Moving On (Flickr) by .craig under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs Generic Licence
I am just completing a four course graduate certificate at the University of Calgary. From the beginning, I loved the program name – “Shapeshifting – Transforming Teaching and Learning in a Knowledge Society.”
What I have come to understand through the coursework in the past year is that the changes that need to happen in education have to be more than transformative, they have to be revolutionary. I looked up the word “revolutionary” in a dictionary/thesaurus and found these synomyms: “Novel, innovative, original, avant-garde, mutinous, rebellious, insurgent, insurrectionist, radical, seditious, subversive . . .” Yes, I decided. I am talking about revolution.
Here’s a small example. In a recent blog post, I suggested that the work we do at school could be powerful when it is multidisciplinary. “Could science, music, art, and language arts teachers collaborate? Think of the cross curricular, transliterate learning that would happen, not only for students, but teachers.”
A colleague in my class replied to my post. He said, “In your last paragraph you talk about collaboration between teachers to produce cross-curricular transliteracy. This would be wonderful but having been in on several timetabling discussions it would be next to impossible in most school settings.”
I get where he is coming from. As educators, we are often held captive by the systemic bureaucracy that discourages innovation. But really, a timetable determines whether or not we can do multidisciplinary project work? Really?
We need educators to come up with innovative solutions to educational challenges, and we need leaders at all levels, whether school, district, or provincial, to support them. Individually and systemically, we are trying to hold on to old notions of power and control, that we simply do not have.
Sadly, I don’t see change happening within the system as it exists today. What I do see is students (and their parents) turning away from traditional education to find learning opportunities that work for them.
Students want and see the need for developing important new literacies. Literacies, that will require practice outside mainstream education, because they are not part of the present day school curriculum.
This is not new information. As mentioned in the 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning (published five, yes, five years ago in 2008), “. . . amplified educators and learners will become the organization superheroes of schools and districts. Their approaches will challenge institutional hierarchies and policies but will also provide the exemplars of, and provocations for, innovation. Watch for signs of amplification outside and at the edges of the formal system –in such places as home school networks, independent schools, after-school programs, and community-based learning programs.”
And, as mentioned in the 2013 Horizon Report, “New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to traditional models of schooling” (p.9).
This shift is all too real in my tiny home school district. As the result of a strong push from a group of parents, and under the auspices of the public school district, a Waldorf inspired K-4 school is opening its doors in the fall in Canmore. What pressures this will place on traditional schools within the system and how our schools deal with it remain to be seen.
“Institutions must consider the unique value that schools add to a world in which information is everywhere, and generally free. In such a world, sense-making and the ability to assess the credibility of information are paramount. Mentoring and preparing students for the world in which they will live and work is again at the forefront. K-12 institutions have always been seen as critical paths to educational credentialing, but challenges from competing sources are redefining what these paths can look like” (2013 Horizon Report, p. 8).
The staff at our school has tried this year to re-think and re-vision what our school’s purpose is. I think part of this re-visioning has to look at the literacies our children will need in the future. Though traditional literacies of reading and writing remain important, what other literacies should we be developing from kindergarten? Can we create multidisciplinary opportunities for our children to learn meaningfully and wholistically at all grades? Will that keep our schools relevant and thriving in the future?
The Institute for the Future. (2008). 2020 Forecast: Creating the future of learning. Retrieved from http://www.knowledgeworks.org/sites/default/files/2020-Forecast.pdf
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada V., Freeman, A., and Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
Reader’s Digest Oxford complete wordfinder. (1996). Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association.