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Posts Tagged ‘BC Ed Plan’

solutionThe shifts in the BC curriculum are coming fast. Next fall the “draft” stamp comes off of all curriculum in K-9 across all subject areas. And if the current timelines remain in place, the same will happen one year later for grades 10-12. As I have written here before, the changes have been overwhelmingly well received and the conversations that have come out of them not just about what is covered in school but how it is covered have been outstanding.

As we get close to the September full implementation date, I am nervous that I see some beginning to look for solutions to cover the curriculum.  And just what does that mean?

For many of us growing up, we saw the grade 8 Social Studies curriculum as the Patterns of Civilization textbook.  The Science 10 curriculum was the Science Probe textbook.  I talk to many parents now who believe the Math curriculum in our elementary school is really the Math Makes Sense textbook. The new curriculum does not only shift what we are teaching, and how we are teaching, but also forces us to think differently about resources.  The focus on big ideas, students constructing knowledge and core competencies require different kinds of support resources.  If the era of a single textbook being able to equal a course of study was not yet over, it is now.

We have our second of two days this year dedicated to the implementation of the curriculum this week.  The day will focus on the competencies (communication, thinking and personal and social).   It is a very rich day that schools have planned with teacher leaders at each site leading the work on their staff.  Along with Aboriginal education and resources, the competencies were the number one item that staff across the district have wanted to focus on.  The work in our schools has been exciting and inspiring.  Teachers and administrators are working together looking at all aspects of teaching and learning and what the shifts mean for them, and their students.

As we get closer to September, there will be anxiousness around resources. We need to look to avoid the easy solutions of books or programs that promise to ‘cover’ the curriculum.  There will absolutely need to be new resources over time to support the new content, competencies and inquiry-based focus of the curriculum.  Aboriginal education, in particular, is an area that has not been well covered in previous resources and is embedded across all areas in the refreshed curriculum.

Just as the curriculum has been a process rather than a proclamation over the last several years, so should the work to find resources to support the students, teacher and classroom.  I think we need to think carefully about format – how much digital and how much paper based?  We need to  think about consistency – which resources should be standard across classes and schools?  We need to think of local vs. broad – which resources should be centred on the local community?  We need to think of content vs. process – should the resources be big ideas / inquiry focused or focused on subject content?  And what about professionally produced vs. locally teacher-curated resources?  And do we always need new resources – what do we have now that still works or could be used differently to support student learning?

I see some problem-based experiences that students do to support their learning and I see some other “new”resources that look like the old resources with a fresh coat of paint and where words like inquiry and problem-based learning were sprinkled throughout but little else changed.

And all of this is just the start. The refreshed curriculum is a real chance to also think carefully and differently about the resources we use to support learning.  And we know there is something reassuring when our children bring home backpacks of books – each one representing an area of study.

In our urgency to get up-to-speed with the changes in curriculum we should be thoughtfully looking for resources that help bring learning to life for our students and not ones that cover the new stuff in the older, familiar ways.

As I have said before, exciting times!

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In my previous post (here) I referenced an upcoming event at SFU, Targeting Technology for Maximum Student Benefit.  To think out loud a bit, as well as to garner some ideas, I want to take a look at a number of issues that need to be unpacked, and to create some models for comment, pushback and refinement. So, the idea is to engage in a larger conversation, but less about the case for change, and more about a tangible idea of what that change might look like.

One of the points raised in the BC Education Plan under Learning with Technology is “The Province will promote the use of technology for both students and educators.”  So, why does the BC Education Plan want to promote the use of technology?  Technology is only the device;  it is access to the benefits of a digitized world where everything is amplified that is the greater goal.  For many, this part of the education plan speaks to moving to one-to-one opportunities.  In the feedback I have seen around this, many have raised concerns over equity, and how one-to-one might further divide our students into have and have-nots, and while most believe technology can help overcome barriers of access and geography, we need to ensure there is some baseline. While it plays out as ‘technology’, what so many want for their children is the benefits of digital learning — relevant, connected, unlimited.

So, given that it seems unlikely that all students will be provided with a similar device (as was done in Maine and has been done in specific grades in BC at different times), what might a model look like that embraces personally owned devices, but would also tackle the  issue of equity for all?

Some underlying background assumptions:

1) If we believe technology is crucial for students moving forward, we need to find a way for all students to have a base level of access.

2)  Many still argue about the merits of technology; however, without question, the world is becoming increasingly digital. Accessing content, communicating, working, learning, and all facets of life are being shaped by the ‘digitization’ of the world.  For our students to thrive in this world, they need to have access AND direction.

3)  All efforts need to be learning efforts; the goal is to increase personalized learning that improves engagement, relevancy, achievement, and the technology is there to support this goal.

3)  Given that it is unlikely any grand plan will come together to support all students and staff with technology, implementation will be incremental.

4)  Simply encouraging students to bring their own devices is not enough, or an effective strategy.  The strategy must be purposeful, supported and unified for both teachers and students.  Failure to do this will leave us with pockets of innovation, and without a sustainable model.

5)  There will be teachers who continue to push the boundaries, who will do amazing and edgy stuff — teachers always have and always will.  But, while this should be encouraged, it shouldn’t be understood as a base expectation.  Not every class needs to be Skyping with students in Europe for their assignments, or producing videos to explain their work (but it’s great in classes that do).

6)  To be clear, one-to-one computing is not the solution to any challenge — it may, though, be part of the answer to going forward.  If we think by placing an Internet appliance in a student’s hands alone will create a more creative, innovative, or more intelligent student we are missing the point.  Like the paper and pen of the last generation, it is the ‘oxygen’ to breathe in a digital world.

So, what might a strategy look like:

1)  It is important to start with either one grade or one school.  While this post covers the technology, there is huge support needed for staff.  This is not a pilot project — this is the first step in a strategy.  The ‘sweet spot’  seems to be between Grades 4 -10. The elementary level is appealing as a starting point because it is one (or very few) teacher(s) interacting with each student, and easier for early success.  Grades 4-10 is also the area where learning strategies can be integrated and cross-curricular, supporting personalized learning strategies.

2)  Teachers need to have the technology in their hands early on to become comfortable with it and before students are using it on a regular basis.  There is also a lot of work to be done to support teachers in adopting pedagogy in this ‘new’ classroom environment.

3)  We need to identify what will make the digital learning ‘sticky’ for classes and schools to enable meaningful and powerful learning; it might be digital writing through a blog, student portfolios, or digital content (e-books/content). It will need to be supported for both teachers and students, and framed around an inquiry-based approach with student ownership and teachers as guides in learning.

4)  A standard about what technology works best is required.  Absolutely, bring what you have, but that strategy is far from perfect. Much can be done with a smartphone, but I am not convinced it is the best device for learning. I still think a small laptop that allows for work production is currently the best device, of course, this is changing with the growth of slates (iPads) and the potential of new devices like ultrabooks.

The really big question, how do we ensure equity?

  • Have students with their own devices bring them. There are more students who have them than we think, and if the case is made that students are benefiting from the learning, more families will invest in the mobile technology for school and home.  If parents can be assured that an investment in Grade 4 will carry their child through for four-to-six years with their learning, many will make this choice.  I am often stunned by families that buy their child a cell phone, but don’t have a computer.  I am also quite comfortable in saying that if they are investing in a cell phone and not a computer there are better options to support their child’s learning.  We need to help guide families with what technology will have the greatest impact in supporting their child’s learning.
  •  Of course, not all students will supply a computer up front, this could range from a few students to the entire class depending on the school or district.  The second option would be a lease-to-own option for students. There are a number of options available with price points around $20 per month.  This picks up on the cell phone argument, and a more affordable device with more value for student learning.  Families could be assured their child would be getting a device that would be ideal for learning for a number of years, and could be used at school and home.
  •  Finally, there are  students that, for many reasons (financial and otherwise) won’t embrace the first two options.  We need to find ways to supply these students with a comparable technology to use at school.  Many schools have class sets of laptops that could be repurposed for this project; in other cases investments will need to be made.  The challenge is that the investments will be uneven (and this is difficult to do) with some schools requiring a greater percentage of investment than others.

The uptake on the first two options will determine the speed at which the program could grow.  There is also a belief (as evidenced) that devices will continue to come down in price over the next few years and the $100 Internet device for schools is hopefully soon at hand.  We can take the approach that laptops may likely be what calculators were for me in senior math, something that I could bring, rent or borrow.

I realize that we are far from coming to terms on the question about whether the future is every student with a device, but I do think many see that as being part of schooling in the not-so-distant future.  If that is true, we need to begin test models.

If we believe this is what we want for all learners in public education, we need to find ways to make sure it is available to all learners.  If we believe that all students should have a level of access, given our economic and political realities, we need to engage and explore ways for this to happen.

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