Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reflecting on 21st Century Learning

What do we have to give up after being forced to give up things since before contact?  Small pox preceded the arrival of Europeans to the Stó:lō territory.   Since then, we have had to surrender parts of ourselves, our cultures, our lives...One of the concerns I have with the 21st Century learning proposals flying around, is that we have no idea what we will have in the end.  What do we have to give up in order for this current proposed vision to fly?
I envision a world where my Indigenous students do not have to give up their identity as Indigenous people to find success in Canadian society.  That isn’t possible right now.  Does 21st Century Learning account for that?  I do not see anything that helps non-Aboriginal people move beyond the range of semi-tolerance to barely contained hostility into acceptance of the Aboriginal worldview and understanding of that view.  I liked the term personalized learning because I could see ways to blend traditional Indigenous pedagogies into the curriculum and allow our students to meet the learning outcomes while still being enriched by their Indigenous cultural learning.  Interestingly enough, other Aboriginal people are opposed to that for some reason.  I need to explore that at some point and find a way to reach consensus there.  I like the idea of the mini-school in Vancouver, there is the possibility for real learning to take place for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, using an Indigenous focus and an inclusive, holistic atmosphere, but that, again, is another post, I guess.
The proposals tend to focus on technology as the means to educating in the future.  Let’s not forget about equitable access to technology.  Our poverty-stricken youth can’t afford the latest technology and the continued downloading of costs on our schools do not allow them to be up to date either.  In addition, our governments, despite promising to, have yet to carry out the connecting of all reserves and rural areas to high speed internet access.  I live near Hope and I do not have internet access on rainy, snowy, cloudy or cold days for some reason and it is usually slow when I do have it.  Anyone who follows my twitter account will see me complaining about the lack of internet access again and again.  I’m whiny that way.  The cable and phone companies refuse to hook us up, because, as I understand it, we are not economically viable.  Life on the Rez.  Yay.  How does a tech focused education plan ensure that those of us not living in a connected city will have the necessary access to get the job done?  My Tourism class was project based and required regular access to the internet.  I could not assign homework because many of my kids could not guarantee they could get online to do their work.  I couldn’t guarantee I could either. 
Just a couple of preliminary thoughts.  Thanks for listening.


  1. I've said it before and I'll say it again.
    1) Clearly what we have now is not working
    2) What this thing looks like in the end depends on who is involved in its implementation.
    I cringe every time the BCTF says the phrase because they have a toxic habit of having a knee jerk reaction to everything the ministry brings up. Maybe this is one initiative where they should be pushing their best and brightest to get involved for the future of all students in the province.

    A key feature of the 21st Century stuff that I like is that it advocates for self directed learning. I think that there is opportunity in this because students could choose to study say, The Canyon War, instead of the British Reformation.

    Another major element which we are playing with in our district is personalized education programs in grade eight. It used to be that a course selection form was sent home in June and parents would tick boxes and/or the paper would get lost somewhere and never come back to the school. Now parents are ongoing partners who are involved in a collaborative process where they talk with students and teachers about life goals and how education fits into life goals, and together students, parents, and educators make educational decisions as equally invested partners. Part of this process is demystifying graduation requirements and college entry requirements early on so parents know how to support and encourage their children academically. Parents get pushed aside too often in the name of bureaucratic efficiency and I think that the PEP system ensures that they are a key partner throughout the whole process. Part of Indigenizing education is making room for Indigenous parents in planning and implementation.

    I'm also stoked about it because at some point this year they're putting a projector in my room so that I can actually have access to technology so that I can finally be 21stC and all, so I might be biased.

  2. Starleigh,
    I was not trying to diminish, in anyway the current proposals beyond trying to bring forward my hopes that Indigenous education and our students are not forgotten in the rush forward. I am in favour of the ideas being advocated here, but in the various reports I've read there have been no mention of Aboriginal student learning or ways of learning and knowing, which is what I mentioned. I also affirmed my concern about access to technology being available, as it currently isn't.
    I am involved in the discussions within my district about this proposal and the teachers are excited about it, but everyone tends to forget about the finer details in the rush forward and I find I have to bring people back to the on the ground view that we have to ensure equitable access for everyone involved. Or what's the point?
    In that, I am not speaking from my role at the BCTF, just from me who is regularly without internet access. The other big comment of mine was the how much do we have to give up, was just a referral to my desire to incorporate Indigenous pedagogies and epistemologies into the program. I have students that are failing science, who fish every year with their families, who live on the river whenever they are not at school and I think that there should be room made for those experiential moments be allowed to meet outcomes (in that, I have run into opposition from Aboriginal parents here). I want to make sure we aren't being asked to surrender more of ourselves for this to work and I was, advocating for the inclusion of, or the possibility of Indigenous pedagogies as a key feature.
    This entire post was, essentially, "a don't forget about us" call to whomever was listening. As our own conversations can attest, I am in favour of personalized learning, I just want these areas addressed as we carry forward.