Recently I had the opportunity to hear Rod Allen and Maureen Dockendorf talk about the future of education in BC. They came to our district to share some of the amazing work that is going on around the province, and to share the Ministry’s vision of education. I took copious notes during their presentation…here is what I came away with. Rod started the presentation and highlighted the fact that there is great work going on in our province. We are a high performing jurisdiction – among the best in the world. Countries like Finland…yes Finland, are looking to us for answers. They are astounded by the success we are having with such a diverse and multicultural population. We have some of the best teachers who are doing some of the most innovative things in the world. He suggested instead of visiting High Tech High in San Diego, we should make the trip to the Gulf Islands or Rossland. Rod was very up front with his opinion. He said that right now the Ministry and School Districts are filled with policies that are one size fits all and restrict what districts, schools and teachers are able to do. We are doing great work, but there is still much to do. He asked the question:
When will what we know change what we do? Further, what will it take for what we know to change what we do?
His answer: Personalized Learning and handing control over to the people in the field. In the eyes of the Ministry Personalized learning means:
- Fewer high level outcomes
- Student, parents and teachers co-construct learning
- Richer more relevant personalized experiences
- Multi-dimensional documentation of learning.
Again and again, both Rod and Maureen kept delivering the message that Personalized Learning is a journey we are on. There is no timeline, the more we learn the more evolve, the more we evolve the more we innovate. Personalized learning is not something we check off and then move on to something else.
There are big questions to answer:
When are kids ready to make the step to individualization?
How much base knowledge is required?
Who decides when a student is ready?
Answering these questions will take time and every answer will likely lead to new questions. Again, it’s a journey.
One step toward personalization is curricular change. New curriculum will create “white space” allowing us to change the mindsets in classrooms from “covering” to “uncovering” the learning outcomes. A huge shift to be sure. Even though we are a high performing jurisdiction we are not focusing on Core Competencies or Big Ideas. New curriculum will change that.
An entire curriculum on a page?
Who would have thought?
Curricular change is not enough. The message from the Ministry is clear. Stop asking for permission to be innovative. Do innovative things and ask for forgiveness. They want to create a system that enables innovation and allows schools and districts to create programs that fits their local context.
We know that flipping a classroom is more than Khan Academy or just watching videos at home and doing worksheets in school. Flipping involves questioning everything – each and every aspect of what we do. The province is piloting and supporting innovative practices in reporting, assessment, special education, graduation. Quite simply, everything is open for discussion. Like those that are truly flipping their classrooms (Carolyn Durley for example), the Ministry is questioning all of their (and our) long standing assumptions on how we do things.
The second part of the conversation was led by irrepressible Maureen Dockendorf. Her passion for learning is unmatched. It is hard not get excited listening to her speak. She described herself as being the most optimistic she has ever been and feels that we are on the cusp of something great. Coming from someone with such a broad base of knowledge and experience that means something.
Her message was clear. We NEED teachers. Without teachers, we will not see change. We need to build trust and support great teaching. What does that mean? She said stop blaming the Ministry for lack of innovation. Maureen explained that we have huge parameters and freedom. We need to stop looking to the Ministry for the guiding light. Put kids in the centre of the learning…there is no one way do to business. We have the freedom to do what is best for kids in our context.
Maureen (and Rod’s) goal is to de-politicize Personalized Learning. If this movement is tied to a political office, we know that it is doomed to fail – especially in BC. They want to continue to tie our journey to great research and high performing jurisdictions around the world.
Follow the US or UK models? Not on your life. This is not our reality.
I came out of the meeting excited, inspired and more than anything…HOPEFUL! I too feel we are on the cusp of something great.
I would love to hear your thoughts – positive or negative. It could be great conversation.
Interested in reading more on some of the initiatives check out the links below: