Future-ready Learning Leaders: Jackie Robillard and Kristina Tzetzos

Two girls work with a small robot on a desk

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At our TransformEd Leadership Summit in Vancouver, we met Jackie Robillard and Kristina Tzetzos, the duo behind the blog Jack + Kris. Jackie and Kristina are teachers from Vancouver who’ve set their sights on the business world. As teachers-turned-entrepreneurs, they’re using their years of experience in elementary and secondary education to create an edtech platform that documents and assesses personalized learning. They’re currently piloting in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
We asked Jack and Kris to share their thoughts on how personalized learning impacts the Class of 2030. Read their ideas and benefit from their unique insights into education.

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Can you tell us about some ways you’ve altered your own classroom behaviours to drive long-term outcomes for students?
KRIS: Teach less. Information is ubiquitous thanks to technology. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that we’re still “the ones who have all the answers.” We’re no longer called to be models of instruction, but models of learning. Let students discover, try, fail, ask questions, create things. Learn with them. Teachers can guide them through the process, challenge them, celebrate with them. When we hear “long-term outcomes,” we think about what our kids are going to need to become successful, contributing members of society. Their reality is more unpredictable than ever—the world is accelerating and reinventing daily, so the best way to have a profound impact is to teach what matters long-term: preparing kids to take on the unpredictable. Give them the skills and confidence to participate in the growing gig economy.
JACK: As teachers, we fall into the habit of overthinking a pregame strategy: year plans, unit plans, lesson plans, day plans—minute plans, even! Differentiating instruction, gathering materials, developing assessment, documenting learning, doing homework inventory, monitoring progress, implementing brain breaks, holding daily conferences, and on and on—we get so caught up in student compliance, we completely forget about student capacity. As teachers, we discovered that our students can do so much more than we could ever plan for.  The game plan is empathy. Get to know your students—like, really get to know them. Create learning opportunities around that!

What have been some of the most surprising outcomes of personalized learning? 
JACK: Humility. Students learn beyond your capabilities as a teacher. They know things you don’t. They’re creative in ways you’re not. When Jane’s developing an app that turns off a phone in social settings, and Kyle’s campaigning his new football program that uses VR to limit unnecessary injury, you know that your role has shifted. Your job is to be in their corner. When you design a learning experience they care about, they genuinely learn. It’s not that you’re not valuable. You’re just not the sole provider of information. Your value is in helping them find their value.
KRIS: Social motivation. When learning opportunities were more open, my kids were motivated by the desire to stand out—to differentiate their work from everybody else’s. They challenged themselves to think differently because they naturally juxtaposed their ideas against other students’. When they heard “Show your learning however you want,” they were so concerned it might look like they “copied” someone else’s idea that they made it their mission to be different. It created a much more dynamic and generative culture in the classroom because with each new opportunity they felt they couldn’t repeat something that had been done before. Hello novelty and innovation!

How does the digital, virtual, or online space empower student voice?
KRIS: I read an article recently in the Harvard Business Review about how employees changed their behaviour when they were being filmed. Often the uses of technology in the classroom are for efficiency and surveillance, seeing proof of learning for each student. But the article brought up another interesting find: employers were also able to spot and reward good work. Having an online space for student voice gives equal opportunity for students to be “spotted” and heard. Their ideas can be frozen, referred back to, and accessed by everyone. The extroverts are usually the voices that dominate a classroom. Or you have a class full of extroverts, and no voice dominates because they’re all competing, so it’s just noise. If you’re a teacher, you know what I mean. Technology provides equal amplification of everyone’s voice, so even that quiet kid in the corner can chime in, have a presence in the classroom, and build a stronger connection with their peers.

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No one understands the technology needs of the Class of 2030 like teachers, and translating that experience into a new platform geared toward personalized learning is an exciting step! If you want to learn more about the needs of the Class of 2030 and the future of education, read our research with McKinsey and Co. If you’re interested in growing your classroom technology skills, you can find courses, resources, and professional connections on the Microsoft Educator Community. Explore teaching tools and low-cost education devices at microsoft.ca/education.

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