If I had one wish, with the release of A Vision for 21st Century Education produced by the Premier’s Council on Technology, it is that these ideas find their way into conversations in every home in the province and, in turn, ripple into larger conversations in communities, schools and school districts.
A core challenge for British Columbia — being one of the highest performing jurisdictions in the world — is that it is difficult to make the case, or build the urgency, for change. That said, the people I talk to — students, teachers, or parents — largely agree with the big ideas out of this latest government report, which mirror recent educational reform blueprints in progressive jurisdictions around the world.
Who doesn’t want their kids to leave with these skills and attributes?
- Functional Numeracy and Literacy
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Creativity and Innovation
- Technological Literacy
- Communications and Media Literacy
- Collaboration and Teamwork
- Personal Organization
- Motivation, Self-Regulation and Adaptability
- Ethics, Civic Responsibility, Cross-Cultural Awareness Skills
These nine attributes begin to make concrete — what is often very difficult to describe — the 21st century learner.
The paper is a potential roadmap, signalling the necessary transformations:
- From Learning Information to Learning to Learn
- From Data to Discovery
- From One Size Fits All to Tailored Learning
- From Testing to Assess to Assessing to Learn
- From Classroom Learning to Lifelong Learning Transformation
This list is quite reassuring. All teachers, schools and districts, can look at this list and say, “We ARE doing this”. And, we are doing more of it than we were five years ago. And, given where much of our current professional development is invested right now, we are going to be gaining the skills to do more of it over the next five years.
Finally, the new roles described, seem to fall nicely out of the previous two lists. If we focus on the skills and attributes described, and de-emphasize content, then continue to invest in what is described as “key transformations,” new roles will evolve:
- From Passive Student to Active Learner
- From Parent as Supporter to Parent as Participant
- From Teacher as Lecturer to Teacher as Guide Shifting
And what about the technology? Technology, done right, can help make this happen in ways not possible without it, in what the report describes as, “the components of the system”:
- A flexible educational path with project-based or integrated learning
- A blended system that employs classrooms and technology
- Technology to access learning objects and teaching tools
- Open access to information systems for content and decision-making
- Constant feedback and assessment to allow students, parents and teachers, to adjust, and to meet challenges or accommodate progress
Much of the immediate analysis of the report, from the Premier’s Technology Council, focussed on why we can’t do it. When we move through to implementation, we quickly drive up the “Yeah, buts”. But, without a doubt, there are changes which could be made by others, who could help this report become a reality. There is also much we can do. We should use this document, and many of the supporting resources it references, to start, and continue conversations.
Some of the questions I would like us to consider, include:
Is this what we want and need for our students?
What are the examples we currently see in our classrooms, schools and districts, of what is described?
What needs to change with curriculum and assessment to bring these ideas to life?
What can we learn from other high-performing jurisdictions — whether they are Finland and Singapore, Ontario and Alberta, or our neighbouring school districts — to guide what we do?
How can a district support students and teachers on this journey?
What can we do now?
And, I know there will be many more.
I am looking forward to these and many similar conversations in West Vancouver, in the New Year.
Please take the time to read this report.