Classrooms in Utopia

It’s late August. Even though I don’t have kids in school anymore or even work in a K-12 school, I still feel the change in the air at this time of year.  Teachers are beginning to, not just dream of what this year will look like, but to implement within their classrooms what “it” will look like.  The definition of “it” differs from teacher to teacher.

I’m hoping teachers are looking at a utopian view of the classroom as laboratory.  A place where students are free to discover learning, sometimes, on their own terms.

I see books and browsing corners to promote curiosity and discovery.  Materials and tools that allow for invention and wonder.  Spaces that honor the hard work of learning and imagination.

Here’s the more difficult part to implement: I also dream of embedded technology.  Educational technology within the classroom that is not “taught” as a separate or unique subject area but is a natural tool that students gravitate to for recording and continuing their learning.  What a great idea! Using what is within your classroom and having enough foundation skills to use an appropriate bit of technology to further each student’s learning.

Using embedded educational technology also assumes that students have enough foundation skills to make good decisions about their learning. For example, using a voice app on an iPad to record a podcast about their research or a digital story.  Creating iMovie snippets to show a process.  Creating a reflection on their learning to include as part of an eportfolio.

Embedding educational technology into a classroom means the collaboration among the whole school community to train and help teachers make good decisions about the technology in their classrooms and to model how to embed technology in their learning.

Administrators may consider some professional development time spent to support teachers or a mentoring model for those with more experience to assist those with less experience.

If you are an education student, consider learning one pivotal educational technology or a few apps that can be used by students to create or document their learning.  Take a step up from being a digital native to being a digital facilitator.

Start now to look at what this utopian classroom looks like for before the on slot in September of all kinds of students.

Picture Books that Promote Curiosity, Imagination and General Wondering

In a departure from the usual technology analysis, I will spend today looking at some new picture books that can be resources and browsers in a K-4 classroom to get kids wondering about the world around them.  These picks are from some recent arrivals in the library and are chosen for high interest and engagement.

What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem? Both by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom.  Interesting juxtaposition of two great concepts – things you need to wonder about. An idea looks like an egg with a crown.  A problem looks like a big swirly, dark cloud.  Is an idea good? Does a problem present an opportunity?

Ideas Are All Around? by Philip C. Stead. How do you begin to write something? Taking a walk with your dog gives you many experiences. Are they worth writing about? What do you notice? Stop War – now there is a good idea.


The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.  “Know this: there is magic around but it hides.” “Be open to it.” Hone your powers of observation, around you, above you, near you.  Allow your feet to determine where you may journey and notice all there is to explore.


City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Notice all that is around you and tie it to some of your knowledge.  Recognize shapes in your environment as a beginning understanding of your world. This book would be a great provocation for a grade 1 photography project.  A way for students to study their community through the lens of a camera or an iPad.


Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes by Tim Wynne-Jones, illustrated by Brian Won.  S.A.M. (get it?) has a unique view of the world and all the adventures that are to be had.  Discover a unique perspective on shoe shopping by one imaginative boy.


Use Your Imagination (but be careful what you wish for!) by Nicola O’Bryne.  A typical fairy tale re-telling becomes a whole new story with a little imagination.  Can you change other stories? What would be a more unexpected twist or turn in the stories you are reading?


Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  True to life, people in a grey neighbourhood re-imagine it with colourful murals and paintings.  The entire neighbourhood joins in and life is forever changed.  Art changes people.  One person can change a neighbourhood or their school or city or country or the world.


These are a few picks to invigorate your current classroom library and to engage students in a deeper thinking process.  Igniting curiosity is a game changer.