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  • Tara Bordeaux

Creating Significant Learning Environments

When creating significant learning environments (CSLE), collecting the dots will not be enough for students to make meaningful connections. They must connect the dots and connect the concepts that ignite their passion and offers opportunities for failure so they can build the foundation necessary to be successful (Harapnuik, 2020).

Are we asking our kids to collect dots or connect dots?

Seth Godin, in his TedTalk, Stop Stealing Dreams, asks a poignant question, 'are we asking our kids to collect dots or connect dots"? His words are powerful. He mentions the power of having persistence in the face of a skeptical authority figure and how standing out takes guts and produces results. He adds that if you care enough about your work to be criticized for it you have done a good day's work.

Grades are illusions. Passion and insight are reality.

His talk reminded me a lot of the motivational video I saw of Steve Jobs about connecting the dots. (To this day, I still love this video. It is part of the Fearless Soul channel on YouTube. Highly recommend it. There is something there for everyone.)

If today were the last day of my life would I want to do what I am about to do, today?


Jobs asks that question in the video, along with stating the importance of doing what you love and it has stuck with me ever since. Now, after learning about the COVA & CSLE model, it has taken on a much more significant meaning. Not only am I starting to connect the dots in my own life, but I am now looking at how to make sure that the curriculum that I offer my students gives them a chance to connect the dots as well.


It has always been a priority for me to give students exposure to real-world experiences through project-based learning opportunities in a non-traditional learning environment. That will always be at the heart of my program. My approach, however, is starting to shift. I have always considered myself a constructivist educator, but as I learn more about the different types of learning theories, I find myself very much a connectivist as well.

This realization has inspired me to continue learning about myself both as a teacher and as a learner. It also provides a framework for me to change my focus to offer more authentic learning opportunities for my students.

Next year, I will no longer be teaching just filmmaking and photography. Instead, my program will become much more well-rounded in Cinematic Arts, Media, and Design. Two new courses, Digital Design and Media Production and Digital Art and Animation, will be added to my course sequence. This decision was made from the realization that my students needed more exposure to other types of visual arts and technology courses than I was providing them.

The main challenge my students and I face next year is a lack of resources. My Innovation Plan demonstrates our need for new equipment so that students will have access to current technology outside of school. Having more opportunities outside of the classroom not only benefits students in my courses, it also enables them to create more work around our school community, which helps elevate the work of all of the teachers and students at our school.


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©2020 by Tara Bordeaux.