Sunday, November 24, 2013

An Opportunity

Educators and parents across British Columbia are currently being asked to provide feedback about the Ministry of Education's new Curriculum Frameworks.  At first glance, the documents are encouraging and exciting since the content for each course (frameworks for English, Social Studies, Mathematics and Science have been developed for Kindergarten through Grade 9) appears to have been reduced, thus allowing more freedom for teachers and students to explore concepts in greater depth, incorporating more cross-curricular teaching and learning, and pursuing more student passions.  
This new freedom provides an opportunity for all of us to redefine what we do.  At Burnett, we are beginning the conversation with our own questions for staff:  "What are the things we are struggling with?" and "What help do we need in order to address these issues?"  And for Educational Facilitator meetings: "What are the things we want students to learn in all courses?" and "How do we overtly teach and assess these things?"
We have questions about the unknown; How will Graduation program courses be impacted (Frameworks are still being developed for  courses in Grades 10-12)?  How will curriculum changes be reflected in the summative provincial exams that exist in English 10 and 12, Math 10, Science 10 and Social Studies 11?  But we are improving our use of new technologies, are altering assessment practices to become more outcome-based and informative, and are adding strategies that help increase student engagement.
Seth Godin's Ted Talk "What is School For?" (and associated blog posts "What is school for?" and "What is high school for?"), asks a very important question that we in British Columbia now have the opportunity to answer.

While some may consider Godin a little radical and seemingly hyper-critical of the American Public Education system, his question is one that demands our attention as we move forward with our Assessment practices and new, less content-heavy Curriculum frameworks.  Godin refers to public education having been created in the industrial age to produce obedient, interchangeable factory workers. We have come a long way from the industrial age, and are now doing so much more than teaching students to be compliant, but, as Godin states, school needs to be reformed to: "measure experience instead of test scores", utilize the new technology available, encourage "cooperation rather than isolation", help our students "do something interesting", and teach them how to "connect the dots, not collect the dots".  While I do not agree with everything Godin states in the video (I think there is some value in memorization and society demands that we develop more than individual passions in our students), he very provocatively and correctly suggests that we need to rethink the purpose of school today.

I don't see those of us in education "Stealing Dreams", but I am excited that we have the opportunity to redefine what we do and answer the very important question, "What is School For?"....