I have given several Ignite Presentations. I really like the format – one is forced to be clear, direct and succinct in the presentation. I also enjoy that it gives one the chance to be provocative with the intention to stimulate discussion.
My most recent one I gave this at C21 Canada’s national session with Superintendents was entitled, “They Used to Be Our Best Teachers”.
This was a chance (some provocatively) to reflect on the work of the last decade. It is actually quite amazing how much has changed. Our classrooms do look very different from only ten years ago. It has been an interesting journey. The case for change in our community has been made in a system that is regarded as one of the very finest in the world. We had to challenge the “why change” argument. And while we saw the changes in professions from journalism to health care and demise of businesses like Blockbuster Video and Kodak – it was really about embracing the notion that you don’t have to be sick to get better.
And we have learned a lot. In retrospect, we should have focused more of our conversation of the last decade around the simple question – is it good for kids? Too often, especially early on, we got in black and white debates like – should we use inquiry? do we need computers in the classroom? Of course these really were not the right questions. And many of us also felt a sense of loss as teaching changed. I loved being the content expert at the front of the room, and when people said I should be the “guide at the side” I felt a loss. And I know others did as well and sometimes this loss presented itself as opposition.
And more recently, we have got help in the transformation. New curriculum in British Columbia has made us all look at our practice in the classroom, changes in International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Programs have signaled the spread of the changes, and all partner groups in BC have found common ground in their efforts around curriculum, assessment and related matters.
What is so exciting now is that we are often celebrating teachers who were our best teachers “the old way” and now are our finest “the new way” – of course in the end teaching is such a human undertaking. And while notions of change and transformation are not static, and the movement has been far more messy and less linear than I might have thought, and there is always the possibility that a system snaps-back, it is exciting to see how far we have come.
The real conclusion of this Ignite Talk is not what we need to do, but a celebration of what we have done and the directions we are going.
I know sharing a presentation without the audio and video often loses its context, but here is a copy of the slides (if you are viewing this via email you may need to open your browser to see the slides):
One of the great takeaways from the event was the consistent threads that ran through the presentations from Superintendents across Canada. While we all in very different contexts, the system goals we are trying to accomplish are far more similar than they are different. And while education falls under provincial jurisdiction, there sure seems to be some great opportunities for national conversations about the future of learning and schooling.