|10 Nov 2022
|2019 Finalists Global Teacher Prize
Sean Robinson does not see classroom walls. At least it seems that way from his approach to learning. He observed early in his career that his students learned most when they made connections with people outside the classroom. He began to explore whether this was something that could be developed further.
Robinson’s discovery became the Connections-based Learning methodology that he now deploys full time in his classroom. It is also being used by teachers around the world, including Global Teacher Prize Winner, 2018, Barbara Zielonka. Connections-based Learning is a framework for effectively using the opportunities to connect through technology to leverage learning.
Robinson operates a “bring your own device” policy to his school. These devices are used to connect the students with the world beyond the classroom. His students benefit from engagement with experts in a wide range of fields, from stem cell researchers, to social entrepreneurs to planetary scientists. They also connect with individuals from the local community, which has led to environmental projects such as cleaning up a local waterway. In each connection, Robinson encourages the children to have clarity about their learning goals, to be collaborative and to capture what they have learnt. He also prioritises the nurturing of empathy skills, supporting students to develop meaningful relationships with others, using technology as a tool to facilitate that.
He uses connections as the basis for developing practical projects for the students to deepen their learning. As a founding ambassador of the TeachSDGs movement, Robinson uses the Sustainable Development Goals as a window through which to create connections for his students. For example, his students built a prototype solar powered lantern and shared it with learning partners in the Dominican Republic, Kenya and Macedonia as a contribution to SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy and SDG 4 Quality Education.
The Applications of Digital Literacy programme that he developed to train Grade Nine students in digital skills and conduct has already been used by 2200 students. It has successfully trained students in digital citizenship, and is being used as a model by the Canadian Government.
Students publish all of their work through public digital portfolios that publicise the many and varied things they have done, and provide the students themselves with a valuable reference of their own work. Four of Robinson’s students came in the Top 30 in Student Spaceflight Experiments Program to send an experiment on a Space X rocket to the International Space Station in 2016. In 2018, he connected four students with the Vancouver Microsoft MakerSpace. They prototyped a smart mirror that could read human emotion and were invited to the British Columbia Tech Summit to demonstrate their product.
Robinson’s work has been recognised most recently in the British Colombia Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education Awards, 2018 in which he won the Technology and Innovation Award. He continues to develop the methodology and to share his learning and ideas through articles in the education press. He also coordinates a virtual community of educators using Connections-based Learning methods in schools across the globe.