In the Zone: Exploring New Ways of Learning

The impact of innovation on education isn’t in using technology to deliver obsolete education experiences. It lies in understanding what skills students need in the innovation era, and constructing classroom experiences that promote skills that matter.
– Peter Wagner

There is a clear recognition in global education that schools need to become more responsive to the future needs of students. The word innovation is frequently used to describe this response. We shouldn’t get too hung up on the definition of innovation, a word that sometimes confuses the need for systemic change with the superficial use of technology. Real innovation in schools denotes trying to do what is best for students in order to prepare them for the future context they will work and live in. This is what we mean when we talk about genuine innovation in schools. The world has changed. This requires us to tell a different story about learning. What is that story?

Last year, a group of teachers at our school asked themselves how we could make a renewed commitment to explore new ways of learning for our students, colleagues, and parents. We have been a 1:1 laptop school for the last 8 years and have just introduced 2 new makerspaces … but how could we make a statement about the types of learning we wanted to see more of in our school, to take learning to the next level?

Our answer is In The Zone Day, a day of imagination, innovation and technology designed to extend or introduce some new, dynamic approaches to learning. We developed the title from Ken Robinson’s perspective that, “being in the zone [is] … where you’re lost in the activity, where time seems to shift … where an hour can feel like 5 minutes … you feel centred, focused … doing something that resonates deeply.” The day will operate as a student conference run by a team of experts that includes our own teachers. The six zones are called: Design, Code, Express, Make, Discover and Communicate.

The event aims to serve several purposes: (1) to introduce a wide range of systemic ways of learning and new technologies for learning; (2) to begin a year-long exploration of these learning approaches across the curriculum; (3) to help students find their personal learning passion and be In The Zone. We are excited that Scott McLeod, whose work is well-known to our students and teachers, will kick off the event and remain with us for a few days to help facilitate our evolving digital learning agenda with our community.

In addition to a focus on STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Mathematics) and our new design facilities, we are keen to stress the need for creativity, expression, balanced lives and communication through the program. Hence we have a professional storyteller coming to run a zone, will also hold a zone based on mindfulness run by our counselling team, and are fortunate to have Sky TV focusing on a communication zone. Just a few short years after their graduation from The International School of Brussels, we are particularly pleased to have the creators of SAM Labs coming to work with us. They will be fine role models for our students. Our finest role models, however, will be our own teachers, who are stretching their own learning to lead zones or will join students as learners in the zone.

The event will be held in September. You can follow the Twitter hashtag #ISBZone or view the official (developing) website for the event here. By kicking off our learning year with this event we are hoping to achieve what Gary Stager suggests: “seize the opportunity for students to learn and express their knowledge in new and exciting ways.” We will be happy to share our learning as we go and will be developing a school blog on the event website to post our continuing learning stories from students, teachers, presenters and parents throughout the year. Feel free to share your ideas on exploring new ways of learning with us.

Thanks to Solvay, ISB Visiting Artist’s Program, SAM Labs, Sky TV, Eurest and MS Faculty for supporting this initiative. 
In The Zone logo designed by student, Daan Maarse.