Connections-Based Learning

Connections-Base Learning is a book written by a friend of mine, Sean Robinson from BC, Canada. To me, it is something much deeper than the title of a book, but rather a description of our experience together that seems to have come full circle.

A few years ago, Sean and I used SKYPE to connect our students from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast. We showed them how to solder and sent them a little starter kit so that they could make a copy of the Colorado Lantern ( It was a great success, but we soon moved on to other projects and students lost touch with each other. I don’t think either of us knew how important this SKYPE woudl become.

He and I would touch base every once in a while, but never had a chance to really catch up. I was so excited when he won the BC teacher of the year award and there was one of our lights in his video. I was even more excited to find out that there were only two Canadian Teachers who made it to the top 50 Finalists in the Global Teacher Prize by the Varkey Foundation and that it was the two of us! We would both be going to Dubai to represent Canada! How wonderful!

There was something symbolic about us getting up in the early morning before the rest of the VTA’s to go to the top to the world on the 125th floor of the Burj Kalife tower in Dubai. As we travelled, we found out that there were so many connections between us. We both had twins that were premature and now doing fine. We have both been involved with book writing. His is actually published, my book with David Whyley is still in progress, but the two books that I contributed to with Armand Doucet are doing very well. However, perhaps most importantly, we both had a desire to connect our students to each other and to the world in meaningful ways. He even wrote a whole book about it, which I had not yet read.

A better wordsmith than I would come up with some kind of metaphor for the two of us together on the highest man-made structure in the world looking far into the horizon contemplating what got us, both as individuals and as humanity, to this point and where it migth take us. The technology enhanced scopes at the top of the tower allowed us to see what Dubai looks like now, at night and into the past. We talked about how our grandfathers could never have imagined our current world. We pondered how we could prepare our current students for a future world that we cannot equally imagine. What a great feeling and perspective going into the Global Teacher Prize and GESF summit.

Through out the remainder of the GTP/GESF, I was happy to bump into Sean as a long lost friend and reconnect quickly about the days event. it was so busy and exciting that I did not get a chance to read his book that he geneoursly gave to me and signed for me.

Those of you who know me, know how slowly I read. So it was a big surprise to even me, when I started reading Sean’s Connections Based Learning book in almost one sitting. I started on the plane leaving Dubai and finished before landing in Moncton. I was entranced. I loved how he wrote, talking about his students and projects in a personal and practical way and combined it with theory that helps students connect, collaborate and cultivate.

When he told me that Engineering Brightness Canada (now was in the book, I expected a sentence and maybe a name drop. Little did I know that Engineering Brightness would show up in some depth and detail in almost every chapter through out the book. I did not know that small interaction began something special. I was so proud to play a small part in what is now their own international movement. They have also looked at making solar charged tablets and are partnering with a solar panel organization. The connections continue, because their partner is also our partner. Tony at Voltaic Systems managed to be connected to both of us- independently. I am so happy that Sean took something small, and made it his own project which has now seen lights in the Dominican and Uganda. More students in Canada are having an evolved Transdisciplinary educational experience and more people living in light poverty have access to clean light. Teachers and students learning through Connections.