Time For a Change… But Why?

Finding out what purpose schools are meant to serve in society is a great place to start when considering if schools really need to change. A quick Google search allows anyone to practice some digital literacy skills, in addition to refreshing yourself with one of the Ministry of Education’s favourite curricular outcomes – determining if information is coming from a reliable source. I chose to go with the Government of Saskatchewan for my answer. I figured that going to the source of curricula and funding would make for a reliable source of information.

Taken from Government of Saskatchewan, Ministry of Education https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/government-structure/ministries/education

Somewhere along the early part of my career, a segment of a phrase stuck with me, as I am sure it has many, many educators, “… to help create contributing members of society,” or something like that. Connecting this to the question at hand, and accounting for how society has changed over the course of my career alone, a change to schools, perhaps more so the system, would be a step in the right direction to ensure that highly skilled and highly educated individuals can contribute to the success of our province.

The University of Phoenix Research Institute Future Work Skills 2020 identified six drivers of change that will reshape the landscape of workplaces and what they believe to be ten critical skills for workplace success in the not too distant future. Reading through this article and reflecting on my own practices was an eye opener. I am preparing students for the present (at best), if not the recent past! I found it difficult to stay focused on reading this article with my mind racing back to what happens in our classroom, trying to figure out just how much of a disservice I am doing to these students with regards to their future.

10 Critical Skills for Workplace Success, taken from https://www.iftf.org/uploads/media/SR-1382A_UPRI_future_work_skills_sm.pdf, pg. 10

I talked myself down to realize that there are elements of these ten skills for the workforce in our classroom, as I am sure there are in everyone’s, including yours. A product of the system that we work within, combined with our own comfort levels and knowledge bases, there is certainly room for improvement in incorporating these skills more effectively. For me, cross-cultural competency, computational thinking, new media literacy, transdisciplinarity, and cognitive load management will get some extra consideration in my future planning.

I cannot be alone playing catch up with my guidance and the desired outcome for these students, right? I want to say no. I want to be a part of a group. I do not want to be the only one lagging behind the needs of students for their future. What sort of world am I preparing students for? Techniques, content, skills, methods, organization… more self-reflection makes me think that I am a part of a system that is preparing students for the present, if not the recent past, rather than the future. Education is in the difficult position of being tasked to prepare students for a future that is changing faster than we can keep up. Educators’ abilities and confidence levels, despite opportunities for professional learning, are in competition with technology changing faster than what we can manage, and students are often lacking the media literacy and digital citizenship skills necessary to make meaningful use of the technology at their disposal. There is also the fact that professional learning, infrastructure, and equipment acquisition and maintenance come with costs in a sector that faces many funding difficulties already.

What could hold back change?
Created using imgflip.com

The articles What’s the future of education? (TED-Ed Blog) and 9 Things That Will Shape the Future of Education: What Learning Will Look Like in 20 Years? (Home E-Learning Trends) were interesting reads and helped me get over my aforementioned low. Some elements of these articles have already been experienced as education has trudged forward through a pandemic. Other elements have been around for a few years, just applied differently than described. What was clear this week is that education will need to mirror society more closely than ever before to remain relevant to the future success of our students.

7 thoughts on “Time For a Change… But Why?

  1. Isn’t it sad that so much of this comes down to money? The less funding, the less innovative and the further we get stuck in the times. I think technology integration will be one of the biggest pieces in schools changing for the future. Proper work habits and fostering “good citizens” should prepare them for the jobs we see today – but not tomorrow. I heard a good quote about how teachers are expected to prepare students for jobs that do not even exist yet – sort of cool, but also daunting to think that we have this responsibility with little to no guidance as the world changes quickly around us, yet we are still teaching 30-year-old curriculum (in some cases) in a delivery method meant for a different type of world.
    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Dalton. When I see postings for piloting a new curriculum, I get excited to see what is new! Then I see that it is high school subjects getting redrawn. It is important that ALL subject areas and age levels remain current, but with the speed at which society is/has been changing, some curriculums at the elementary level are definitely in need of some attention.

  2. Agreed, Dalton. It’s so sad that most of this comes down to money and the people in charge that are making decisions on behalf of schools, teachers, and classrooms that have usually been so far removed from our jobs for quite some time. Preparing kiddos for a quickly changing world can be a challenge, especially when our schools aren’t necessarily keeping up to the changes in technology and more.

    1. I agree Kelsey. Having taken a couple of policy classes last year, it was interesting to see how the policies are created, including the perspectives that are taken into consideration. I believe that a big problem for education is that by the time skills are identified as being needed, then curricula are drafted and piloted, technology has changed again, potentially rendering what was taught/learned as obsolete. Technology changes too fast to keep up with!

      1. Isn’t that the truth. Just when we think we have a handle on something, we are shifting in another direction. It would be a hard job as a leader to keep teachers motivated when there is constant change. It is up to us as teachers to champion change, teach through the process, the learning, identify the challenges and problem solve as we go…if we model this with our students we can learn and change together, nourishing a more equal/balanced relationship.

  3. Your writing style is so powerful, Bart! Your voice and beliefs really come across. I loved reading this blog post! I seem to remember someone else saying they felt overwhelmed and scared for the future after reading the Drivers of Change article… It certainly gives us a lot to think about. However, I think by questioning if we are doing the right things to prepare students for the future, it shows how much we care.

  4. You touched on many important points in your blog post and the quote “creating contributing members to society” is one that I have to agree with you on. Just as you pointed out we are creating our students on the present with information from the past or our wishes for things to go back in time. With the very fast pace of technology abilities and its continuous evolution the professional development of teachers to keep up with feels as if it is a huge undertaking. I retweeted this week about the best professional development happening when we go into other teachers classrooms and observe things in action, maybe if this type of professional development occurred with people who are more tech savvy there might be a more willingness to adapt and grow once they see it implemented.

    I also worry about teacher burn out with the constant changing of how we are doing things, expectations around use of technology. We learn a new skill, transfer our lessons onto a new platform, use it for a year or two and then we are asked to change and learn something new, implement it and hope that we do our students justice.

    Seeing your spiderman meme I saw a shadow of what is absent; in order for those spidermen to have any of those standpoints they all have to come from a place of privilege which is something I posted on this week in my blog. It is so easy for privileged schools (maybe not all students but schools) to forget, teachers themselves come from privilege, funding-privilege, access to technology=privilege, where we live is privilege, our culture- privilege… I could go on. So as we move forward in education towards a new type of learning and teaching I worry about who is going to get left behind, are the third world countries going to be even worse off? What about our Northern reserves?

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