Deep learning: giving a voice and a choice

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Going through the readings this week, I was thinking and reflecting on deep learning, ‘moral imperative’, and biases. Jackeline Whiting’s article ‘Everyone has invisible bias’ focuses on how our biases emerge through how we talk hence the language we use. We all carry on beliefs and knowledge from our families that inside of our circle are accepted. Many times, our beliefs are not going to be correct for the others, that are the reasons my mother told us not to talk in public about religion or politics because they can cause conflict.  But, what happens if as an educator we have to talk about controversial issues? Especially, if you are working in a totally different culture from yours. Last 8 years, I’m working in India and I have learned about their vision of the world and life. It brought to my mind, an IB position paper that I read sometime back East is East and West is West written by George Walker. It explains about culture in Southeast Asia and how the IB learner profile was more ‘West oriented’ but also promotes its adaptation to the culture, belief systems, and traditions. 

Once, I was working with a class with the TDT: How we express ourselves, focused on Literature. At the library, we were organizing a penpal program with a school in Mexico to learn about mythology, as both countries have a rich tradition and culture. One of the resources used to understand Indian mythology was this TED talk by Devdutt Pattanaik East vs West: the myths that mystify. His talk was an eye-opener about things that I was observing from my western perspective, assuming ‘western’ reasons. I was judging from “my world” not considering “the concept of the world in India”. From that day, I have learned to understand another way to see things, a different perspective of life, and value each of them. As a brief example: I appreciate the value that they give to family and the respect for the elder ones. On the other hand, I have noticed the vertical structure inside organizations and what being the boss means in Southeast Asia.

As an IB librarian, we encourage students to be open-minded, find different perspectives, look for opposite viewpoints and have a voice to express their ideas even if it’s a controversial issue. We boost them to think critically and question themselves. TOK is one of the big opportunities to touch topics that not will be easily considered for discussions such as religion, faith, ethics, science, communication, etc. Also, IB Diploma teachers are encouraged to promote these discussions blended on their topics. However, it’s a challenging task to shift from the role of teachers’ as knowledge keepers to facilitators.

About deep learning

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“It is through deep learning tasks that students in the new pedagogies gain experience in developing their aspirations, in taking the initiative to learn, in learning to persevere through tough challenges, and in doing real knowledge work. In short, these tasks form the practical bridge between learning and doing.”

Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy explain on their paper ‘Towards a new pedagogies: for deep learning”  new roles for teachers as activators alongside students in the (de)construction of understandings. Teachers will assume new roles:

  1. Designers of learning experiences.
  2. Source of human, social, and decisional capital in the learning experience.
  3. Partners in learning with students, accelerated by technology

As a designer, we can see the transition from teachers delivering content to teachers designing activities that will produce a learning experience as an outcome. Then, bonding with students and developing that relationship teacher-students will give them the opportunity to learn together. It is developed through creative, collaborative, socially connected and relevant learning experiences. 

Traditional learning tasks are redesign to:

  • Re-structure learning curricular content in challenging ways by digital tools.
  • Students as creators and users of new knowledge in the world beyond their class.
  • Develop and assess future skills:


These four barriers increase the gap between the theory and the practice. I think that many times new pedagogies are not well implemented or promoted or unknown. Or educators are afraid of change and prefer to continue with the same practices. I would like to highlight how the relationship between student-teacher to design structure task give a voice and a choice to the student. 

It gives freedom and the opportunity to explore and discover areas of interest. It connects perfectly with the IB PYP concept of student agency. But, I can see it more structured under the umbrella of ‘Deep learning’ and the use of technology as an accelerator of the learning experience because it requires deep knowledge of pedagogy and content. Only after those two pillars are firm, technology will be an accelerator of learning.

Also, the movement of  A.J. Juliani and the Genius hour, promoting the use of 20% of the time of classes on personal projects that students would like to develop according to their personal interests and passions. It’s an opportunity for educators to put into practice deep learning.

At the library:

At SIS Library, we have weekly sessions with PYP students. During these classes, we work with our library AASL standards and UOI of PYP. I have to recognize that my practice has changed over the years. At first, I was so focused on standards and ATL skills. 

Some glimpses of change:

  • Collaboration with teachers: co-teaching and planning together lead to innovative experiences of learning with students.
  • GIve a voice to students: designing activities that will give them the opportunity to express their understandings (GRASPS)
  • Differentiation at the library is connected to the level of reading comprehension. We can raise the bar, giving options through a variety of sources (audio, printed, online), and at different levels of complexity.

Based on this week’s readings and the starting of new Units of inquiry in most of the classes, I’m revising my planners in order to apply ‘Deep learning ‘ ideas, give a voice and an opportunity to our students.

Wish me luck!

2 thoughts on “Deep learning: giving a voice and a choice

  1. Liliana, great post, and lots to consider! Bias and perspective are a fascinating topic for me. As humans we make so many judgements instantly in new situations or meeting new people. It is really a learned skill to be able to step back, and be metacognitive around our biases and perspectives in order to see things clearly. This only becomes more complicated as international educators as we are operating in cultures that are foreign to us, and layered in their own deep histories. These histories and understandings, can take years for us to understand so that we approach a situation appropriately.

    The Genius Hour is an interesting concept. The blog mentions origins in Google, but it goes further back than that actually. Remember 3M sticky notes, those came about due to the mandate that new products must be developed and a certain amount of company time would be dedicated to discovering new products. 3M’s rule was that 30% of new products must be developed in the last 4 years; this was their own brand of Genius Hour. This idea is very interesting and has led many corporations to be innovative. Some schools are even trying this with giving students independent/discovery/genius time.

    Please share with us your successes and challenges with your new structure towards deep learning. Giving students voice can be powerful, but also a challenge. I am interested to hear how things progress!

  2. I found your comment about the beliefs we carry on from our family interesting, as it is a dilemma that we all face; for good or bad. Your very mention of this made me think back to when I was growing up, and how this affected me and how I think and approach different topics; and how I need to adjust those thinking patterns.

    Now onto what I found the most exciting part of your post – genius hour. I think I can most certainly work this into my upcoming media lessons, and let the students create something awesome. Have you any examples of how you have implemented this genius hour with your students?

    Finally, I do wish you all the best with the changes you have listed. Regarding the differentiation, how might you harness technology to accelerate learning? I know that we use Newsela to make some reading more accessible to our students.

    Thanks for the great post 🙂

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