Tuesday, November 9, 2010

21 Century Learning - just more education hype?

The hype is there, but the details seem to be ever fewer. Even the upcoming conference on the topic organized by the BC Superintendents Association continues with vague references and buzzwords, but almost no details.

Consider this video showing Greater Victoria Superintendent John Gaiptman discuss the initiative: http://meta.insinc.com/bcelc/record/20100910/index-a3.asx

What exactly does he say about it? I can't tell. What I do know is that as usual, only token gestures are given to suggest any meaningful dialogging. The Greater Victoria Teachers' Association, which represents the 1400 teachers in the district, was not invited to attend, despite such an invitation occurring in many other districts.

As usual, there are a lot of platitudes and catch phrases without any substance. Sounds a little like Gordon Campbell's farewell promise to have every grade 4 child meet or exceed expectations. That promise certainly ended quickly.

While every school staff appears to have had 21st Century Learning show up on a staff meeting agenda, no mechanism for staff input exists - these are one-way, top-down conversations.

Some of the few details emerging have educators reasonably concerned. There seems to be a strange view of the current system - that somehow we do not engage students, we do not teach creativity, we do not encourage students to explore their own interests. There is also an odd disconnect with the testing agenda so popular with this government. How exactly does FSA testing and provincial examinations fit in with personalized learning? Will there be personalized standardized tests!

Most worrisome is the suggestion that secondary schools would see the end of the traditional classroom and instead students would attend classes of up to fifty students, where the teacher was no longer instructor, but merely the "guide on the side". Exactly how will this help my already struggling grade 10 math students better understand algebra? Less individual attention is the answer? To be honest, the ones already slipping through the cracks are likely to see a huge gaping hole in this model.


  1. Near the end Superintendent Gaiptman says, "[21st-century learning] can't be something regurgitated from one level to the next". This is as ironic as it will be prophetic. 'Top-down' is how the Ministry of Education and School Districts I'm familiar with implement initiatives. I don't recall hearing the word "teachers" once in the video.

  2. To me, the irony is that adult ed self-paced programs (a.k.a. personalized learning) are being dismantled at the same time that they are being hyped as a new initiative. I can tell you from experience that they take more teacher-time, not less. In other words, the student-teacher ratio will have to go down, and the cost of the secondary program will go up.