Learning without Boundaries Imagined from 2020

Over the past couple of years our school district has been working to develop a ‘dream vision’.  We have been fortunate to have a top flickr - langwitches - learning then and now - 4211065001thought leader, Dr. Andy Hargreaves, working with us to develop an inspiring, inclusive, compelling, learner-centered vision: Learning without Boundaries.  Last week our Design Team met to “clearly define the SD43 dream vision, Learning without Boundaries”.  This team consisted of students, parents, teachers, principals, managers, superintendents, and trustees.

One of the exercises our highly skilled facilitator Myriam Laberge asked us to do, in advance, was a futurist activity (sure got my attention).  We were asked to (paraphrased):

Imagine that it is now 2020. Over the past decade, the Coquitlam School District (SD43) has consistently built on its strong positive foundations to make its inspiring and inclusive dream of “Learning Without Boundaries” come alive through innovative, tangible and effective outcomes. In fact, the phrase, “learning without boundaries” has come to represent a new standard of excellence for learning and teaching. You are being interviewed for a journal article to help other school districts and organizations learn from your success story. Answer the questions below from the 2020 perspective where any challenges and obstacles have been successfully overcome, and SD 43 is fully living its dream vision.

Team members, as homework, responded to six key questions (shown below).  In a future post I will share synthesized results from the design team’s work The Sky's the Limitwhen it’s available.  We were organized into table groups of 6-7 people representing all the different stakeholders.  My table included a staff development coordinator, a student, a parent, a principal, a vice principal, a trustee, and my self.  Starting with our homework (mine is below) we did card sorting work and to make a long story short, the whole team came up with 6 key vision themes.  More on this in a future post…  So, my homework in response to “Imagine that it is now 2020…” is shown here.

1. What unique strengths did you build on to propel SD43 to this present level of success?

  • An affinity for collaboration and consultation
  • Inclusiveness
  • Willingness to experiment
  • A mind-set for sharing knowledge and practice

2. What visible and inspiring outcomes, practices, and results are in place in 2020 at SD43 from the learners perspective that represent the most significant elements of your success?

  • Students have an online portfolio representing artifacts of their learning - their parents, teachers, and others they invite, have access to this space
  • Students learn through projects and problem solving
  • Learning is a blend of face to face, digital space, and 3D virtual immersive experiences enabling very flexible, cost effective, and safe learning contexts, experimentations
  • Most "teaching" is increasingly self selected by students as they progressively get older
  • Students have become very good questioners, advocators, negotiators, and communicators
  • Students learn from their failures and their successes - failures are considered to be critical to achieve progress and success
  • Teachers are viewed as experts in facilitation, coaching, supporting, guiding, and sometimes direct teaching
  • Assessment of and for learning is embedded in learning activities and automatically informs and nudges students at all stages of their journey as well as their teachers and parents
  • All learning has becoming authentically connected to real world purposes and is mostly cross discipline

3. What else is in place from the educators perspective, that are equally important foundations for your 2020 level of achievement?

  • Educators have access to frequent staff development opportunities both for action research and for topical focus
  • Educators and students have anytime access (face to face and online) to experts, specialists, analysts, and coordinators on a consultative basis to support learning
  • Educators and students have full time access to quality digital tools, content creation and sharing and they regularly create and share learning materials
  • Report cards have been replaced with continuous embedded and reflective assessment that provide indicators of degrees of mastery - summative reporting is extinct

4. What SD43 accomplishments and results do parents speak of with pride and satisfaction?

  • "My children are always excited to go to school and to continue learning in the evenings and on weekends"
  • "The teachers and specialists my children get to learn with are first rate, very supportive, and have been instrumental in bringing out the best in my kids"
  • "Learning in SD43 schools is exciting, diverse, self-directed, real world, active, and flexible"
  • “When my daughter graduated she was well prepared for and capable of confidently entering society as a life long learner”

5. What tangible successes in “learning without boundaries” do trustees, managers, school and community partners, business, and other key stakeholders speak about in glowing terms?

  • "Students graduating from SD43 schools are finding greater success in finding satisfying work, greater education, and volunteer opportunities than most other students in BC"
  • "Only a students imagination can limit their ability to learn and when that happens, our teachers and other specialists help them go beyond that limit to achieve their full potential"
  • "It is amazing how lively learning has become in SD43 schools"
  • "I never thought that by organizing all students into multi-age collaborative learning communities of about 120 students, that we would improve learning so dramatically"
  • "It is amazing how technology powered 3D immersive learning environments have become so common and natural in supporting all students in experiencing such diverse learning and deep understanding"

6. What key innovations and changes most enabled your success in learning and teaching?

  • "The universal availability of easy to use digital learning tools, digital interactive teaching resources, embedded assessments, and lively physical and virtual immersive learning environments"
  • "The Districts support for thoughtful experimentation and risk taking"


Imagine your District, your school in 2020.  What responses would you give to these questions in your context with your vision or dream for your students?


  1. Brian, do you think that an additional question (actually before question 5) that asks "How did you engage trustees, managers, school and community partners, business, and other key stakeholders to contribute to “learning without boundaries”? has a place in the list of questions.

  2. @Martin - that would be a good question to answer wouldn't it. I think part of the answer for us is the use of a Design Team structure and then a concerted effort to share our work widely and freely with all stakeholders - a very open and transparent process will be key.

    How would you answer this question?

  3. Brian, I would respond this way.

    Many communities and societies recognize that it takes a village to raise a child. Our SD took those words to heart.

    • We shared to all stakeholders that the real cost of failure in human (unhappy and unfulfilled lives)and economic terms (under and unemployed citizens)
    • We shared to all stakeholders our values that such failure is unacceptable
    • We promoted transparency, openness (as you stated about), and success stories as per http://thelearningnation.blogspot.com/2011/05/cams-smile.html
    • We understood that individual adjustments have value but rarely bring about systemic change
    • We looked in every direction (from all stakeholders) for adaptable and innovative approaches (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen) to inform our thinking
    • We understood that no change is easy and that we worked with all stakeholders to find solutions to the problems that change reeked on individuals negatively impacted by the changes

    Brian for me Canada is the village and I am the recipient (as Rex Murphy stated) of the most wonderful gift of birth: being born in Canada!

  4. @Martin: Kaizen is a good practice to incorporate isn't it and along with your other points, I hope we would say similar things as we work through our implementation.

    Canada is a gift - totally agree. I'm a little biassed in saying British Columbia (rain and all), is an add'l gift! I couldn't think of a better village to be a part of and to play a small role in the raising...

  5. The vision is the beginning of achieving an action plan. I look forward to seeing it evolve.


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