• Fair Chance Learning

Shifting thinking from "Ya, but..!" to "What if..?"

If technology, in and of itself, were “the answer” in education, we would have seen exponential growth in learning by now. The reality is, we haven’t! The meaningful integration of technology in education has been misunderstood by most. Truth is, technology is most often used to replicate what could easily be done without it. The reasons for this are plentiful: lack of training., lack of devices, lack of evidence that technology positively impacts learning, and most likely the biggest reason, way too many obstacles! But, what would happen if we could get folks to lean towards saying “What if..?” instead of focusing on obstacles and resorting to, “Ya, but..!” Might technology redefine what teaching and learning could look like?

Picture this…


Several months ago, I was travelling at 33,000 feet with my colleague, Dan Turner, from Vancouver to Toronto, on an Air Canada Dreamliner at 1000 kilometres an hour.


Another colleague, Andrea Langelaar, was standing in front of 30 expectant teachers back in Surrey who were waiting for a lunch session on Office 365 to begin.


As Dan beamed at his connection to the plane’s wifi, I glanced at the time and realized that the Office 365 session down on the ground was about to begin. Immediately I asked, “What if…”


A quick message to Andrea, and Dan and I are quickly connected via video in Microsoft Teams, ready to begin a MysteryNumberSkype … an activity in which each group has a mystery number and turns are taken using yes/no questions to determine the other group’s number.


Within minutes we encounter a hurdle. While Dan and I could see the group of teachers, it was difficult to hear each other – we are after all on a plane and Andrea is in a busy learning commons. This was the point where we considered scrapping the plan. Instead, we communicated with good old fashion paper and thumbs up or down to ask and answer the questions. Our communication, thinking, and collaboration competencies were fully activated and it was awesome!


So why share this story?


I don’t know about you, but I think a lot of the things we did that day were amazing. I am still amazed that objects as big as a plane can actually fly. I am amazed that despite flying at the edge of space and being thousands of kilometres away, we were able to connect meaningfully with a room full of educators back in Surrey.


But mostly, I think this story is worth sharing because technology itself did not drive the learning on this day. Sure, technology allowed us to connect, but the right attitudes and mindsets drove the learning. It was the willingness to risk-take, to persevere when things were not perfect, and the use of a simple instructional strategy to make this learning experience happen.


I love Microsoft Teams, not because it’s easy to use and a powerful tool that can promote meaningful collaboration, but rather because it becomes invisible when you use it. In the Surrey School District, one of the top-30 school districts in Teams usage worldwide, Teams is quickly becoming the “common air” we all breathe, platforms being one of those “obstacles” that often stands in the way of colleagues easily connecting.


Microsoft Teams continues to be a tool that redefines what we are able to accomplish together in Surrey Schools and I can’t wait to see how many more ways we can ask and answer that important question, “What if…?” with it!

About the Author:

Antonio Vendramin is currently a District Principal in the Priority Practices department of the Surrey School District, British Columbia. His portfolio includes Communicating Student Learning, Digital Resources, several learning areas including Arts Education, ADST, and Science, and I help to document the great learning taking place around my great district.

Catch more from Antonio on his blog: Vendramin's Views.