Realising the Revolution: Walk the Chalk

“You won’t believe it, but my mom told me that I can go on the New York trip.  She said that since this was my passion, they would support it.”

A grade 10 student recently shared this exciting news with her friends in the hallway outside my office.  What was thrilling for me was to hear the words “my passion” and “support”.  It had been one year since we had the privilege of hearing Sir Ken Robinson speak about the importance of finding our element, that unique place where our passions and our talents combine.  He urged students, parents and educators to re-think education and to re-define models of schooling that had become antiquated.  His powerful message has been well-received.  The usage of the vocabulary necessary to reform education is becoming more common in schools and in boards of education.  One needs only to look at the buzz created by the release of British Columbia’s Education Plan by the Ministry of Education.

The Plan identifies five main features for change:

  1. Personalised learning for every student
  2. Quality teaching and learning
  3. Flexibility and choice
  4. High standards
  5. Learning empowered by technology

These elements may be somewhat obvious, but their articulation is significant because it provides a framework to guide the change that is necessary in the way that schools function.  As Sir Ken has pointed out, we cannot continue to have an educational system that was built in the age of the Industrial Revolution.  The challenge, as put out by Sir Ken and the Ministry of Education, is:  What are you doing to change the way we educate our children?

At the time of Minister of Education George Abbott’s announcement of the newly launched education plan website, I was sitting in a forum hosted by UBC on the future of education in Canada.  The Canadian Council of Learning had released their report and the President of CCL, Dr. Paul Cappon, was speaking along with a panel of educators.  While that report is a topic for a separate blog in itself, there were some key points that I took away, among which were:

  • An important piece of personalisation is individualisation of assessment and feedback; teachers play a critical role here.
  • The lack of ability to secure apprenticeships is creating a bottleneck.

So, what are the first changes that I am going to make as an educator and an administrator?  I will actively work with teaching professionals to implement tools and systems that improve the individualisation of assessment and feedback.  No longer should we tolerate standardised testing methods in our classrooms as the primary source of grading and reporting.  Let’s provide our teachers with the resources and the time to communicate ongoing and effectively with their students.

Furthermore, I will seek meaningful internship opportunities.  We need the private sector to come forward and personally invest in the learning of our students.  I would like to see apprenticeship experiences in edutainment, the creative arts, global service, sustainability and resource management, as well as in the trades and in the service industries.  These are but two of the areas in which I want to make change happen.

It is important to think outside of the box, but it is even more imperative now that we act outside of the box.  What will you do to improve the way we educate?

Sir Ken Robinson: Making progressive education mainstream

At TEDx London, Sir Ken Robinson concluded the day’s conference with a poignant reminder: “The reason why today’s conversation is so important is that we are living in revolutionary times; that’s why we need a revolution in education”.

He identifies two major drivers of change, population growth and technology, both of which are changing exponentially …

“And that rate of change is going to accelerate; it’s not going to decrease.  We’re not heading towards some calm pasture where all the change will be behind us; they will simply become more tumultuous”.  Therefore, we now have to take note of the magnitude of changes and challenges, and of the need to see education as key to the future.

“I think it’s important that we recognise the conversation is not happening in a vacuum.  It’s not a historical vacuum; it’s not a cultural vacuum”.  The issue is to make personalisation, an “intensive relationship between students and teachers”, customization and community involvement part of mainstream education (refer to the posting of December 5, 2011).

“The technologies we have available in the schools don’t make for great education, but great educators can make something great of them.” Change needs to happen to the technologies in themselves and in the way implement them to personalise education.

“If we are resilient, and if we invest in and believe properly in our true creative powers, if we apply them in all our educational settings, then we will begin to shape a different type of future for everybody”.  Sir Ken concludes by pledging his continued support of promoting change in education and of those who make it happen.

Watch the video of Sir Ken’s final remarks at TEDx, London; or download the transcript:

Direct download:
Outro by Sir Ken Robinson at TEDx, London -The Education Revolution September 17, 2011

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Final Remarks-Outro by Sir Ken Robinson at TEDx, London -The Education Revolution September 17, 2011

Sir Ken Robinson: The Learning Revolution continues …

“The reason I think we need a revolution [in education] is really captured in a phrase you hear politicians often misuse. They talk about the need to ‘get back to basics’ in education; and, I think, we should. The problem, I think, is that many politicians, when they say “get back to basics”, seem to believe the basics are a group of subjects that they did when they were at school; and in particular, they tend to emphasise literacy and numeracy and science. Well, of course, they are fantastically important; but the basics of education are not a group of subjects. The basics in education are fundamental purposes …”

“I find it interesting; people can talk all day about education, but never mention ‘learning’. And, therefore, what I’m arguing is that the education revolution has to be based on a radical commitment to improving learning, however that happens”.

Sir Ken Robinson
September 17, 2011

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In his latest talk, Sir Ken not only identifies the basics in education as “fundamental purposes” that manifest in economics, culture and personal realities; he markedly identifies specific core principles that would radically improve learning:

  1. Personalisation:
    “Education is not a mechanistic process; it is a process that depends upon the imaginations and interests of students being properly engaged. So, at the root of my call for a revolution is the need to personalise education”.“Every student has their own story; every student has their own menu of interests and of talents; it has to be about them. It has to be about improving the motivation and opportunities for creativity of teachers. Teaching is an art form; it’s not just a delivery system. Great teachers are people who know how to mediate their material in a way that really does inspire the imaginations and ignite the creativity of their students”.
  2. Customisation:
    “Wherever students learn, that is the education system for them. It’s not the committee rooms of our parliament buildings, it is not the boardrooms of our examinations boards; education happens in the schools or learning communities that students attend, and that for them is ‘the system. So, customising education to those students, to this place, these needs, this community, is absolutely critical”.
  3. Diversity:
    “Our current drive towards standardisation offends the principle of diversity on which human life depends and flourishes … human life is inherently diverse and we need to celebrate that in our school systems. Instead, too often, we subscribe to a rather bland menu of conformity.”
  4. Partnerships:
    “Education isn’t just what happens in formal school buildings; it should involve great institutions … like our great museums, our great science institutions; it should be a genuine partnership with the community more generally”.

Sir Ken maintains that these principles underpin the debate for revolutionising education and for moving beyond curricula per se; they provide the impetus to making education deeply personal by improving the quality of the learning.

Watch the video of Sir Ken’s inspirational introduction at TEDx, London; or download the transcript:

Direct download:
Introduction by Sir Ken Robinson at TEDx, London -The Education Revolution September 17, 2011

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Introduction by Sir Ken Robinson at TEDx, London -The Education Revolution September 17, 2011

Welcome to the iGeneration (Part 2): The Simple Revolution

Allowing students to achieve identified learning outcomes in a manner most suitable to them, while providing them with the opportunities to determine when, how and with what they choose to learn, are probably the most fundamental issues in establishing a meaningful and authentic learning experience.  It should come as no surprise that these concepts flow quite naturally from the three components of an authentic learning experience …

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