“.. I believe that the single most important idea for reform in K-12 education concerns a change in goal. The goal needs to shift from one of making a system that teaches children a curriculum more efficiently to one of making the system more effective by inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.” Steve Denning
Wow! What am amazing start up in Parkland School Division (PSD). I continue to be amazed by our passionate staff focused not only on ensuring our youth receive a quality education but how they are embracing learning. Parkland School Division’s vision remains steadfast:
Parkland School Division is a learning organization dedicated to the development of children.
More than ever, we here in PSD are talking about each and every one of us being a learner and the importance of lifelong learning. Our vision is clear…we are all learning. The question now; is what does that look like for staff, students and parents? How we learnt/taught 50 years ago does not hold true for today. Do we throw out the system of education that has been around for over a 100 years? No… but we must revisit the “how” we are instructing our children. We must ensure we meet the needs of our students in a global economy.
Our children are connected more than they ever have been, they have information readily available. In PSD we are talking about collaborating, creating and learning together as we move forward in transformation. Our focus in PSD remains on pedagogy, good sound instructional practices aligned to the Provincial program of studies. Some think transformation means introducing “technology”. As Marc Prensky discusses, the focus is always on the pedagogy:
“Just adding technology, however, will not make this happen. In fact, in some cases, laptops have already been added and removed for having “failed”. But the failure in those cases was neither of the students nor of the technology, but rather of the pedagogy.” Marc Prensky, Teaching Digital Natives
In PSD technology will be used to provide innovative and unique opportunities for our learners, but it is just one of many ways that we are wanting to improve the environment for our students.
If we are going to succeed in this rapidly changing world, we face two challenges; making sense of the changes around us, and making progress in an increasingly unfamiliar world.
The work under way in Parkland School Division is about making sense of this “unfamiliar world”. PSD is embracing this journey of transformation to meet the needs of our students as 21st Century Learners. Transformational initiatives include:
- Leveraging leadership to lead change
- Meaningful engagement with our community
- Inclusive education
- Meaningful assessment and reporting
- Professional learning as the foundation of a learning organization
To support our transformational initiatives we are focused on three verbs…collaborate, create and learn. Recently I attended a thanksgiving dinner put on by students at Greystone Centennial Middle School in Spruce Grove. Student in grade 7, 8, 9 under the supervision of staff worked together to cook turkeys, potatoes, dressing, vegetable, pies and all the fixings! They created a feast to be enjoyed by staff and students. Students met our facilities staff and senior team at the front door and showed us to the Food Studies Lab where we shared the feast. The learning was huge! Cooking a turkey and making pies was just part of what students learnt. Students greeted guests, engaged in conversation with guests, assisted guests and planned for this great event. Citizenship and social responsibility was alive and well; a testament to collaborate, create, learn!
Our collaborative approach begins in our back yard here in PSD. Through such programs/initiatives such as Citizenship and Social Responsibility , learning coaches, curriculum based report cards, learning leader program, 184 Days of Learning, Board of Trustees system review, we are focused on coming together to collaborate. As David Weinberger said, “The smartest person in the room is the room”, and that is why we focus on the need to come together. We make better decisions as a collective and we need to focus on building the strengths of the individuals of that team.
“As we look ahead to the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Bill Gates
Out of collaboration comes innovation; the opportunity to create. When we encourage students to connect with other students with similar interests/projects not just face to face but through social medi, we start to see amazing things begin to happen. For example, last year Forest Green School had created some amazing connections through their portfolio project and were able to learn from experts Skyping into the classroom to work with students. These are opportunities that we did not have as kids, but we need to ensure we take advantage for our own students.
“We can think more creatively if we open our minds to the many connected environments that make creativity possible”. Stephen Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
Our youth are inquisitive and do want the world to be a better place. As our youth are exposed to the global world and we as educators facilitate their learning as an ethical citizen, their entrepreneurial spirit will flourish. The same holds true of our staff. Given the opportunity, I have always believed those with passion will step forward to make the world better.
“It is the habit of curiosity that allows an individual to begin to wonder how a system might be substantively improved or even reinvented.” Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap
In PSD we are all embracing learning. We are continuously asking questions, breaking down barriers and sharing our learning. We have entered a world of connecting with other learners at the school and division level. Tweeting, blogging as well as the 184 Days of Learning project has provided us new avenues to learn from others while connecting. We are still focused on face to face learning, meeting Provincial learning outcomes/competencies, but we are also embracing the connected world that will enhance not only our students learning but ours.
Throughout my education, I have always felt that things needed to be perfect before the final product was shared. As I have grown in my own practice, I have seen the power of sharing the process of learning, as the contributions of others only help enhance what we are doing for our students. We need to embrace this open process with our school community, and especially our students.
I have always thought of myself as someone who is passionate about learning and doing what is “right” for kids. Through my recent learnings, my excitement for the future of education and passion has been heightened. As we talk about transformation and what it means to us in Parkland School Division, every chance we have, we need to collaborate, create, and learn as an organization and a community. It is always about doing what is best for kids.
What a great time to be in education!