Photo Credit: Tricia Friedman

I would not be the teacher I am today without having had the privilege of working with Jane Ross.

Anyone who knows Jane, knows that she is innovation in motion.  Take a look at her phenomenal blog, and you’ll see why.  Jane is a maker, a visionary, and one heck of an educator.  The first time I came to understand the significance of Challenge Based Learning was when I read her incredible guide to it available free, through iTunes here.

This is a photo I took of Jane at the ADE Institute in San Diego in 2014

This is a photo I took of Jane at the ADE Institute in San Diego in 2014

Jane’s book puts CBL into perspective.  This is about teachers and students being innovative together.  This is about authentic inquiry which reminds us all to rethink the power of learning.

The opportunities for learning in our world today are immense and we need to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us.  We not only have access to all of the information in our world today, but we have access to one another.George Couros

Just recently, I attempted to emulate Jane’s ability to put learning to use in the real world.  During our PDW (personal development week) at school, I was part of a 12 person team with two teachers and ten students heading to Bucharest, Romania. Our intention was to work with an NGO, known as Second Chance, and to help them develop a media campaign to win over further donations, and grants.  As an IBDP Language and Literature teacher, I spend a lot of time looking at the media with students.  We decode adverts, think about agendas, and ask critical questions about the way meaning is made.  The big moon shot idea was to allow students to take their media literacy to a new level by making their own short films.  In order to do this effectively, it was important that we spend as much time as possible with the amazing founder of the NGO, Cosmina Pandele.

Here’s a look at some of the poignant moments spent with Second Chance:

As part of our media/digital literacy practice with this trip, we also decided to use the music of Milo, a band made up of a student and teacher at our school.  They granted their permission for their songs to be featured in our short films.  Their song is featured in the video above. It is important to remind students that we often have all the artists we need on campus–we have access to a whole treasure trove of resources when we take the time to value our community.

The final videos for our media campaign are still in the works.  I’m excited to see how well we put our learning to use, and to see the response we receive.

Jane Ross taught me to think about her ‘Backpack Classroom,’ concept on trips like these.

Perhaps one of the best things that I learned from Jane when it comes to CBL is that you have to put students in charge as often as possible.  Leaders become leaders by leading. If we want our students to solve problems, take on challenges, and make connections between their tools and the world, we need to give them big pockets of time, loads of flexible options, and rounds of applause.

I’ve also learned that to do the level of authentic learning that Jane does, you need to be connected.  Jane is very well networked, and very active with Social Media.  One of the challenges with engaging in CBL is not knowing where to start.  On Twitter,   is a wonderful place to kick ideas around, lurk and learn.

Jane, thank you for the example you set, the educator you are, and the many memories you’ve left me with.  Although I don’t share a physical campus with Jane Ross today, I still enjoy connecting with her–and being inspired to reflect on the fantastic work in CBL that she has shared with the world.