Christine's Reflection

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Transforming Education in Ontario: Digital Reform

Last week's readings and discussions focused quite extensively on the seeming redundancy of a dated model of education, not only in Canada, but for the majority of Western public education. It is argued that we rely on a system of education that is no longer applicable and conducive to producing confident, competent citizens that are prepared and equipped to thrive in an increasingly digital world. This week's reading certainly echoed such notions; for instance, Fullan and Langworthy's 2014 document, A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning, certainly advocates for a radical educational shift, stating that

"In the 20th century we expected the school system to sort people: those who would go to university and those who wouldn't, those who would do professional jobs and those who wouldn't, and those who would fill the semi-skilled and unskilled jobs for which minimal learning at school was required. In the 21st century we are aware that this is not good enough - not good enough morally, not good enough socially and not good enough economically. Machines can do much of this work better than people. We should be able to celebrate that fact, but we can't, because the transformation is leaving millions of people without work, especially young people around the world" (Foreword).

The document goes on to advocate for deeper education, suggesting that "only the well educated can possibly thrive in the world that is coming." This is a big statement, and one that we must pay attention to not only as educators, but also as educational consumers. It indicates that our current model of education - one that is reflective of the time of its' conception during industrialization - is synonymous with inattention, passivity and, ultimately rendered redundant. It looks to a new future in education, one that can better and more practically address the needs of today's students through a restructuring that allows them more agency. If this sounds daunting, that's because it is - it is a huge feat, but one that must be attempted nonetheless.

A question that keeps resurfacing concerns the implications that this new system will pose to the role of the teacher. What is our new role? At first thought it may seem that our job has been absorbed by this new technological wave in which students are the directors of their own learning. While it is true that our responsibilities and roles as conveyors or "experts" of content knowledge are made obsolete in this re-envisioned system, Fullan and Langworthy (2014) provide a model for this transition of power which positions technology as a tool that can be used to "discover and master content knowledge and to enable the deep learning goals of creating and using new knowledge in the world" (p. 3).

Contrast of new and old models of education as seen on page 3 of Fullan and Langworthy text

Although such change is clearly becoming not only necessary, but increasingly beneficial, it calls for a serious paradigm shift - a transformation of the way in which we perceive teachers, their purpose, and what can be considered "good" teaching practice. The teacher as facilitator places responsibility on educators to also take on the role of curators of educational experiences. While this too takes a great deal of preparation and organization, it is a change that I think will be met with frustration and resistance, particularly from parents.