Port Coquitlam teacher nominated for international award

Sean Robinson of Riverside secondary connects students globally

A Port Coquitlam teacher is winning international recognition for his teaching strategy called Connections Based Learning that encourages students to collaborate with peers and experts in other cities and countries.

Sean Robinson, a Riverside secondary science and digital literacy teacher, is one of two Canadian finalists for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, which recognizes teachers for their outstanding contributions to education.

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“It was super exciting when I found out, I was really honored to be part of this huge group of people,” said Robinson, who is one of 50 finalists for the international teaching prize.

Recently, he and a group of his students were talking via Skype with a group of New Brunswick high school students about ways to use solar power to run laptops and keyboards.

Robinson said this kind of collaboration benefits students because it gives them real world experience working to come up with solutions to important world problems, such as how to make computers and the internet available in rural areas of developing countries.

The students are working on a project that could be used in countries, such as Uganda, where Robinson will soon visit to participate in the inaugural Connections Based Learning conference for African educators.

“I thought this is really a task for my students. We went through Connections Based Learning strategies, working out loud, making other conniption to make these kind of things possible. My students connected with a group called Voltaic Systems, who create solar solutions.They were helping the kids with calculations — they were able to say ‘these are the panels we recommend, and we’ll send you some free panels, and we’ll charge you for the batteries.’”

The students are experimenting with the solar panels and batteries to see how long it takes to power up a laptop and are collaborating with New Brunswick high school students, led by a fellow Varkey nominee and teacher Ian Fogarty, on the best way to do it.

Robinson said he is working with other Varkey finalists on projects, including a teacher from Uganda, and is thrilled to be making global connections he believes will benefit students.

“We really did work together with the class, we put work on the online portfolio, her students commented to the work the students did and so we really did collaborate.”

On Dec. 29, Robinson will fly to Uganda to meet with Catherine Nakabugo and other teachers he’s worked with for the inaugural Power of Connection conference — and he’ll be bringing the solar panel and batteries with him, in the hope of furthering connections and the students’ work.

“I’m in the process of sharing out this teaching approach,” explained Robinson, who is using funds from his Premier’s Awards for Excellence in Education prize to pay for the trip and the project.

“For me this, is just more opportunity to help educators to develop their skills and dealing with genuine projects and making connections around the world, I feel honored in using the prize money this way.”

As for the Varkey nomination, Robinson said he is thrilled to be counted among the world’s top educators and hopes to make connections with them online or in person one day.

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