Fall to your Knees with Deep Learning

At her session called The Right Question at the Ontario GAFE summit, Holly Clark spoke of those 'fall to your knees' moments as educators when something goes so absolutely right, when the learning is so tangible, that you feel like falling to your knees in pure bliss and gratitude for what you are a part of.

I have learned through my experimentation with varied pedagogical approaches and adoption of new technologies, that these moments are to be treasured and are what fuels passionate educators to continue with their pursuits to innovate and inspire. For each 'fall to your knees' moment there are also moments of failure that serve to 'reflect and refine' practice. Both moments equally as important and rich with learning for students and educators.

I had a 'fall to my knees' moment witnessing my Grade 7 students so enthralled with their heat design projects that time stood still and it seemed as though I was in some amazing innovation incubator somewhere.

This design project was inspired by a recent professional development experience surrounding New Pedagogies for Deep Learning. With a focus on citizenship, collaboration, and critical thinking, students identified global problems related to heat (grade 7 science) and generated possible solutions.

We used this slide deck with incredible video inspiration to spark our interest and guide our thinking. On slide 13 find links to student slide decks (which served to guide pitches delivered to other students).

We have been using a design process organizer throughout the year which we adjusted to meet the needs of this project. This design process organizer is based on AJ Juliani and John Spencers LAUNCH book which I devoured last summer.

Goal: to identify a global problem related to heat, conduct research about this problem, generate a possible solution / prototype, and share findings with others using media sources.

A few of our prototypes:
Alternative A/C, Super Snow Suit, Magic Blinds, SOS Iceberg

Skin Patch (sun radiation), backpack shelter, energy efficient homes

3 in 1 inhaler, Heat House

It wasn't only the creativity, global mindedness, and critical thinking that made me 'fall to my knees', but the students reflection on this experience.

Here are just a few student reflections shared through a Google Form:

"I had an idea that I thought would work really well, and I was disappointed that it was already created. But even after that original fail, I kept going and our group came up with an amazing idea."

"I used the competency of creativity because we all had great ideas for our prototype that came to life. We all asked really good questions about our prototype like how it was going to work and how we were going to build it." (Notice the word WE)

"In order to complete the task we were forced to think harder and take risks. For example when we couldn't figure out how to get the dome to be a dome shape we had to do a very risky test to figure out if it would work and if it didn't we would have to restart the whole building process again. In order to avoid that we had to try to prove that it would work on paper without even trying it."

"I think that I used the competency of citizenship because I really thought of the other people around the world while thinking of a solution to our problem. I was thinking about what things people don have in other countries rather than thinking about us."

So what's next?

Our intermediate division is hosting an Invention Convention in early May. The Grade 7s have begun the Look, Listen, and Learn phase to begin identifying global problems. Next week we will come to consensus on actionable questions and get into teams to begin the design process.

What has been your latest 'fall to your knees' moment?
The more we share our success stories and our failures the more we learn collectively!


  1. Thanks for all of the great documentation of your deep learning task design and insights gained by you and your students.


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