What do you think are the benefits and challenges to offering students more flexible learning opportunities?

Summary to date:
Here’s a summary of what you’ve said so far. Click on the links beside each theme to read supporting examples.

  1. A greater role for parents (1, 2, 3)
  2. Increased student motivation and ownership over their learning (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  3. Accommodation of different learning styles (1, 2)
  4. Practical skill development and a greater connection with the community (1, 2, 3)
  5. More flexibility around schedules (the “when” of learning) (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  6. Students don’t have the maturity or foresight to make good choices about what to learn (1, 2, 3)
  7. If given too much choice, kids will pick the easiest route (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  8. Concerns about inadequate curriculum coverage and de-emphasis of basic skills (1, 2, 3)
  9. Concerns about assessment (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  10. Overreliance on technology (1, 2, 3, 4)
  11. More work for already burdened educators (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  12. Worsening of existing inequalities (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  13. Overcoming teacher resistance and/or lack of understanding (1, 2)

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to contribute to this topic.

570 Responses to “ Benefits and challenges of flexible learning ”

  1. Matt Ziemer says:

    The benefits are substantial of course and the challenges would include the extra costs and logistics surrounding the exploring and implementing of these learning opportunities. Money talks of course and it greases the wheels of innovation.
    Grants to organizations like Growers associations and tax breaks to growers would enable them to open farms to students for fantastic educational opportunities. The return for the money would be much more beneficial then having the school board develop an expanded program of agriculture and it would be empowering to the students and the community in unprecedented ways. Farm and plant tours would lead to expanded knowledge and interest for students. It would also lead to career opportunities etc. Can you imagine if students were able to spend multiple part days at an organic farm or other business how effective the learning and inspiration would be?

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  2. serina davi says:

    Basically, as well as educate, schools babysit the children so parents can work. A consistent structure allows business and industry to set work hours and holidays that fit with school patterns. Start making changes to hours or holidays and mess up everyone !! Also, children need routine, lots of sleep, daylight for safety and health. So be very careful before you throw around theis word flexibility . There are many , many factors.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      Do you feel that schools should be acting as “babysitters”, or should they in fact be providing the best learning environment possible to provide individual students the opportunity to begin to participate in how they learn, as well as provide them an opportunity to be as successful in their K-12 education as possible?

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      • Jamie Lewin says:

        I think that Ms.Serina Davi meant that schools also perform a custodial function in relation to students.This is more acceptable than what Social Scientists and Engineers say.

        I have read authors in the Social Sciences who argue that schools are an extension of the prison system, because children must attend until the age of 16 and if don’t, they are obliged to attend by the system.

        Social Engineers sometimes refer to schools as a method of social control.

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      • Janet says:

        Speaking of the role of schools as babysitters,daycares have stricter regulations regarding how many children are allowed per caregiver, even for after school care, yet the government does not mandate the same teacher/student ratio in our public school system. They seem to have a double standard.

        That said, I don’t think that schools should be babysitters, but if they were, they would have to lower their teacher/student ratio and that would be good for students and teachers.

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  3. Rod GIles says:

    Students need time and stimulation to develop passions. I believe that a culture of choice needs to be developed from a young age and that students needs to learn that they can be responsible for learning.

    They also need to have strong basic skills so they can use them to pursue their own learning.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      How do you think we can develop a culture within our Education system that will enable students to become more responsible for their learning? Also, what types of basic skills do you believe we need to provide our students?

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  4. Deb says:

    I think flexible learning is better, it keeps the brighter, faster learning children engaged and able to learn more. Some kids cannot learn the same way or as fast a pace, so it can hold a class back, or a teacher back from increasing the challenges for a classroom or an individual. Also in primary grades the kids that disrupt or act out are usually the ones that are bored, and the ones that cannot keep up are the ones with learning disabilities not yet recognized, or due to social issues that cannot be addressed due to the lack of “time” required by one teacher and 30 plus children. If kids get to work at their own pace then the teacher can float around from student to student helping them with their challenges or abilities and increase the potential of all students.

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  5. Melody Salt says:

    I believe what is holding back kids and education these days is the union. Kids have become leverage instead of what they are, a valuable resource that needs special attention to be molded into a successful adult.

    Kids need flexibility in learning styles to allow them to grow as individuals instead of being conformed into what is deemed normal or acceptable.

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  6. Rob Slanina says:

    With regards to having a ‘flexible’ system, what do you guys think would be the difference between:

    (A) a maximally flexible system,
    and
    (B) having no system at all(suppose the government just writes you a cheque equivalent to the funding they provide per student and lets you do whatever you feel is best with that)?

    I think this is an important question to consider, because it will help us to identify those aspects of the system first which are NOT acceptable candidates for a ‘flexible’ approach.
    Having done that, we can first fortify these inflexible, solid, reliable foundations, and build flexibility around them.

    Imagine applying different buzz words, like the old phrase: ‘Education isn’t filling a bucket, it’s lighting a fire’…and then, without having a context for that, we examine what parts of the education system we can set fire to…
    …it’s absurd.

    Can we possibly have a sane and balanced discussion about flexibility without also maintaining a strong focus on what is fundamentally non-negotiable too? Without counter-balancing the focus on flexibility we are apt to end up with a socially and morally relativistic approach which is willing to justify just about any nonsensical whimsy, no matter how insane it is as long as it satisfies some hedonistic(pleasure seeking)/nihilistic(authority crushing) policy.

    Without first establishing what standards MUST be maintained, we’re apt to shoot ourselves in the foot out of excitement over the buzz words.

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  7. Jann Schmidt says:

    Allowing students to have flexibility will increase their ability to follow their passion. This needs to be balanced with the basics, not always as engaging. By having a balance we can provide students with opportunities to grow in ways that they choose, but also maintain the essentials so that they are able to be compete and be competent in any situation they find themselves.

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  8. Sandy Prentice says:

    The benefits are many as we have seen with many International Students who own their learning. Once a student is engaged in their learning and directs their own sails, their contributions as global and local citizens are limitless. A meaningful education is the greatest gift we can give our youth and ourselves.

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  9. Dan Miles says:

    The benefits are huge. To have students engaged in learning over which they have some control and some input is exciting. Engagement comes with a sense of ownership of one’s own learning.

    The concerns are structural. As a principal I find it challenging to conceive of structuring a large school in a way that permits that flexibility to happen. Assessing and monitoring is also always an issue as the structure changes.

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  10. Scott says:

    It would be fantastic to offer more flexible learning opportunities. The benefits of which would far outweigh the challenges; the challenges are the fun part.

    I do believe that in the early years, we should be focusing more on foundational *knowledge*. Conveying the basic principles of each subject, whether it be art (colour mixing, light, proportions, depth, etc.), mathematics (the very basic understandings of mathematics, not merely formulas and methods, use of an abacus and non-written forms of mental math), language (how language works, the history of it, Latin, etc.), politics (how our country was founded, set up, how government works, etc.), nature… for each major subject. It’s useless to start teaching advanced techniques to those that lack a foundation; I’m seeing a whole generation of young people who know a lot about technology, computer programming, and so forth yet have little knowledge of the natural world around them and lack the very basic principles. We also need to get the kids outdoors more. We need to allow them to explore and have keen interest in the world around them.

    Teachers need to have more freedom to teach whatever they want according to their student’s needs. Pressure can be taken off of the teachers by implementing apprenticeship style education; learning from the students who are more advanced than you are.

    Give the students control over their own education as well.

    There’s no reason our whole education system cannot be more like this Kin’s School, Lycee School, in Tekos Russia:
    http://www.ringingcedars.com/sequel/the-school-video/

    It’s up to us to make a difference. Most people I know equate school with jail or prison; day prison for kids; a place to put kids so that both parents can work and have little contact with the raising of their own children, a brainwashing system used to create Willing Workers – people smart enough to do the work, but not educated enough to realize they are slaves, have no idea how to change things, complacent do-nothings. We need to pave the way for our own future and stop allowing “the powers that be” to dictate how we are to live our lives. I don’t want to work work work my life away, and I think my children will feel the same when they are older.

    There are older people who say, “we need reading writing and arithmetic” and “they need to get off their lazy butts and get a job” and live a life lacking any kind of personal fulfillment whatsoever. My parents lived that life. They work work worked and had little time or energy to do anything else. Then they died. What was the point of their life? There was no point. They did nothing, accomplished nothing, the didn’t fulfill any of their dreams or desires… just like most other people their age. The youth of today are not lazy, they just don’t want to live the same useless life their parents did, but they don’t know what else to do; the don’t know how to fulfill their dreams and desires etc. They’re up against a hardened system. Time to soften and break apart this system, and it starts with our own children.

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  11. karen says:

    Without doubt the benefits are enormous, and varied, but the challenges largely fall to our own pre-set state of mind, be it that we are focused on budget, or union, or historical issues. Take the annual balanced calendar conversation for example. It has been shown to have incredible up-sides for our struggling students, but it falters as we struggle with the notion of such a structural change. This would take true collaboration and long term commitment from all parties.
    We need to accept that there is a much greater range of what constitutes student success, before we can create truly flexible learning opportunities. Yet, this is the ongoing work of all boards, admin,teachers,staff, and parents. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done , it just takes greater investment ( and I am not referring simply to $$ ) by all parties, to allow changes within our school system, provincially as well as at the local level.

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  12. Misty says:

    To be concise, a major benefit of offering more flexible learning opportunities is that students become authors of their own learning. Learning is imbued within the network of the student’s whole life– rather than an independent activity located in the school building, or in curriculum subjects that the child finds interesting. When children become co-designers of their school experience, they take ownership of their learning, find authenticity in school endeavors, and often exceed school expectations. The biggest challenge to this flexibility is standardization, especially regarding evaluation practices that foreground quantifiable outcomes.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      Do you have suggestions, Misty, as to what we can do to accomplish this and provide students those flexible learning opportunities?

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      In regards to learning as “an independent activity located in the school building”, do you really think that moving away from that structured setting in the building is going to increase learning? I mean, currently, there’s no restriction on learning outside of school hours and facilities, is there?

      It’s not the location and the structure and the time that’s the problem. The problem is that we don’t continue to teach our kids after school…we let them stay plugged in to their NintendoDSes, and watching tv, and chatting Online…

      Personally, I have learned far more outside of school than I ever did in school…but that says nothing about the incredible value of learning in a structured, scheduled, familiar environment too!

      How are children qualified to be co-designers of their school experience? Since when did children know what was best for them? Left to themselves, they simply do not choose the highest good unless they have been taught how to effectively evaluate actions and consequences.

      It all sounds really progressive…children helping to design their own curriculum and to choose their own experiences(they actually do that when school is over, because learning is not restricted to the school setting)…but does any of it actually make sense? I mean really? are students equipped to have deeper insights into their educational needs than we’ve discovered through thousands of years of teaching already?

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  13. Terri McCulloch says:

    We have had 3 of our children go through the grade 10 TREK program at Prince of Wales Secondary in Vancouver. It was terrifically beneficial for each of them. Outdoor education programs such as this should be an option for all BC students. This model could be copied in other school districts in BC.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      Could you elaborate on what the TREK program is? Is it something much more than a traditional Boy Scouts program? or less?

      If so, what do you think would be the advantages of offering it as a part of curriculum hours as opposed to as an extra-curricular service? According to the article about it on the wikipedia page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_of_Wales_Secondary_School#TREK_Outdoor_Education_Program
      the students are only required to finish HALF of English 10, Social Studies 10, and Planning 10, as a part of this program.

      By reading the description, what I seem to understand is that the children get to learn about all the fun things that you can do on a summer vacation, and they also get to miss out on half of the academic curriculum of 3 important subjects.

      As awesome as the experience may be, I do not understand how such a program carries significant enough academic merit to warrant its inclusion with, and replacement of, traditional curricula.

      As a student, I can definitely see how ‘Outdoor Hobbies 101′ is way more attractive than ‘English 101′…but as educators, I’d like to see the justification for such programs further justified.

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      • Doug Smith says:

        Rob, the students don’t do half of the academics, they do the whole thing. Some of the courses are done on a daily basis and finish in 4 months, such as math. Other courses, such as English, are done year round.

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          Thanks for clarifying.

          Still, I would like to know how the offering of that program is justified by an academic institution. It still seems like ‘Summer Vacation 101′…what are the educational merits of such a course? How do they prepare students for life in the 21st century?

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          • Doug Smith says:

            I don’t think there are any special academic merits. They simply do some of their “regular” courses on a faster timeline, and in the time that it frees up, they do outdoor pursuits. I think it’s a great idea. The cost of the program is covered by fund raising I believe. So I think it has little to no effect on people outside of the program.

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            • Rob Slanina says:

              So why is it being carried out by the school itself? Are the teachers paid via fund raising too? As a taxpayer, I’d hate to think that my tax dollars are in any way contributing to something like that.
              I encourage the sorts of activities that it entails…but I see no place for it to be managed by the school system unless all of the administration, instruction…everything really, is paid for by someone besides taxpayers.

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  14. Tracy Bosch says:

    There are many benefits to offering students more flexible learning opportunities and I support this objective. The risk that that we may dilute a limited pool of funds for education and end up creating lots of programs the are underfunded instead of focusing our resources where it will serve the greatest portion of the student population. Proceed with caution.

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    • Janet says:

      Tracy, the question above is not about funding, but, since you brought it up, I think the govt. needs to increase spending on education/children (and families); after all our children are our greatest resource. “It takes a village…to raise a child” may sound cliche but it’s true.

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      • Rob Slanina says:

        There is a Ministry of Children and Family Development already…let them pay for social programs, and let schools focus on educating. It takes a village to raise a child…and a village is not a one-stop-shop that handles every need. Schools are for academic education…the rest of the ‘village’ serves different needs.

        …I think that quite often, people confuse the school for the village itself, and then other things get neglected, like how we, as a society, do not hold parents accountable…

        There’s a confused mentality out there that suggests that the whole village raising notion actually diffuses our personal accountability and responsibility, when really, it means that each part of the ‘village’ is actually very important in its function. Schools are for education…let that remain at the fore of our awareness.

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        • Janet says:

          You have a very narrow view of education Rob.

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          • Rob Slanina says:

            Please elaborate, Janet. How is my view narrow? What are you comparing it to?

            Rather than make statements about me, why not address my ideas?

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            • Janet says:

              The ideas you express concerning education,like the comments about TREK as outdoor hobbies 101, or summer vacation 101, that education ought to be traditionally academic, are narrow views of education in my opinion.

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              • Rob Slanina says:

                Thanks, Janet.

                Feel free to make an argument in support of those things though. I appreciate your opinion, but I’m more concerned with how you justify that opinion(eg: how it satisfies reason to support those things).

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          • Janet says:

            Schools are a part of the village I quoted, not the whole village. Of course families are very important, if not more important. Schools need to work together and include families to make them work…after all schools have our children for 6 hours a day.
            Outdoor education is a great way to engage students in learning about themselves and the world and can be a way to teach other subjects. Sitting in a desk force feeding students information about the world from books and worksheets may not be the best way to learn for every student. Some may do very well in the traditional classroom, learning in the traditional way, others don’t and these students may start to think they are not very bright, or capable, which is tragic as well as a potential loss of talent. To me this is why we need flexibility and a broader sense of what education is and ways to become educated. It doesn’t necessarily have to be more expensive and doesn’t have to be changed overnight or written in stone.

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  15. Maria says:

    My hope would be that students would be more engaged in their learning, would have more opportunity to engage with adults to get excited about learning, and discovery. I would hope that teachers and other adults working with students would also find this approach more interesting and engaging. Wouldn’t it be exciting if schools where places of learning where every day could bring the possibility of discovering something through the process of building the skills or competencies of learning.

    Barriers – currently we have a system or factory with machines and assembly lines set up to do make a certain product and we cannot just shut down the factory to do a refit. How do you decide which part of the assembly line to refit first? What affect will this have on other areas of the assembly line…and how do you plan to ensure that the widget does not fall on the floor in the process, especially when many of the workers in the factory are resistant or fearful of the technical updates for a variety of reasons. Those widgets are children and our future.

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  16. lara blanks says:

    A major benefit would be for children who have different learning styles. A challenge will be people willing to accept this major change. However, I believe this idea is too ideal and too big of a change, unless it is going to be done step by step, never forget that every human being feels overwhelmed by life no matter how easy it is presented to them. I feel step by step gives people a sense of achievement and capability. Another thing, I hope that is will be presented in a simple manner. But somethings won’t change, we will always have to learn the basics, reading, writing and math. However, it is true that all roads lead to Rome. so we dont have to be fixated on any one method therefore including every kind of learner and not only “left brained” auditory.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      Accommodating different learning styles is somewhat helpful, however, our brains are not hard-wired for these particular ways of learning. It is important to be able to learn in different ways, because we access information in all kinds of different ways. As such, it is important to be able to learn as much from a lecture as it is from reading, or from conducting a physical experiment, etc. etc. The varieties of subjects themselves are already sufficient to encourage all different learning styles…and it is natural that every student will have different strengths…

      …a problem seems to arise, however, when we try to level the playing field too much. We begin to compartmentalize people, eg: billy is an audio learner, sally is a tactile learner, and april is a visual learner…so we should present the lesson according to each learning style…
      …doing this doesn’t prompt the development of different learning capacities.

      …it is important to have a functional left brain and a functional right brain…so I would hesitate to accept any changes that suggest that math ought to be made to appeal more to the ‘right brained’ students’ approaches…
      …I say this as an artist who would object at least as strongly if art class were to be distilled into something that the left-brained kids could handle easier.

      For an education in math to have value, it is important that children develop the capacity to think mathematically…to integrate audio information, tactile information and visual information as it pertains to the real-world circumstances that are sure to require the knowledge that the subject entails. Catering too much to strengths prohibits the development of our weaker faculties.

      A system that is too accommodating will actually produce less well-rounded students because they’ll be allowed to play consistently to their handicap.
      Paradoxically, a certain degree of obstacles in the learning experience actually serves as a powerful catalyst for deeper development.

      Of course there needs to be a balance…too many obstacles is discouraging…but to remove obstacles, we also remove substance from the experience of learning too…the excitement of buzz words like ‘flexibility is great!’ must be set aside in favour of careful discernment…

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      • lara blanks says:

        I wasn’t stating that it should accomodate. I was stating that it should include, so instead of teaching in only one manner, you could present the samething needed to be learned in many different manners, orally, written, etc..because yes you are right not only do we have to understand the material but develope other ways of looking at it. I was suggesting that it also maybe presented that there isnt always ONE right answer and sometimes when the answer is logical but not what the teacher wanted they shouldnt be told flat out wrong but be recognized for their unique ideas. And if someone doesnt understand you, just doing it again isnt always gonna help understand, you may have to adjust the way you communicated.
        In summary, I am not asking to simplify but modify.

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        • Kim says:

          Many teachers do this already. The catch phrase of the day is labelling it “Diverse Learning” and student choice. SFU is currently providing extra education (teacher chosen – and paid for – professional development) in this area. I think you’ll find that there are a lot of teachers who already subscribe to this method.

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  17. Joey Ahmadi says:

    The underlying and primary fault of the current education system is its flawed premise: that students need to learn in an institutionalized and controlled way, mandated by the Ministry, District, or in some cases, the teacher. I will not argue that there should be no standards imposed by any of the controlling interests, but the current system is confined on large-scale negatively affecting students across the board. The Ministry provides rigid criterion regarding exactly what students of any given grade and course must “learn”, and the presumption made is that this ensures a minimum standard is maintained. This has been proven to be completely incorrect. In a very similar fashion, the depth of the material described by the Ministry forces teachers to rigidly schedule how they will deliver the lessons, at what date they will pose a test, and at what date the unit is over. This fundamentally fails by its assumption that every student will learn the material by a set date, that they will have an equally strong understanding of it, and that they will be ready to move on. We know this is not true. When a student has an incomplete understanding of a concept, yet is forced to move on, that incomplete understanding will show itself again when the original concept is added to, such as in a later year, another course, or in life. Districts (directly or indirectly) and teachers also tend to declare where learning can take place: usually just in an overcrowded and noisy classroom. Both are usually unwilling to try, or unable to provide access to, say, a computer lab, library, an outdoor area, or even another class’s classroom. It’s a blatant lie to suggest learning is best done in a static 20×40 room. If less time is required of students in the classroom, or of doing homework, students would be better able to learn in alternative means. In recent times we have seen the rise of online distance learning programs which are, as the name implies, almost completely online. Perhaps great for those who travel a lot, I don’t see them as a scalable or widely-accepted solution, particularly because they lack a great social element. I would much rather see the paradigm switch to allow students more flexibility in what and where they learn, even to mix online and offline (in-class) programs to allow optional attendance for particular classes (on teacher-determined dates).

    If a student is able to “learn” a particular concept on their own, why require them to sit and listen to the teacher teach it to the rest of the class? If a student gets, say, a 60% mark on their multiplication test, is it truly best for them to then immediately start learning more advanced math? I’m not advocating individualized lesson plans; I’m actually advising against any strictly-defined path to follow. But I do favour teacher involvement in a student’s success. The system should provide opportunity for student-teacher discussion, and teachers should not be restricted by almighty curriculum guides from the Ministry that would indirectly inhibit the teacher from fudging dates for particular students, from providing access to extra assignments, or from providing access to more advanced assignments. In a perfectly practical system, if teacher’s reserved an hour at the end of each day as a sort of “study block”, for homework and the like, and then discussed progress and issues with each student, would this not be the most valuable time during a student’s day?

    I think standardizing work for all students in a class is an ineffective way to teach. In fact, “teaching” suggests some sort of student-teacher interaction, which photocopying a worksheet 30 times is not. At some point, for some students, homework assignments present themselves as being repetitive and busywork; on the other side of the scale, other students may barely grasp the concept. Often overlooked, though, is that students who fall in either of those groups may flip-flop between them in different disciplines or units. Teachers need to assess what is the ideal amount for an individual student, which should be collected by both a student’s feedback and the competency of his work.

    My Grade 6 English teacher divided my class into about 5 groups, each group reading a different novel. Groups were composed based on competency level. When a group got ahead of itself in terms of work, the teacher would find new ways to explore deeper concepts. If a group fell behind, the teacher was able to spend time with the group, identify problems and concerns, and then address them. I saw the reverse in my Grade 9 English class; those who found the work too easy simply glided by, while those who were left-behind were kept left-behind. I spent Grade 9 in a British Columbian school.

    In closing, I’ll leave just a few recommendations based on my experiences, the experiences of friends, and thoughts we’ve exchanged. It’s important to address that at some point more money will only saturate the system and not be able to provide further benefit. But we’re not there yet. What needs to be discussed is the role of the Ministry; how much does the Ministry need to regulate teaching as to protect standards, yet not negatively affect learning. Is it wise of the Ministry to tell teachers what “Biology 12” needs to cover, or is it better left to the teacher actually teaching it… Or, is there a middle-ground? My vote is with the latter, but further investigation is required to turn the ideology to a practical solution. Teachers need to spark conversations with students regarding progress: thrice-yearly report cards don’t cut it, and are masked by ambiguous numbers. Teachers need to recognize students do not learn at the same speed, come into class with different learning backgrounds, learn differently, and have different difficulties and strengths. Teachers need to address these individually with students and assign material accordingly. Class time needs to be used more efficiently and diversely; don’t be angry at students who would rather start on the homework or read the textbook than listen to your lesson. Some schools have initiated programs to focus more on doing work in-class, while students do lessons on their own time at home. If students will be studying out of their textbooks the night before your test anyway, what good was your lesson? If they could practise concepts under your supervision in class, and ask you or other students for help as needed, wouldn’t their understanding of the material be better developed? Teachers are inevitability on the first lines, and will be (correctly or incorrectly) held responsible for their student’s success. Teachers need to address learning differently, and if the system needs to be changed first, so be it. I invite and challenge the Education Minister to come into a classroom, without the teacher present, and ask the students how the system should be reformed. Students will know.

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  18. Krista says:

    Some benefits would be that students could learn at a time of the day best suited for optimum learning for individuals. They would also be educated on the realization that most jobs, careers and general life experiences do not only exist between September and June during the times of 7:30am and 4:00pm.
    The challenges would be scheduling teachers, administrators and support staff to accommodate flexible learning times.
    In a situation where students were learning in an online/remote situations students would be able to work at their pace to accomplish the course required. Some challenges would be monitoring progress of students, setting up an online/remote learning community with teachers and support staff, and keeping students engaged in social environments.
    Giving students the opportunity to use more tools such as Ipad’s, laptops, and other electronic equipment to support individuals learning outcomes would be a definite benefit. I realize there are some school districts that support this learning style currently but I believe that it should be a provincial directive.
    Again challenges would be monitoring, and support from staff.

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  19. Shelley says:

    I’m going to answer this question from the perspective of a (former) student. I want to make sure the challenges, in particular, to the student are captured, as well as those to teachers, parents and the system as a whole.

    For context, I was a bright student in a rural school system. There were no programs for gifted children, very few course choices and no such thing as distance learning (at least as we know it today). I am living proof that good grades are not a measure of engagement, because I was a bored-stiff, straight-A student.

    For me, the challenges would have been having the courage to be open about my interests (especially where they differed from those of my peers) and the confidence in myself to make choices about my own learning. Receiving feedback beyond a letter grade would probably have been challenging, too (now *that* is a skill that would be valuable in later life), as would understanding myself and my career choices well enough to choose the right path. I mention these things partly because I see a great opportunity for a more flexible system to help kids build confidence, self-awareness and decision-making skills, but also because some kids will need more support than others to make the most of a flexible learning environment.

    The benefit, though, would be to experience school as a place where exploration is encouraged; where the objective is learning, not a letter grade; and where diversity of interests is encouraged, not suppressed. Those are pretty profound things that could have a significant long-term impact.

    I think our system teaches kids that the important thing is the answer, not the journey they took to find it. You have to wonder what society would be like if we flipped that on its head.

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  20. Tom Palmer says:

    It’s interesting to hear you say education will be individualized however the school system is underfunded now…how can you expect to implement changes? I think this is another strategy to say you’re going to do something, then forget it after the next election. The Luberals show no respect towards teachers and they expect teachers to jump at their untested plan??

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  21. John Hengen says:

    The challenges are many. As flexibility increases, so must the number of ways in which the educational goals are met for our children. This means more work in determining what those alternative ways look like, and then more work still in making them available to all students in British Columbia.
    But the benefit of this, by far, outweighs the challenges. No one knows a child better than their parents; ensuring that parents have lots of flexible learning opportunities to choose from for their child’s education should continue to be a priority for the Ministry of Education in BC. I believe that respecting the educational opportunities that parents decide to pursue for their children will enable parents to have the most buy-in into their childrens’ educational programs. Concerning students’ education in our province, I can think of no greater benefit to BC families than having the full commitment and engagement of parents into their child’s school and educational program.

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  22. Shelley Werboweski says:

    The teacher(s) in charge will not be able to track students efficiently. It is a challenge trying to keep track of 30, 60, or 90 students if the school platoons subjects. Many students will be left behind quite easily with no strategies to catch up. Pacing is a huge organizational task that students need to practice and excel at to show accountability and responsibility. These important traits will be dropped from focus if a diverse time table and schedule is put in place.

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  23. Fred says:

    If flexible learning is going to mean that the “onus” is totally on the student to succeed then I think there will be a higher rate of students not graduating.

    There comes a time in your life where your brain/chemicals/hormones send you on a different path – social. In these times (we’ve all had them – teenage years), it took forthright teachers to bring the kids back in line and ensure the work was carried out across the board. If you didn’t keep up you were kept in from break or worse a call home to the parents. (Mine cared).

    I worry immensely about “self paced” learning – its right at the wrong time/age.

    What are the teachers teaching if its self paced? Each student will be on differing paths. Meaning some will get support whilst others go merrily along (not necessarily correctly) completing assignments.

    I think that “leaving it up to the kids” will only hurt their education. I would almost certainly want an update weekly from the teacher on what has been assigned and what has been achieved. It will mean more work for the teacher to catch up! I can not tell where my child is/what they need to complete from the small space in the agenda. So how do we keep them ahead/on target? What support is there for the parents to ensure they are not 7 assignments behind come Parent/Teacher (of course -if we get to have one due to Job Action).

    When does all this new way start?

    More importantly – how do the kids KNOW what they want to do at these ages? Individual plans? Based on what? A 12 year old whim? They should be getting an all round education which will prepare them for “whatever” they choose. Sometimes this is not apparent until very late in education.

    More flexibility is frightening to me. I also agree with the first poster – the Job Action has had a negative impact on the kids. It should have been resolved by now. Not providing a proper, completed report card is diabolical. If a report card is not part of a Teachers role and a fundamental one – then what is? Its like saying a Chef has no business preparing and completing his menu for the week? I think the parents have been very tolerant of this action thus far, maybe a parent revolt might get people moving on this job action – get it done!

    Some teachers have done an honorable job keeping us up to date. The Unions are only going to keep doing this every time they want something. At some point they will have to go. (If I had the same action to get what I wanted in my job – guess what – yep i’d be out on my ear – sometimes we have to get with the real world and deal with what we can get/have. The real world has changed…..people are out of work, the economy is broken – so perhaps there isn’t more money to be had! Everyone has made a sacrifice somewhere!

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    • Janet says:

      If you go into the schools then you can say with honesty how job action is affecting the kids and teachers…actually it’s not really having much of an impact…I work in many schools and I have a child in school and I haven’t noticed much change at all. I’ve even heard one teacher saying it’s even helped her to spend more time teaching.
      People are entitled to their opinion but they are often imagined realities.

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  24. dagmar says:

    The teachers union is the biggest problem and challenge – rigid, expansive. It is all about money for them not for the schools and kids!!!

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    • Tereza Brezinski says:

      Dagmar,
      I hope you will take the time to read through the message board to see for yourself the efforts teachers make for their students (money spent out of their own pocket for resources and food, etc). I am deeply humbled by their dedication.
      These days it seems there’s a fashion all over the world to blame unions for the mistakes of the rich. It behooves us all to get informed before making judgements that may be erroneous.
      However, I apologize if I misunderstood you, and you meant that the union is “expansive” as in “open and communicative”.

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      • Maria says:

        I am very greatful to all teacher in both the independents school and public schools. My child’s teacher goes above and beyond what is ask of her for her students. I know for a fact that teaching is not a 9am-3pm job 5 days a week. Most teacher’s work weekend and weeknights to prepare for there classes. In the summer’s they are prepping for the upcoming school and BC teachers are lowest paid in the whole country. My hats are off to BC teachers and all they do. I hope the government recognizes that too. If it wasn’t for unions my friend we would all be making $4 an hour now.

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  25. Andrew Field says:

    Money is a challenge. Time is a challenge,location is a challenge. Benefits are students will learn better as they will be better catered to with the flexible learning opportunities.

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  26. Adrienne Castellon says:

    I am honoured to work in an independent school and believe that providing the choice of such an option to families in BC is important. There are several benefits to offering students the choice of independent schools: The first benefit is philosophical: parents who wish should be allowed to choose a school that responds to the worldview of their family – a worldview that also supports the constitution of human rights and the inviolable dignity of every human person. Some other benefits are financial: all independent school supporters continue to pay their full educational taxes for public schools, even though they do not make use of public school services for their children. They make a choice – and often a sacrifice – to enroll their children in independent schools because their faith and values are important to them. Independent schools buy their own land, buildings, and equipment at no cost to the Government. Another financial benefit is that, for example, category one independent schools receive 50% per pupil operating cost. For every pupil in independent schools the Government saves the remaining 50%. These are significant cost-savings for the government.

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    • Penny Barner says:

      In addition to the above, I would also like to add that not all Independent schools pre-select their students. Our children usually start with us in preschool and we take them as they come! There are no entrance exams or exclusive processes. We have natural proportions in our classroom mix, with children of many different abilities and needs. We provide a specific philosophy of education — Montessori — that is not offered by the public system in our district. There is a great demand for Montessori and, I believe, it is the best possible start for children!

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  27. Moderator Dave says:

    What does K-12 curriculum look like in a personalized learning environment? Join Education Minister George Abbott for a Twitter chat on this tomorrow (Thursday) at 4:30-5:30 pm. Follow along at our #bcedplan hashtag. See you there!

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  28. Ryan Stubbings says:

    A benefit is that it personalizes programs for individuals and it avoids all of the hoop jumping that may discourage students on their path to their educational goal. A challenge would be to find people that are going to be connected to these students to monitor their progress. I forsee students slipping through cracks as it will be difficult for a teacher assigned to a group of students in this program to be able to check-in regularly. If students are spread out to fulfill their flexible learning experiences, someone will be bouncing all over the place trying to keep up with these students.

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  29. Doug Thomson says:

    Of course technology can assist. There is a good body of research coming out that indicates, for example, that students writing on computers can be much better. It is easier for them to revise and edit without having to rewrite everything all over to get a “good copy”. Math problems can be designed to reinforce learning and move on when mastery is achieved. A student doesn’t have to complete the “whole worksheet” before moving on. In short we can move into a dynamic world that entertains constant change. In essence teaching can move from learning facts to applying information. However, this is not a simple task that makes a teacher into a classroom monitor. In this context the teacher becomes more critical. None of this works without the technological resources, training, and small class sizes.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      Could you provide some links to any of this information?

      In theory it seems that students writing on computers should be able to write better, but in reality it seems that they’re writing worse.

      My college English professor mentioned that when she went to University, and average paragraph was 9-11 sentences long, and now, in most of her classes, paragraphs tend to be only about 5 sentences long.

      There are advantages to delaying the instant gratifications of ease – a slower process allows us to develop more complex and profound ideas which cannot be expressed in 140 characters or less.

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      • Doug Thomson says:

        Rob, in 1859 Charles Dickens wrote, A Tale of Two Cities, the first paragraph of which is one long beautifully constructed sentence. In fact more than one 19th century writer wrote very long, beautiful sentences. Those structures are all but unknown in modern writing and you likely wouldn’t get blessings from a university prof. for producing one. Regardless, I have no idea what the number of sentences in a paragraph has to do with quality. I should think that the quality of the content in that paragraph is of more concern.

        Secondly, we are not talking about delayed gratification. I have a collection of beautiful Parker fountain pens and I love to write with them, however, 99.9% of my writing is now done on keyboard because it is much, much easier for me to play with language on the keyboard. We are not talking about the Tweet (140 character) world, … that is a somewhat spurious comment, methinks … but rather the world of fully developed ideas and compositions.

        Below are a few references re. your comment below.

        Meta Analysis: Writing with Computers 1992–2002
        Amie Goldberg, Michael Russell, & Abigail Cook Technology and Assessment Study Collaborative Boston College
        Released December 2002

        Computer-Based Writing Tools and the Cognitive Needs of Novice Writers
        Robert B. Kozma

        A Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York
        WRITING NEXT
        EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE WRITING OF ADOLESCENTS IN MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOLS
        By Steve Graham and Dolores Perin
        2007 (I think)

        MacArthur, Charles A.
        Reflections on Research on Writing and Technology for Struggling Writers
        Learning Disabilities Research & Practice
        v24 n2 p93-103 May 2009

        Partnering Peanuts and Word Processors for Research Writing in the Middle Grades
        LaBonty, Jan; Williams, Sandra
        Middle School Journal, v39 n4 p20-28 Mar 2008

        Children’s Writing Processes when Using Computers: Insights Based on Combining Analyses of Product and Process
        Gnach, Aleksandra; Wiesner, Esther; Bertschi-Kaufmann, Andrea; Perrin, Daniel
        Research in Comparative and International Education, v2 n1 p13?28 2007

        The Role of Computers in Writing Process
        Ulusoy, Mustafa
        Online Submission, Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology – TOJET v5 n4 article 8 Oct 2006

        Computers and Writing: The Research Says YES!
        Patterson, Nancy
        Voices from the Middle, v13 n4 p64-68 May 2006

        Word Processing as an Assistive Technology Tool for Enhancing Academic Outcomes of Students with Writing Disabilities in the General Classroom
        Hetzroni, O. E.; Shrieber, B.
        Journal of Learning Disabilities, v37 n2 p143-154 Mar 2004

        Enough for writing, but I could add many more.

        Mathematics

        Pre Service Teachers’ Usage of Dynamic Mathematics Software
        Bulut, Mehmet; Bulut, Neslihan
        Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology – TOJET, v10 n4 p294-299 Oct 2011

        Mathematics Word Problem Solving: An Investigation into Schema-Based Instruction in a Computer-Mediated Setting and a Teacher-Mediated Setting with Mathematically Low-Performing Students
        Leh, Jayne
        ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Lehigh University

        Teachers’ Initial Orchestration of Students’ Dynamic Geometry Software Use: Consequences for Students’ Opportunities to Learn Mathematics
        Erfjord, Ingvald
        Technology, Knowledge and Learning, v16 n1 p35-54 Apr 2011

        Science Modelling in Pre-Calculus: How to Make Mathematics Problems Contextually Meaningful
        Sokolowski, Andrzej; Yalvac, Bugrahan; Loving, Cathleen
        International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, v42 n3 p283-297 Apr 2011

        Presenting Practical Application of Mathematics by the Use of Programming Software with Easily Available Visual Components
        Lambic, Dragan
        Teaching Mathematics and Its Applications: An International Journal of the IMA, v30 n1 p10-18 Mar 2011

        A Comparative Study of the Effects of Using Dynamic Geometry Software and Physical Manipulatives on the Spatial Visualisation Skills of Pre-Service Mathematics Teachers

        Baki, Adnan; Kosa, Temel; Guven, Bulent
        British Journal of Educational Technology, v42 n2 p291-310 Mar 2011

        Again the list can go on and on.

        Science

        The Learning Effects of Computer Simulations in Science Education
        Rutten, Nico; van Joolingen, Wouter R.; van der Veen, Jan T.
        Computers & Education, v58 n1 p136-153 Jan 2012

        Conducting Guided Inquiry in Science Classes Using Authentic, Archived, Web-Based Data
        Ucar, Sedat; Trundle, Kathy Cabe
        Computers & Education, v57 n2 p1571-1582 Sep 2011

        Integrating Computer- and Teacher-Based Scaffolds in Science Inquiry
        Wu, Hui-Ling; Pedersen, Susan
        Computers & Education, v57 n4 p2352-2363 Dec 2011

        New Pedagogies on Teaching Science with Computer Simulations
        Khan, Samia
        Journal of Science Education and Technology, v20 n3 p215-232 Jun 2011

        The Effects of the Computer-Based Instruction on the Achievement and Problem Solving Skills of the Science and Technology Students
        Serin, Oguz
        Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology – TOJET, v10 n1 p183-201 Jan 2011

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          Thanks, Doug.
          That’s quite the list. I was hoping for some viewable links though…I mean, these things have been studied and reported in journals, yes, but that says nothing of the actual results (I expect that the results in the above reports favour technology? or do they just show that it can be used to the same ends as non-tech methods?).

          Experientially I see poorer and poorer writing from kids that are plugged in, with access to all the editing tools the world has to offer.

          Technology is very easy to learn, and is becoming ever easier and more intuitive. It is also becoming more and more expensive, and it progresses far too fast for any schools to maintain up-to-date technology.

          That said, if the same intelligence is applied using technology or not using technology, the results are the same. There are as many examples of technology failing to enhance us as there are of it giving us advantages…and the critical factor is not the presence or absence of technology, but the presence or absence of intelligence.

          Thus, i think that all the promises of technology can be provided just as easily without it if we take an equally intelligent approach either way…and non-tech has the advantage of being affordable.

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          • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

            Doug, if you have any links to share in response to Rob’s comment above, could I ask please that you limit it to just a few? We don’t have a policy per se on super lengthy posts (like your last one) but it would be nice to keep it concise here if we can. Thanks!

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            • Doug Thomson says:

              Sorry, Mike, just trying to help Rob. Wanted to supply references as Rob isn’t too keen on computers. Anyhow, I have posted my last comment here.

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              • Rob Slanina says:

                Oh I love computers! I just don’t believe that they’re a necessity when it comes to education. There are many entertaining uses for computers…however, I fail to be convinced that computers can make unintelligent people more intelligent.

                Unintelligent people will use computers for unintelligent things. Intelligent people will use computers for intelligent things.

                With regard to education, it is intelligence that we ought to be concerned with, not technology(which is expensive and impractical to maintain when it’s not really a necessity).

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          • Lara says:

            Here is just ONE study showing how handwriting is better for brain development than typing:

            http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-06-15/health/sc-health-0615-child-health-handwriti20110615_1_handwriting-virginia-berninger-brain-activation

            The misuse of computers is “dumbing us down.” I appreciated your logical point that intelligent, creative people invented computers and software to make them work. Computers are not the best way to to foster either intelligence or creativity.

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            • Stephanie says:

              Computers in Schools!Are we talking about computers or the internet here?
              There is a place for them both. But I feel printing and writing are necessary skills that, as stated above, build the brain. Then so does throwing and catching a ball. Students do not need the internet before grade 4 possibly grade 6. Our district spends way too much money on keeping the kids ‘safe’ on them. Just don’t give it to them. BUT having said that there is a place for the use and need of computers. I have terrible hand writing, always have. Who knows why, but I have to spend a lot of energy and effort to make my writing look good and I never mastered McLeans method, despite spending an entire summer every day with the retired teacher down the street working on my writing skills.
              I am just not wired for that type of hand coordination.
              I had a teacher in grade 8 suggest I learn how to type, (on a manual typwriter) so that I would not lose marks on essays because of my handwriting.
              I did, but it was too late. I left school the next year, it was just not working for me. The endless writing in social studies and other subjects were not helping me learn, they were just frustrating. If I had had a computer to take notes and do assignments, I may have been able to finish school. So please do keep in mind that all Students have different needs. For some a computer is what they need. For others it is a detriment.
              I know of a highschool that is doing provincials strickly on computers this next week. That is making a lot of assumptions and not serving all of the students, in my opinion.

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              • Janet says:

                This is true, some kids really struggle with handwriting because they may have fine motor difficulties for a variety of reasons. My son who was diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder by a occupational therapist and struggles with handwriting. For those students, computers can be a big help. There may be a correlation between handwriting and brain development as the article states, but so might using the hands to do other things. It has been shown that adaptive use of technology is very useful for students with a variety of special needs, to facilitate learning, written output and communication. All students, if and when they go to university, will have to type everything and need to know how to use computers.

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  30. Doug Thomson says:

    The problem resides with funding. Technological advances are critical, but they require three essential elements to be functional. One is the technology itself. Our technology world is fast paced and constantly in flux. If our educational program is change and take advantage of modern technologies, the funding for software and hardware must be there, and currently it is not. All children and teachers, regardless of their locale must have equal access to the most current tools. Typically the ministry has provides startup grants and then leaves the technology maintenance to the school districts. This has not worked because the funding is not adequate to support the maintenance for many districts. Software licenses and hardware needs are much more expensive than chalk, a blackboard and an overhead projector. Furthermore, districts have had to establish, staff and maintain whole technology departments in their districts at huge costs, costs that have not been reflected in their budgets. In the “old”, traditional system, maintenance people replaced the blackboards and teachers carried a box of chalk to the classroom. Second, new systems also require training for staff. Not an hour or two on a non-instructional day, but intensive training that addresses not only the how, but the why of the technology. Teachers, even in current university programs receive little if any relevant training in this regard. Finally, to properly implement and manage new technologies and strategies, classroom sizes must be manageable. A teacher facing a classroom of 35 children including a large number of students with special learning needs does not have a chance to make technology work for him or her. We need to see average class sized in the order of 18 students typical to schools like St. Michaels in Victoria for the learning environment to be viable for change. So, if the funding for the technology, training, and class size isn’t in the mix, talk of new strategies is just smoke and mirrors.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      Doug, would you be so kind as to articulate a few concrete examples which highlight the need for technology in the education setting?

      I’ve heard and read it again and again that technological advances are critical to the school setting, though I have not come across anyone who could substantiate that claim.

      Technology is becoming less complex, more user friendly/intuitive, and apart from entertainment, they’re good for searching, networking and word-processing — none of which are tasks which require up-to-date hardware or software.

      Why is it heralded as so important? Are we afraid that the next generation is going to find their iPhones and iPads and iPods too complicated?

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      • Doug Thomson says:

        See above for references:

        Wow, I guess at some level nothing is essential is education other than a student and a teacher. Plato sits on the chair and the student sits at his feet, however, hopefully we strive for greater efficacy.

        However, your statement re. the use of computers is painful. Limiting computers to “searching, networking, and word-processing” is so, so sad. I use computers constantly in my daily life. I create and use databases to manage information; I create and use websites driven by some of those same databases; I use high end software for Photographs, production of publications, design, and data analysis; I use computers and software to edit and display my personal digital photographs, and movies; I create presentations; and I maintain personal and business records on computer. If we want our future citizens to be limited to “searching, networking, and word-processing”, by all means keep the old junk and don’t bother teaching skills that take advantage of the technologies. Finally, yup, computers are becoming more user friendly, that doesn’t mean that learning Photoshop is simple.

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          Learning Photoshop IS simple, if you can use Google. I know, because that’s how I learned Photoshop.

          It’s also a specialized skill that’s not essential in order to compete or contribute in the 21st century. We do not need a billion more websites…not unless we can foster the incredible minds that can develop worthy content first!

          …we have specialized persons who manage the most essential databases (eg: wikipedia) and you over-emphasize the necessity of them. If you can manage a small database on paper, you can learn to manage a large one on a computer in no time at all.

          Tools are not a substitute for understanding. I mean, so what if you can answer all the math equations using the calculator? if you don’t understand what you’re doing with the calculator, you will never get smart enough to program a better calculator.

          Technology has nothing to do with intelligence…and since technology is only getting easier and more accessible, by focusing on intelligence we can trust that people will be able to find their way around computers.

          …knowing how to find one’s way around a computer however, doesn’t mean that they are capable of making their way through life as a productive member of society.

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          • Doug Thomson says:

            Rob,
            I’m 62 years of age, very well educated, have been indefinite and still am a very productive member of society. Much of my life was spent without computers, but neither am I a Luddite ignorant of the critical importance of technology in our lives. Understanding that technology, applying critical and creative thought to developing and maximizing it’s potential for human good does require intelligence, a great deal of intelligence. We should be preparing our students to take up that challenge by giving them the requisite skills. These skills should include the technological underpinnings as well as artistic skills; training in philosophy, ethics, and literature; business; history; science; and mathematics. We need to help them develop strong and healthy bodies, and it wouldn’t hurt if they could also repair their cars, saw a board, read a plan, or weld a bead.

            Hey, wait. That’s what our schools once did before the endless series of cutbacks that began the year my son entered Grade 1. He’s now 35.

            This is my last post here. Just to reiterate, my original point, Rob, was that schools need money for reasonably current technology to keep pace with an ever changing world. That may be computers, a CNC machine for a shop, software for a photography lab, or a host of other applications. The technologies are but tools that if used properly will help teachers do a better job.

            Finally, Rob, as I am a certified Adobe trainer, I feel safe in saying that a few Internet tutorials does not equate to an understanding of Photoshop.

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            • Rob Slanina says:

              There are more than just a few tutorials available. ;)

              …and as one who has not been trained by a certified instructor, I have found that my understanding of the software has been sufficient to use it in a professional capacity as a character designer for games and cartoons, as well as in a less-professional capacity as a web designer and photography editor.

              Basically, you can’t give sophisticated tools to people and expect them to become sophisticated.

              When someone understands what they are doing, they can easily learn tools that make the job easier…however, just because someone can operate a tool does not mean that they know what they’re doing.

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        • Doug Thomson says:

          Whoops, my bad … Socrates, not Plato. Sorry.

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  31. David says:

    We live in an increasingly competitive world. We also are experiencing historic changes in communication through the development and application of new technologies. Are we effectively utilizing these to train and equip the next generation with the needed skills to prepare for the highly integrated world that is developing? This will require extensive flexibility in learning venues and structures. The traditional classroom cannot keep up.

    DS

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  32. Penny Barner says:

    The vast majority of comments and suggestions on this blog related to children from kindergarten and up. If we don’t address the needs of preschool aged children, we are missing the boat entirely! In Montessori, children aged 3, 4 and 5 work together in a prepared environment specifically designed to meet their developmental needs. I can’t stress enough that the work that is done in these three years provides the basis for a child’s entire future education! Look at the research! Children need the kind of stimulation that a Montessori program provides. If we don’t prepare them at three, we may as well forget making changes to their program at 13.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      While I agree that the years before Kindergarten are highly critical, I feel that they fall within the domain of a social issue at large rather than within the scope of this education project.

      Having worked as a support worker in a daycare and preschool setting with highly trained workers, and as a Child & Youth worker with pre-Kindergarten children, I feel that we would do better to reinforce the home-front (eg: enable parents to stay home, use social programs to teach and equip parents in the pre-Kindergarten years).
      I believe that this is a better approach given the degree to which I personally value family bonding and non-institutional socializing.

      Having had a stay at home mom in my pre-Kindergarten years, I was more than prepared for my future schooling (in fact, at Christmas time in grade 1 I was skipped ahead to grade 2). I owe much of my success to my at-home preparation, and I do not think that daycares/preschools can adequately compete with that sort of a start. Parents are the critical factor at that age, and even in preschool, at least in my experience, children who are parented better are more successful in that setting, while poorly parented children become imprinted with bad habits within that formal setting that go with them for years.

      I believe that socialization apart from the school setting is critical, as children who are socialized within a school setting (eg: preschool/daycare) do not necessarily transition from the experience of school as play to an experience of school as work.

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      • Penny Barner says:

        I would never want to underestimate the value of the education a child receives at home. I was also fortunate to be raised by a stay-at-home mother…in the 50s. Our experience at Selkirk Montessori is that fewer and fewer families are able to enjoy this option.

        I value and respect early childhood educators but they are not trained Montessori teachers. The prepared Montessori environment is very different from a traditional preschool/daycare setting. According to Dr. Montessori’s research, preschool aged children are more than ready for this type of education and I have been privileged to see it in action.

        I wholeheartedly support the education of parents…hopeful prospective rather than actual. :)

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          Thanks for your reply :)

          I agree that young children are ripe to be educated in many many ways…

          …and it’s not viable for many families to have a stay at home parent, this is true…

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  33. MD says:

    Get rid of grades. Studies show that rewards, like grades, limit people’s thinking. There are other ways to assess progress. http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/tcag.htm

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      I concur that there must be better ways to assess progress, however, I cannot imagine any that are anything besides subjective(which isn’t necessarily the worst thing…however, it leads to at least as many problems as the grading system has).

      Do you have some examples of alternate methods that you feel are better?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Let’s not get rid of grades, but let’s add to them. Currently in high school you get a grade plus a somewhat meaningless “effort mark” (G,S,N). Since parents and students tend to care more about the A/B/C mark, teachers are always tempted to give marks there for work habits. (ex. lose marks if you are late or don’t do homework).

      Why can’t we have specific criteria for the “effort mark” and make it a percentage and letter grade. Maybe students and parents would then take it more seriously.

      Example: In math class you get
      90% A Performance (good at math)
      70% C+ Work Habits (were late for class several times and didn’t hand in project on time)

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  34. Roni says:

    The goals set out in this New Education Plan reflect what Montessori had discovered was the way children learn. We can learn a lot by looking at the Montessori Method in our New Education Plan.

    Maria Montessori created the Montessori Method corresponding to her research revealing the developmental stages of the child’s learning.
    1. Three year age groupings in each class. Older children helping younger ones and younger ones being inspired by the work of the older (or more advanced)students. Studies have shown that this care of the younger classmate and becoming a leader in the 3rd year of the class is significant not only in the child’s self esteem, but also in “bully” prevention. The teacher and children know each other very well within a 3 year class community. The class has children at various learning stages and levels and therefore does not separate by ability.
    2. Children learning at their own pace and choosing their work (within guidelines as out in teacher/child meetings and the child’s work diary). There is always someone at their same work level but not necessarily same age.
    3. Reporting systems reflect individual progress and not comparison grading. The teacher training and materials used in the Montessori classroom are specific to this classroom environment.

    References:(to name a few)
    To Educate The Human Potential, Maria Montessori
    From Childhood To Adolescence, Maria Montessori
    Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, Angela Stoll Lillard

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      Hi Roni,
      In your own experience, do children brought up in that system fare much better in life than children brought up in more traditionally formatted independent schools?

      My expectation is that it is more the involvement of the caretakers(parents/teachers) than it is the approach to academics that makes the difference in the Montessori model.

      The Montessori model may foster good citizens (as other systems do), though it may not foster academic achievement as well as other systems.

      Forgive me if I’m mistaken. I’d appreciate further insights.

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      • Penny Barner says:

        As a Montessori school administrator — and the parent of a Montessori graduate now in University — the difference I see between systems is the level of confidence, self-direction and love of learning that the philosophy instills. As Roni suggests, looking at the Montessori model while we develop the plan is a great idea!

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          Thanks, Penny.

          I suppose my concern is that the impression I get from the little I know of the Montessori system is that it is quite…’right brained’.
          As an artist and musician and an aspiring mystic, I can certainly appreciate the value of right-brained approaches to things…however, without left-brained discernment and analysis, such a ‘right-brained’ approach often gravitates toward the likes of relativism, hedonism and nihilism.

          Most specifically, my concern is with the relativism that is enabled by constant encouragement and refrain from admitting that something is in error/wrong…

          …in any case, it’s fine as an example to draw from while we build our model…I just prefer to be cautious when assessing such radically different approaches…

          …that said, the simplicity of a Socratic approach appeals to me…and it seems Socrates’ approach would not have been hindered by much…
          …it just calls for exceptional teachers…

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          • Penny Barner says:

            I’m fortunate to work with many exceptional teachers! They are also musicians and artists and scientists and athletes…you get the picture! One of the things I loved about my daughter’s Montessori experience was that she received such a well rounded education!

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          • Lara says:

            As a high school teacher, I concur that the Socratic approach calls for a skill set that many teachers either have or could nurture given the encouragement, freedom and time to enact this approach. I have used the “Socratic Circle” in Social studies when discussing controversial issues. Students needed a fair bit of preparation to participate in this sort of discussion because they are so used to just spitting back disparate pieces of trivia on tests. They are addicted to the “right” answer. Often in life the right answer is far more nuanced then those offered in textbooks, so we definitely need to move towards a more socratic model. Again, such an approach requires more time then the current model allows, with its emphasis on covering a TON of information in such a short time, skimming over things that are all too quickly forgotten, not to mention out of context.
            Oh, and it would pretty hard to teach Socratically using a computer…real people needed here.

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          • Roni says:

            Hello Rob,
            Great question. The Montessori approach definately fosters both the right and left brain development. The aim is to touch the child’s imagination and encourage enthusiasm for learning through presentations of lessons on the history of the universe, origin of life, history of human culture and the development of langusge and numbers. Such presentations in the Montessori environment include and integrate math, language, science, geography biology, history art, music and movement. The Montessori “hands on” concrete materials and way of presenting these materials at the early age is a basis of the child’s experience, fostering the love of learning.

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  35. Rob Slanina says:

    With regard to the availability of technology, is there really such great advantage to giving that technology to every student? I’m quite a tech savvy person, but really, there’s not much about technology that is essential for survival in the 21st century. All that a person needs to know about computers and the Internet can be learned in a couple hours at workshops that they offer for free at the public library…basically, how to use google, word processors, and facebook.
    Aside from that, in an employment context, most companies that are tech heavy have a tech department that handles the technical side of computers, and they provide specialized training for their specialized systems.

    Forget about technology, and focus on fostering the sort of intelligence that will inspire kids to type something important into google once they get access to it…develop minds that have something interesting to write before you worry about whether they can use word processors…foster an interest in something intelligent before you worry about teaching them how to network with people of similar interest.
    Computers are not complicated, and the progression of them has been toward greater simplicity, intuitiveness, and ease rather than toward complexity, difficulty and exclusiveness.

    …it’s never too late to learn how to use technology, but sometimes it is definitely be too early.

    If your baby can play ‘Angry Birds’ on your iPhone, you’ve not made a more productive member of society, right? :)

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    • Penny Barner says:

      I agree with much of what you say about technology, Rob. Of course, I believe that Montessori IS the system that inspires and fosters, etc, etc….but you know that already! :)

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  36. Dr. J says:

    What I perceive to be a huge benefit of the flexibility of education offered in BC is the presence of independent schools.

    My husband and I are both doctors practicing in the Lower Mainland, and our main consideration in deciding where to settle down and start a family is the educational opportunities which will be available to our children. In particular, the variety of programs, electives, and values taught at independent schools are hugely important to us.

    The presence of public and private education–even the competition between them–makes both programs stronger. I think this is an important element of education in BC which should be supported as the government moves forward with revisions to the system.

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    • MD says:

      Finland has achieved the best education system in the world through cooperation between schools and all levels of governments. I think competition with and subsidization of private schools detracts from our public schools. Everyone should have access to the best education possible.

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      • Rob Slanina says:

        In BC, there has been a tendency to allocate more and more resources to students who are struggling, students with difficult SES backgrounds, students who do not want to be at school.
        This is in contrast to when I was in school 20 years ago, and there were clubs for advanced math, English, science…where opportunities for the students who applied themselves and who were successful were many.

        While I agree that everyone should have an equal opportunity to get the best education possible, I feel that there should be a caveat that a great education is not an entitlement…it is something that has to be earned by effort.

        Sure ‘disruptive Danny’ and ‘Hard-working Harold’ deserve the same opportunity…but they do not deserve the same reward.

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      • Frederick Rathje says:

        I totally agree with MD.

        The Finnish model is also an interesting one to look at because it has received so much scrutiny not only in the international sphere but by the Finnish educators themselves. Finns have gained insight into the reasons for their success by trying to understand what they have done differently from other countries. The Finns will readily admit that one cannot simply clone a successful system and expect it to bring results as there are many complexities to “education” and culture can be one significant aspect and, any significant transformation takes decades.

        What makes the Finnish education model different is that it took what they perceived to be the best researched in education from other nations in Europe and North America and applied it in a way that meshed with their values. They ended up with and education system that is in stark contrast to what is typically promoted currently as a way to achieve a 21st century learning, – the competitive business model. Their focus was not on competition but on co-operation as noted in the previous post. What is surprising is that in the Finnish education system itself is extremely competitive but not between schools or between teachers. The competition is actually for the teaching jobs which require a master degree in education even for the primary grades. The teachers that enter the profession are typically the best students leaving high school and of that group only 10% are actually accepted to this masters teacher program. It is the kind of competition one encounters when studying to become a doctor.

        When Finland embarked on that journey (late 1960′s) they were still largely an agricultural nation and they realized they needed to make some some changes to educate all the population not just the elite. The USA is at a crossroads and universities there are very keen to understand the Finnish success. Today, Stanford University in California has commenced a conference with participants from Finland to tackle this problem. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20120116005029/en/Finnish-American-Experts-Share-Practices-Education-Reform . As we know, California is largely a knowledge economy with manufacturing transferred to China. Perhaps we will see a transformation happening there. Their competitiveness will depend on it!

        I think we in Canada are in a good position to adapt the things that have made the Finnish education the envy of the Americans and the southern Europeans. If we don’t make the effort to study Finland’s education system and engage the public about it, we will be the poorer for it. Relying mostly on export of our natural resources is not a good plan.

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        • Moderator Dave says:

          Good catch Frederick. It will be interesting to follow the proceedings of this conference.

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    • Doug Thomson says:

      Well, Dr. J., I couldn’t disagree more heartedly. Private schools screen their students, they provide small class sizes that are quite beyond anything the public school can offer, they have both curricular and extracurricular offerings that are completely beyond anything possible in public schools, they can afford a plethora of enrichment activities, and, if a student does not perform to acceptable social and academic standards they may be asked to go away and enrol in a public school. The competition is about as realistic as putting a plough horse in the Kentucky Derby. It is just ridiculous. On top of that, the elitist private schools are sucking resources from the public schools. Why these anachronistic institutions receive funding from the government is beyond me.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Wow. As a public school teacher, this post makes me sad. If your children were in the public school they would have similar opportunities to excel and probably contribute positively to the school culture (along with your healthy tuition payment that could be donated to the public school). I believe that everyone would be better off without private schools.

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  37. Rob Slanina says:

    To me, flexibility has to do more with context than with content. That is to say that it is the flexibility of the mind that is more critical to consider than the flexibility of the schedule, or the curriculum, or the media through which they are articulated.

    The vision of the great philosophers was such that improvements in society would minimize the number of things that we had to do in order that we might have more time to just think and discuss and debate.

    The logistics of flexibility and personalization as they are implied seem relatively impossible outside the context of philosophical discourse as one of the critical foundations for education. As such, I would propose in addition to reading, writing, and math, that some manner of philosophy/psychology be introduced as a primary foundation for curricula.

    I propose the philosophical element as the remedy to otherwise expensive adaptations to the system, because via philosophical discourse(as evidenced by the discussions on this very site) many possibilities can be engaged with, explored, and discussed with virtually no expense of time, money, or resources.

    In contrast to experiential flexibility(which is mostly tactile in its advantages, rather than intellectual), philosophical foundations create flexible persons. Instead of flexing the already taxed system, we create flexible minds…people who do not need industry-specific training in order to be useful; young people who can think effectively enough to adapt(i.e. be flexible) to the breadth of experiences which they may both seek, and which they may encounter by chance in life.

    A flexible system may be comfortable yet flimsy, while flexible students, parents, teachers, and societies are well equipped to endure just about anything.

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  38. Wayne Ezeard says:

    Our present and prehistoric model is no longer working, and hasn”t for a long time. Students need to be challenged with innovated, and creative thought provoking programs designed for a fast paced, and changing world. Shorter break times with flexible time tables would be a great start. Take away the School year book ends so districts can design a schedule that works best for there population and it”s diverse needs

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  39. Shawn Chisholm says:

    We live in a complex and diverse world and I believe K-12 education should play an important role in helping our students and families engage in and navigate through what lies ahead. Offering a wider variety of learning opportunities and experiences for students creates excitement and a sense of personal ownership of their educational programming. Scheduling and course presentation flexibility, while often logistically challenging, often better meets the needs of our students and their families.
    I believe the greatest challenge to offering more flexible learning opportunities is the reluctance to change that some education stakeholders groups embrace.
    There is a perpetual need to review and research ways to improve education and better meet the needs of our students. More educational opportunities through greater flexibility in educational programming support student and family choice and benefit our society.

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  40. John Siebenga says:

    Students love challenges and with flexible learning opportunities, they will get that challenge. Though there is some flexibility in the high school, we are stilled governed by an industrial modern model of education. Students enter the factory of education at 8:30, bells ring them to class, buzzers tell them when to go to the next class and promptly at 3:00, the bells ring for dismissal. Flexibility needs to take in a different paradigm of learning environments, times and places. For many of us at independent schools, this is something we have been experimenting with but it requires time and energy.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      John, can you share with us any of the changes you’re making at your school? And how is it working out so far?

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  41. Ruth Froese says:

    The benefits to students of increased flexibility in their learning cannot be overemphasized. Having taught senior classes in a secondary school with a very strong music program for the past twenty years, I would say that the major conflicts among staff revolved around how much time students needed to spend in what was considered an “extracurricular” activity. Yet our spring production was always sold out for 10 performances within three days of tickets going on sale. Freeing up more curricular time for students dedicated to the fine arts will allow schools to graduate far more mature, experienced, and skilled performers and artists.

    The greatest challenge will be the infusion of money required to give students interested in manual skills the workshops and labs needed to prepare them to become auto mechanics, plumbers, and electricians. The second greatest challenge will be (a) helping existing teachers familiar with a “mass education” system to change their classroom management styles to support individual learning, and (b) equipping teachers with real world knowledge of how technology and tradespeople actually do their work. Much current classroom instruction in the trades and in technology is simply obsolete or not applicable in the working world.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely, it should be easier to give credits to students for extra-curricular activities such as productions or athletics. Participation in these activities are falling off because students are less motivated, working more, and less teachers are running programs outside of school time.
      If students received 1/2 of a PE credit for every sport and the teacher-coach got 1/2 block pay for coaching a sport this would increase participation.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        What a great idea. Currently there are credits given for certain activities completed outside of school but not enough. What do others think of this idea?

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  42. D_Man says:

    From a course selection process, I think we already offer a great deal of flexibility in the High Schools, but offer little to no flexibility in the Primary grades. Again, this is solely on the basis of course selection flexibility.

    As I am not a teacher – what is wrong with having teachers for specific courses at the Primary level like they do with the High School grades? As with other questions I’ve posted on, I reference my field (Health Care) – would you rather have your GP performing a knee replacement surgery on you, or would you rather have the Ortho (who has received specialized training and education in that particular area) perform the surgery?

    I would rather have the “specialist” teach me math, or the “specialist” teach me PE, or the “specialist” teach me French.

    If this were to be looked at, then teachers could specialize into areas their passionate about! You wouldn’t have a teacher having to teach PE (as an example), who has no interest whatsoever. The challenge here is you (the Ministry) would need to work with the colleges and universities on changing of the courses to allow for specialization (if it’s not already done).

    Also, just like with the High School grades, children at the Primary grades would have a “core” curriculum, along with “electives”.

    I think in doing so, you’d have a lot less kids wanting to go to school. Case in point – my 9 year old daughter HATES having to go to school. It’s painful to get her motivated and out the door each morning. This would give kids a bit of an incentive, for they might excited as Monday they might have Music, and Tuesday they might have Art, and so on. From a childs’ perspective, you have a couple issues. They would need a counsellor or someone to assist them with knowing what courses the particular school is offering for electives. Then the other issue is the “bad” teachers. We all know they exist and we all know they’re protected (just like in my field so please don’t say there are no bad teachers). The kids at all grades already KNOW who these teachers are (my daughter in grade 3 is already telling me she hopes she doesn’t get so-and-so next year as she’s horrible). Kids would adjust their courses to avoid the bad teachers, so you’d have a teacher that come September would have very few kids in their class as nobody would want to be there. The other challenge I see with this, is additional overhead to Admin staff, in arranging all the classes, times, teachers, etc.

    Now I’m another note, I’m pleased to see the “flexibility” in having (as of last year) Full Day Kindergarten. Many people may have been opposed to this, but our son (currently in pre-school (age 4)) is already adding/subtracting up to 20. Knows his colours, shapes (from the geometry his big sister is doing), and knows grammar at a level that continues to amaze me. He’s fully ready (in my opinion) for Full Day Kindergarten come September.

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  43. Layna says:

    What is the role of school? Are there any limits to what schools can and should be involved in?
    Providing flexible learning opportunities is necessary, but I would rather see clearly defined outcomes like, say, grammar, geography and history to give the upcoming generations the skills and background knowledge they need to be critical thinkers; communicate clearly, and adapt to our ever-changing world.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      I completely agree.

      It begs the question of accreditation that always bothers me. As a potential employer, I’d always choose someone who has no accreditation but demonstrates an exceptional level of thinking than to hire someone with stacks of certificates but requires you to hold their hand through every detail.

      I expect that the education system will make my children capable of great thinking. Leave it to the parents/providence to provide them with opportunities above and beyond the call to be effective thinkers.

      …many experiences does not make one wise.
      …wisdom may help you to navigate many experiences.

      The role of the schools is to provide wisdom. Life already provides people with experience…

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  44. Anne says:

    Mike, I am concerned by your use of the term “core subjects.” If the MoE really does believe that innovative ideas such as those put forward by Sir Ken Robinson, then we should be moving toward a non-hierarchical model of subjects. I am a performing arts teacher and I know from studying the recent findings of neuroscientists like Oliver Sachs, Ian McGilchrist and others that we need to start changing our view of what is “essential” to leraning in the 21st century. True flexibility means including, encouraging and de-stigmatizing subjects that are not “core” such as English, Math or Science.

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    • Tereza Brezinski says:

      And I am terribly confused by the ideals espoused by Sir Ken Robinson – a collection of funny anecdotes who only sound good because of the accent. Are we really to believe that the world needs as many dancers and ceramics artists as it needs mathematicians and scientists? Many contributors to this board ( and Sir Ken, too, as an inspiration for many :-) ) talk about the need to prepare the students for the 21st century and its challenges – but I cannot believe that anyone is afraid we won’t have enough dancers and clay pots. There is a need, in my view, to decide clearly what we want: if we want our children to become artists en masse, because this is what makes them happy, we should not be too surprised in 20 years when Canada(BC) has no no scientific innovation to speak of, and instead excels in the field of making art and being hungry.
      Furthermore, I urge everyone to research the great inventions of the 19th century and decide for yourselves if it was indeed un-creative, un-intelligent and un-interesting.
      I’m not saying that we have to force children to became what they don’t want to be. I am however concerned that we may even remotely consider ceramics&co as equal to science in scope, importance and relevance.

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      • Margaret says:

        I suggest you read “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future” by Daniel Pink.
        I think you missed Sir Ken Robinson’s point.

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      • Stephanie says:

        Tereza, it is about flexibility. If a child can learn what he loves at the same time as what he needs, we have accomplished a great thing.
        It is not about producing more potters or artist, although it would be nice for people to have that skill to help them with the stresses of adult life. If I knew I was going to get music, from a fun and interesting teacher each day, I could make it thru the subjects that I do not enjoy, so I could get to the ones I enjoy. The ones that make me feel good and that I am good at. We all need at least a bit of that every day.

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          Learning begets enjoyment. The things we enjoy don’t necessarily beget learning. It’s a seemingly dangerous thing to place the importance of doing what we like above doing what is important.

          I don’t think this is what you meant to imply; I simply felt it important to say.

          Perhaps if we abandon the expectation that school should be entertaining and enjoyable, school could serve its purpose more clearly and effectively, and happiness could remain(as it always has been) a personal responsibility.

          I know a number of teachers who are completely burnt out for their efforts to make lessons exciting and fun…competing with video games and cell phones and mp3 players and tv…and in the end, all it does is program the expectation into the kids that they should be able to expect all things to be fun and entertaining…it results in passive people who wait to be engaged as opposed to the more desirable sort of person(with a strong knowledge base) who goes about engaging with the world by their own volition.

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          • Janet says:

            Rob, why teachers burn out may be a little more complex than your one reason explanation.
            Also, I don’t think schools and should be boring, depressing places where there is no happiness and passion for learning.

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            • Rob Slanina says:

              Of course teachers being burnt out is complex. That doesn’t diminish the fact that what I described above is a significant part of that.

              Boringness and depressiveness are SUBJECTIVE perceptions(forgive the caps…there doesn’t seem to be an option to italicize here). I often found it condescending when teachers tried to make things into entertainment…

              The material itself is actually quite compelling on its own…it doesn’t have to be packaged up and covertly delivered. It is a very shallow view of life to think that math and English and science and social studies are too boring to be delivered straight up.
              By buying into that false belief system we actually encourage students to be shallow about school themselves.

              We don’t need to pretend like math is something that it isn’t in order for kids to learn it well.

              Is there a better reason to enjoy math besides for the fact that it IS math?

              Is it possible to take someone who doesn’t like math, make their lessons all flashy and shallow, and the outcome is that they’re going to be better at math for it? Is it ethical to butter kids up and try to MANIPULATE them into thinking that math is something other than what it is?

              …I suppose I just have more faith in kids than that…
              …and my experience as a student was much more positive when the material was given to me straight…entertainment is good, but it’s no replacement for the facts.

              Like I said: Learning begets enjoyment…but it doesn’t follow that enjoyment necessarily begets learning.

              Reason, logic, learning, the intellect, academic foundations, and philosophy are at the essence of any good education.

              Are we preparing kids for life by insisting that anything worth doing should be trying to entertain them? How many real-world employers are going to be aligned with that notion?

              No-frills/gimmicks learning actually gives you the tools to be happier, because you then gain the mental capacity to appreciate more of the qualities of reality…

              …escapist learning just doesn’t compare at all…

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      • Mark says:

        Unfortunately you miss the point. All children have huge creative potential – this is the central point made by Ken Robinson. Children are innately creative and we squander it and even squeeze it out of them in the current school system, particularly high school. When you ask you child what engaged them in school is it usually math or french? Not in most cases. In most cases it is art, PE, music, perhaps English if we’re lucky. Why is this?

        I used to subscribe to the idea that the “lesser” subjects were there to distract our children long enough that they might not notice the drudgery of the “core” subjects. Fling them an art lesson and we can drag ‘em through math or french. I no longer think this is good enough. We need to recognize that the creative arts are as valuable as the “core” subjects and break the idea that some subjects have more value than others. I’d also like to point out that I believe science can be as creative as any other subject – if it’s taught well. How many hands-on experiements did your child do in Grade 9?

        This doesn’t mean we have to lower our standards or eliminate hard work and effort. If we are to give children real choice then it also means taking away the “soft options”. The expectations of a child taking ceramics or photography needs be has high as those taking French. This also requires a radical shift in the way these subjects are taught. It also means increased supervision of the teaching profession so that we can ensure that everyone has adopted the new practices.

        And this leads to a an interesting corollary. If all subjects were truly seen to be of equal value I think we would initially see a stampede from the “core” subjects to the creative arts. This alone would be enough for us to change the way we taught these old “core” subjects. Nothing like a bit of competition for bottoms in seats to sharpen the pencils of the math department – empty seats would mean radical staff changes or radical changes to teaching approach, which is what is really needed.

        And there are loads of examples that show us that creativity is the way to go: Kodak, 130 years of excellence in science and technology but not creative enough change with the digital revolution and now bankrupt; people with a liberal arts degree get paid more than most other graduates; El Sistema of Venezuela, a music program that has totally changed child school attendance in poor rural areas.

        It is true that Canada does turnout excellent scientists and engineers. However, I would strongly argue that this is despite the system rather than because of it. How many potential creative scientists did we loose along the way. What was the lost human potential?

        One last point. The comments we see in these discussion groups tells us one clear message. It’s a waste of time tinkering with the system. The school system, which was fine when designed in the 1700′s for the needs the industrial revolution, needs a complete overhaul. I wonder if the Ministry of Education is up to the challenge

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  45. Anne says:

    Could you please clarify a little more as to what you mean when you state “the reality within which they live”? You state this twice and I wonder if you mean to imply that students coming to school with deficits of the kind that Mrs. P describes might not be eligible to receive levels of educational funding that would help close the gap between them and educational communities that operate within more fortunate circumstances. Surely these considerations have already been rigorously examined by the partners who drafted the Educational Plan? After all, educational partners here in BC must be fully aware of the wide range of socio-economic, cultural, language, and health issues that exist in our educational system. Equity is not the same as “equal.” If education is to head towards differentiated and flexible learning, then it seems to me that funding will need to do the same.

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  46. Anne says:

    My elementary school is already committed to providing flexible, meaningful, personalized learning at every level of our school community. But inadequate funding makes differentiation and choice a real challenge. If this becomes a province-wide focus, will there be appropriate funding added to make flexible learning opportunities a reality – especially in small schools and rural communities with small populations?

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  47. Denise says:

    Flexible learning could include hours, types of courses, types of resources, and types of learning environments, and these could aid a student in achieving their learning goals. It’s difficult to define what these might be, however.

    Challenges would be administrative for one. Also, if you’re having parents and students create their own learning plan, what measures would be in place to ensure that curricular goals are being met from all of these variables? How would the quality of education be ensured from outside “traditional” sources?

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      These kinds of details will be built into the Plan as the framework is developed through consultation. Educational experts will work in conjunction with Ministry staff to determine how we answer these questions. Opinions of teachers and other educational experts are very important in helping to determine these details and defining what this looks like will take time.

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  48. Jackie Carpenter says:

    The benefits to offering students more flexible learning opportunities gives a child the opportunity to learn what they are interested in. Using a child’s intrests to encourage learning is ideal. They get turned off of learning when there is no intrest or they do not know what they will get from learning.
    The challenges are that not every child willknow their intrests and their will be a variety of intrests in each classroom. Teachers are already challenged by the number of students that are learning at different grade levels, manner in which each child learns and will have challenges with allowing 20 or more children incorporate their personal intrests into a plan.
    The ideas that are presented in this education plan are great and I am concerned that with the pressure that is already placed on our teachers and the number of children that they are responsible for is this plan going to be as effective as we all would hope for.

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  49. carmen says:

    Good teachers have been doing these very things for years. I believe that this approach will honour these teaching methods and philosophy. I worry about instructors who have lost their spark. I believe that students in these classrooms will continue to be underserved. I worry that in these classrooms and schools, that things may be worse.

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  50. mrs.p says:

    AS an educator, I have been of the belief for some time that we need to move the education system into the 21st (Technology) Century and begin preparing our students for the world they will live and work in, not the one we and our parents and grandparents worked in! As a teacher in an “inner city: (impoverished) school my first thought is: who will provide the needed technology for my students so that they can learn in the 21st Century? I provide hot breakfast to 30 to 50 children daily because our parents can’t afford to both feed and house their children. I know ours is not the only school facing this delema. Most of our families do not own a computer let alone a laptop or Ipad. Nor can they afford to connect to the internet. A sad reality that most people are not aware of is that in many families, the electronics are routinely set to the pawn shop to provide grocery money to get the family through to Welfare Wednesday. While this may shock many who read this blog, it is a fact of life to the children I work with. So my fear is 2 fold – if the parents are expected to provide the access and computers for my students many won’t get that crucial piece of equipment. If the education system is going to supply it – who will be responsible for going to the pawn shops to buy them back? I already have colleagues who go to garage sales in the summer to but back library books and text books, so don’t think it won’t happen. In closing – in theory I support the move to more technology, but I caution those who are making the change to make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted and the money is there to fully implement and fund the changes for many years to come.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      Mrs. P – thank you for bringing up these very valid concerns and issues and reminding all of us that there are very serious issues such as these that many teachers and students never have to deal with. How do you think we can build a Plan that will allow us to provide some sort of equity across the board to all students, but particularly to those that are in these very dire situations? How can we meet the needs of these students and provide them the same opportunities as other students, while still keeping in mind the very reality they live in? We need to find ways to help these students be as successful as others, while recognizing the reality within which they live.

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      • JM says:

        Chrysstena, I am concerned that you are asking Mrs. P’s to find an answer to her concerns. I have exactly the same concerns and teach in the same environment but at a high school level. My students are at-risk, inner city in an alternate delivery model program. I thought that if the government is stating that we must make these changes that THEY need to put the finances into place to make the Plan feasible. It seems to me that the Plan has some good ideas but no meat to provide the follow up for the how this will come to reality.

        I already spend hundreds dollars a year of my own money to try to and make things better for my students. I cannot afford, nor feel I should have to, pay for the technology that would be required to put the Plan into place.

        So what are YOUR ideas to ensure equity across schools, boards, and the province? How do YOU think we can help to make these be successful?

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          JM – our job as moderators is to give you a forum to discuss these issues, not to offer our personal opinions. We are the neutral third party here. We gather your ideas, pass them along for the decision makers to consider, and share information back with you. We do not weigh in with our views. I’m not trying to duck your questions, JM, just clarify what our role here is.

          If by YOU you instead mean the ministry or the government as a whole, that’s a different matter. It may interest you to know (if you haven’t heard about it already) that the Minister of Education will be holding a Twitter chat this coming Thursday at 4:30 pm (hashtag #bcedplan), where you may have the opportunity to ask direct questions such as the ones you’ve posted above.

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          • Kevin says:

            Mike what do you mean by neutral third party…Who are the first two parties?

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            • Moderator Rebekah says:

              Hi Kevin – To clarify, the primary role of moderators on the forum is to review comments to ensure they meet our Moderation Policy. Provided that the comment meets policy, we post it. We also perform a few other duties, such as providing links/information regarding subjects brought up in the discussion and to ask questions that will help move the conversation along.

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          • Doug Thomson says:

            Mike the moderator, in the absence of scientific data, quite beyond the scope of a general discussion, the ideas exchanged in discussion are opinion. People have differing opinions based on their experience and general political dispositions, but this discussion is obviously firmly based in opinion. Ergo, if you don’t want opinion, you don’t want the input from this blog.

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            • Moderator Dave says:

              Hi Doug – I’m having troubles following your logic. I belive Mike is saying that this site is dedicated to providing a venue for participants to articulate their thoughts and opinions, but the moderators of the site strive to remain neutral.

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      • scouser says:

        Chrysstena,

        providing money and staff… Thats how it can be done… Oh Yeah, Maybe you can tell the BCPSEA to focus on giving the teachers a fair deal, instead of treating them like refuse… You talk about these great plans, but you dump on the teachers who will be implementing them, by offering NOTHING in you negotiations… Why don’t you ask your bosses to sort out the teachers contract, before you worry about putting an impossible plan in place…!!!!

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    • C. Welch says:

      Like Mrs. P and JM, I am a teacher who is somewhat bewildered by this talk of technology. I moved to a new school in September, and I’ve spent over $850 of my own money to get my portable up to 21st century standards. As a techno-geek, the money on tech was almost a necessity, but are others willing to spend that kind of money to move us into the current century? Should they have to be?

      In addition, although I teach in a relatively affluent neighbourhood, some of the classes I teach bring me into contact with some not-so-wealthy students. They do not have a computer at home, and cannot afford a smart phone & data plan like many of their wealthier classmates.

      Unless the government is willing to talk about finances and tax policy, technology initiatives seem a little hollow.

      I wrote more about this issue here:

      http://lexiconic.net/wheatfromthechaff/archives/1189

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