The urgent case for re-imagining today’s schools
As I read the introduction to this article, I cannot agree more. Everything that was written seemed to be important and accurate. It is true that we are still using old pedagogical practices that are not up to date with the change brought upon by the technology. Although, technological tools have been added into the learning environment; the learning, itself, has not changed fast enough to keep up with the world’s growing opportunities. Richardson & Dixon (2017) state that “The profound new realities of the modern world coupled with the re-emergence of our long held (and long ignored) beliefs about how children learn most powerfully are conspiring to create what promises to be a difficult, perhaps painful reckoning for schools as we know them. And, it’s become more and more clear that a fundamental re-imagination of our approach to schooling is now required.” I agree with the authors when they say that in order to get a sustainable change within the school system, it requires leaders with visions, support from within the community and most of all collaboration between all stakeholders.
Learning no longer entails the teacher delivering the information prescribed by a curriculum to the students and for them to be all assessed the same way and to follow the same timeline. These days with information available 24/7, if there is a need or a will to learn something, we can understand and apply it whenever, wherever, and with whomever we want. The same applies with students. “More and more, an “education” is what we create for ourselves rather than something someone else creates and delivers to us” (Richardson & Dixon, 2017).
As stated by the authors,
“it is the modern learner’s newfound capability to take full control of his or her learning that is THE educational shift of our times.”
I agree that it is where we are heading but before we begin to give full responsibility of their learning to the students, we need to familiarize them slowly with this concept. It is not because this should be the new way of teaching that the students are ready to adopt it. The BC new curriculum being implemented for grades K to 9 focuses a lot on personalized learning and letting the students pick what interest them. However, the students are not used to this and some of them are struggling having to face all of this freedom of choice and influx in call for creativity and critical thinking. I think that with time, guidance, and support they will benefits from this style of learning and better prepare them for 21st century demands.
There are many statistics and researches that prove that the current way of teaching is no longer helping the students be ready for their adult lives. As the world is changing constantly, it is important for kids to learn how to become long-life learners as what they know now might not be relevant in the next ten years which means that they will have to acquire new knowledge periodically to adjust to the change.
Schools need to change. Richardson & Dixon (2017) state that “effective schools are those that focus on developing students as learners, whereas efficient schools still prize knowing over the ability to learn.” They believe that “a fundamental re-imagination of the work of schools, classrooms, and teachers is now urgently required” (2017). I agree with this but my question is: How do we go about changing them? Although, it might be scary for all participants in the education system, the roles of teachers, curriculum and assessments need to be revised. The BC new curriculum is addressing the needs to develop students’ skills in communication, creative thinking, critical thinking, positive personal and cultural identity, and personal awareness and social responsibility. The Ministry of Education of BC in collaboration with parents, teachers and other interested parties are also reevaluating the assessment piece. With this in mind, what is really missing in order to prepare students for the 21st century is what is happening in the classroom between students and teachers. This learning environment should be transformed to provide students the freedom “to pursue their questions, not ours, where they can create their own curriculum, and design their own paths to mastery. Classrooms where they act as apprentice learners who work with teachers who are master learners, first and foremost” (Richardson & Dixon, 2017).
In their article, Richardson & Dixon (2017) have laid out 10 principles to create modern schools.
1."Have clearly articulated and shared beliefs about learning that are lived in every classroom.
2. Live a mission and a vision deeply informed by new contexts for learning.
3. Have cultures where personal, self-determined learning is at the center of student and teacher work.
4. See curriculum as something that is co-constructed to meet the needs and interests of the child.
5. Embrace and emphasize real-world application and presentation to real audiences as assessment for learning.
6. See transparency and sharing as fundamental to a powerful learning environment.
7. Use technology first and foremost as an amplifier for learning, creating, making, connecting, communicating, collaborating, and problem solving.
8. Develop and communicate in powerful ways new stories of learning, teaching, and modern contexts for schooling.
9. Encourage community wide participation in the equitable, effective education of children.
10. Embrace and anticipate constant change and evolution."
As I am looking at what is happening in schools around me, I feel the need to understand better these 10 principles so that I can share this knowledge with other educators and leaders in hope to interest them to adopt some or all of them so that they too can provide skills to their students to become long-life learners and better prepare them for the 21st century.
“HAVE CLEARLY ARTICULATED AND SHARED BELIEFS ABOUT LEARNING THAT ARE LIVED IN EVERY CLASSROOM.”
In order for a child to fully develop the skills required to be a self-directed and self-determined learner, all teachers at all times must provide opportunities and guidance for students to learn how to learn. However, if the school community does not have clear values on what learning means, the job will be only half done. These “beliefs and norms [must be] transparent throughout school buildings, and are the basis for all decision making from budgets to technology to staffing and more.” However, in order to set this up, time, conversations, and sharing will have to happen between everyone involved in the school.
“LIVE A MISSION AND A VISION DEEPLY INFORMED BY NEW CONTEXTS FOR LEARNING.”
Every school district has a mission and a vision. However, are they always being reflected within the schools and will they support students to reach their potential as 21st century learners? I have looked at mission and vision statements from several school districts and I did not see anything that reflects what we need to prepare the students “for the new, fastchanging realities of the modern world. […] Mission and vision should be built on what the school community believes about how children and adults learn most powerfully, and on its understanding of how the world is changing and the new contexts for learning those changes are creating” (Richardson & Dixon, 2017).
“HAVE CULTURES WHERE PERSONAL, SELF-DETERMINED LEARNING IS AT THE CENTER OF STUDENT AND TEACHER WORK.”
I find this interesting that instead of having a teacher learn about how to become a better teacher and to integrate technology in the classroom, a teacher should be focusing on how to become a better learner. This would allow him or her to better model to his or her students what learning is all about. Students should be given “ample opportunities to pursue questions that matter to them and to explore their passions and talents, we minimize the potential for students to develop the skills, literacies, and dispositions of deep and powerful learners” (Richardson & Dixon, 2017). I have to say that this principle interests me a lot and I will need to pursue deeper learning on the subject so that I can become a better model for my students and children.
“SEE CURRICULUM AS SOMETHING THAT IS CO-CONSTRUCTED TO MEET THE NEEDS AND INTERESTS OF THE CHILD.”
I think that the BC new curriculum is addressing this principle. What needs to happen next is to have teachers “see current curriculum as “strategy,” a resource to be used at the time the learner needs it, not something to be taught “just in case” the learner may find it useful in the future” (Richardson & Dixon, 2017). I like the idea of personalized learning which allows the learner to gain knowledge and understanding about something of interests. However, I also think that too much of it might prevent students to discover a new topic of pursue. I believe that like in everything else in life, it is important to reach a balance between learning what we are interested in and learning new things to see if we like them or not. Furthermore, what a student is interested in is not always, necessarily, in the student’s best interest in terms of their long term development and readiness for the world after school.
“EMBRACE AND EMPHASIZE REAL-WORLD APPLICATION AND PRESENTATION TO REAL AUDIENCES AS ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING.”
According to Richardson & Dixon (2017), “in essence, school is conducted in a vacuum with little or no outside support, contribution, or intervention.” Now, that information is readily available, there is no longer a need to learn it and to demonstrate that the students know it. It is more important to provide opportunities for students to make evident their understanding and skills to the outside world. The reality is that this is what they will have to do after they have graduated so, why not prepare them to do it while being at school?
“SEE TRANSPARENCY AND SHARING AS FUNDAMENTAL TO A POWERFUL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT.“
The authors recommend to “think of having “thin-walled” classrooms where students and teachers interact with other learners from around the globe on regular basis. Encourage teachers to create classroom portfolios for student and teacher work that model the forms of online presence that can expand learning opportunities. Create learning spaces that facilitate transparency. This transparency is something that is new for most teachers and students. However, it is something that is important. Students should learn to create an online presence where they can show their creative and collaborative skills as well as their curiosity and perseverance.
“USE TECHNOLOGY FIRST AND FOREMOST AS AN AMPLIFIER FOR LEARNING, CREATING, MAKING, CONNECTING, COMMUNICATING, COLLABORATING, AND PROBLEM SOLVING.”
I agree with this principle. However, in order to get to the point of implementing it, teachers will have to become learners beside the students and focus more on the technology’s potential to construct products by “by emphasizing the creation of complex, beautiful, meaningful, original work by both students and teachers” (Richardson & Dixon, 2017). Although, I am knowledgeable of the technology’s potential, I find it difficult to use it to produce masterpiece. If I was in a classroom where the technology is a tool to create, I would definitely be learning the how to beside the students. Students have different needs which means that different applications and programs might have to be introduced in the classroom to allow them to reach their potential which means that there isn’t much chance that the teachers will be able to master them all before introducing them in his or her classroom. The teacher should have the basic knowledge and the rest would be learned while using it. When facing an issue or difficulty, students and teachers should brainstorm together to find a solution reflecting what is usually done in the real life.
DEVELOP AND COMMUNICATE IN POWERFUL WAYS NEW STORIES OF LEARNING, TEACHING, AND MODERN CONTEXTS FOR SCHOOLING.
Richardson & Dixon (2017) state that “in order for meaningful, sustainable change to occur, however, the entire school community must have a context for the why, what, and how of change. Their awareness of the impact of this changing context on their child’s schooling should precede the necessary changes within the school.” As I was reading this principle, I thought about how in the last few years, the BC Ministry of Education communicated to the public the reasons and the importance of the change brought upon the curriculum and assessment. It demonstrated how the same thing should happen at the district and school level. A community well informed will lead to support for the change.
“ENCOURAGE COMMUNITY WIDE PARTICIPATION IN THE EQUITABLE, EFFECTIVE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.”
“Schools cannot prepare students as citizens if they are not given real life opportunities to be citizens beforehand. Given the current climate regarding locally run education, it’s even more important that schools are seen as an active partner in the larger community where everyone is invested in the outcomes” (Richardson & Dixon, 2017). Students, parents, teachers, support staff should have the opportunities to participate in conversations and provide their suggestions and point of views to the governing bodies. This information shouldn’t be filtered especially if it goes against the power of be.
“EMBRACE AND ANTICIPATE CONSTANT CHANGE AND EVOLUTION.”
Finally, Richardson and Dixon (2017) state that “technological, environmental, and cultural change are speeding up, not slowing down, and schools that cannot adapt put both their students and their own existence at risk. . . . Create a vision for classrooms where innovation and inquiry are at the core instead of at the edges. Make time for regular discussions on what changes are happening, and reflect on how to make new systems and practices in school more sustainable.” This is the ultimate goal for schools and education.
Wow, this was a very comprehensive guide providing 10 principles to re-imagining schools in order to modernize them. Each principle presented the reason why it is important, steps to follow to implement it, key questions related to the principle and resources. As I pursue my journey to make a change in my teaching practice and promoting 21st century learning, I will definitely refer to this article. I feel like I have only touch the surface but with the understanding that I have acquired so far on sustainable change in schools, the content of this article gives me reasons why this change is needed.
Richardson, W. & Dixon, B. (2017). 10 principles for schools of modern learning. Modern Learners. Retrieved February 6, 2017 from https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/modernlearners/Modern+Learners+10+Principles+for+Schools+of+Modern+Learning+whitepaper.pdf