020 for his sister Stephanie.  Maybe he’ll get some other students to work on a design project together for a new 2020 middle school and submit their work to the Superintendent for her consideration…


  1. Like Tyler, DK enters his virtual world from home where he goes on quests (that supply learning outcomes). His younger brother attends a "brick and mortar" school. DK is in his middle years. Working on a team called the Student Congress, he has begun to do the programming and design for new quests to add to the virtual world in which his avatar has its adventures. He is developing the environment in which he and some kids who follow, will learn. He is mentoring and learning simultaneously. He is joined by contributors from Australia, US and Israel. Cool, huh. Maybe Ty is working with him or wants to...?

  2. Roxbaern: I think Ty has made contact with DK and his crew to see about putting an international design challenge together. Maybe they'll pull it off sometime later this year... :-)

    Thanks for adding to the story!

  3. roxbaern@shaw.ca said...

    This is EXACTLY what 10 of my students have been doing for the last 4 months on Quest Atlantis. The future is here...in the Student Congress world, students have been designing and building the infrastructure of expositions dedicated to housing quests/journies into Diversity Affirmation, Healthy Communities, and Environmental Awareness. These (student researched and designed) interactive adventures will be opened up to the world in May, and thousands of students from around the world will be invited to participate.

  4. Other students are currently occupied putting the finishing touches on the bridge of the SS Enterprise where my grade 6 tutorials are to be held. Today, one student finished off his art project, it's a dragon. This dragon however can be ridden (even when the student is wearing his battle armour), and belches fire as he flies about the castle he also built. These kids are wayyyy past pencil and paper and teacher centred learning. Are you ready for them?

  5. @Gord - okay and I thought I was writing futuristically :-) You are an anomoly though in the main stream but as we've talked already, I see huge potential in what you're doing for kids. Need to tap into your experiences for sure.

  6. What I'm doing now is what I should have been doing 10 years ago. The technology was ready, and so were the students. What's lacking is a single superintendant with enough (com)passion for kids that they will listen, and enough courage to act on what needs to be done. Where are they? Hell, if not for the sake of educational leadership, how about saving their district money and leapfrog them past everyone when it comes to 21st century learning? Frustrating that the kids will have to wait for Microsoft to get into the education business so students can once again become engaged in learning.

    Sorry for the rant. Please delete it if you think it offensive.

  7. @Gord - I think it is important for educational leaders to be cautious and embrace innovation. One of the problems I've seen historically are the pendulum swings... when kids futures are at stake, we need to be careful with changes especially radical ones. 3D immersive learning is pretty radical for most... I think we'll get there one by one.


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