Monday, June 7, 2010

Response to Inspiring Education

What is ahead for tomorrow’s learner in Alberta?
A response to “Inspiring Education: A Dialogue with Albertans
While reading through this 52-page document I am indeed inspired. It speaks to my foundational question, “How do we live well together in a knowledge based economy?” I question, as it does the role and responsibility of schools in this society. Do we have a clear request of teachers in this place? It is aligned with my core belief that we learn through experience and that knowledge is a key resource for all participants in the global community.
The problem for my study also fits comfortably into what the report describes as the vision of “three E’s”. The vision’s first “E” is that our school system should instill in our young people the ability to think critically about how to use technology to learn, innovate, communicate and discover. The second is our system needs to encourage young people to be ethical citizens that contribute to the community and the world. The third is that the system needs to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit and create opportunities for young people to be innovative. I see a tension for teachers here. Is there not a gap between what teachers have experienced and what they are being asked to provide for their students in this vision?

The report veers from my views in its outline in how to make this vision possible. While the report recognizes the need to involve the community in the learning environment, it states that children must be at the centre of all decisions related to learning. Yes but I think we need to begin by recognizing the teacher as the key agent for change and that teachers themselves are key learners in this community. I believe that we will not get students to learn well by making id difficult for teachers to learn. The report suggests that the role of teachers needs to shift from that of knowledge authority to an architect of learning. It states that teachers need to be innovative and it questions, as I do how we prepare teachers for this new experience. My concern with all of these “teacher should" statements in this report is that teachers will once again find themselves blamed for not keeping up with the kids. If we want these things from teachers we will need to be rather intentional about how to give it to them first. The report comes close when it states, “to truly transform education, the system must empower innovation throughout the province” (p.18). How do we do this without first empowering teachers to transform their own learning? It supports my thinking when it states that these qualities can be nurtured by a less restrictive curriculum and meaningful professional development and building structures that allow for regular exchange of ideas (p.27). The purpose of my study will be to explore in narrative with expert teachers as they live the experience of becoming what the Calgary Board of Education refers to as “digital citizens”. This experience would give teachers a chance to be reflective practitioners; place teachers in the drivers seat and give them a chance to participate in their own learning of the vision mentioned in this report. I wish to invite teachers into a conversation to explore these possibilities.

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