It is hard to believe that we are coming to the end of our first school year together. When I reflect back on the wonderful experiences I have been privileged to be a part of in this community, I have come to realize that this has been a year of learning in beta.
When I hear the term "Beta," I always remember the old videotape recording system we used to rent way back before VHS even came out. Yes, I'm "dating myself " here. It was a treat to pick up beta tapes at the video store, but they never quite worked the way they should; they seemed to need more perfecting and testing to gain improvement. VHS seemed like a God-send, but then along came CD's, iTunes and finally options like Netflix and Shomi. The advancements that have come out of the beta beginnings arose because of the drive to make it better, through innovation and creativity with a willingness to continue to prototype and test at each level.Beta has many meanings depending on your background, but for the purpose of understanding our learning, we see it as the phase in software development before an official release...a testing or prototyping phase, as it were.
Beta learning applies not only to the students but the staff, and myself, as well. I have spent the year learning about the St. Dominic and fine arts culture; it has been an experience where I am testing and prototyping along with staff and students at every step.
I believe that the focus needs to be on our students when it comes to learning in beta.Learning is best done when we allow students to come up with ideas, explore them, design then test these ideas. In essence, students are operating in beta mode when they are empowered to design their own learning, versus the old way in which teachers were the main source of information.Ideating, iterating, prototyping and then testing are the new phases in learning which our students should be provided, so that learning is more engaging and empowers our students to drive it on their own. There is also a need to revisit and refine our discoveries so that our iterations evolve, which is important for our students to learn, as well.
At St. Dominic Fine Arts School, we have spent this school year encouraging our students to approach their learning in beta mode. In essence, we want children to feel comfortable in moving from ideas to creating, prototyping and then re-designing, since children learn best when they are allowed to keep learning from their mistakes. It isn't perfect but after all, learning is messy.
In my first year at St. Dominic School, I have discovered fine arts to be the perfect playground to empower students to explore their innovation and creativity. Albert Einstein once said that, "Creativity is intelligence having fun" and since fine arts students are constantly empowered to explore their creativity, we are blessed to be among children who are willing to show their intelligence in fun ways.
As a means to display their beta learning, students have worked in our Learning Commons "Maker Space," developed innovative technology projects in our Collaboratory (like green screening to create movies) and explored project-based learning (PBL) to allow students to experience authentic learning. All of this is done through a fine arts lens, which can also a beta experience, since it involves testing our artistic iterations then going back to the drawing board when it doesn't always work out the way we planned. Our focus as educators is to foster this desire for risk-taking with our students so that they experience a safe space to develop their learning.
As we close this school year and enter into the summer, I encourage all of you to explore new experiences and learning in beta mode. Experimenting and testing our ideas are great ways to develop our learning...even over the summer. :)