On May 14th the Anglophone sector of the New Brunswick Department of Education released its proposal on how to shift our public education system to a 21st Century learning model. The plan was developed using a co-leadership model with principals and district leaders, and the consultation document will now be used to engage our teachers.
As New Brunswick teachers were each allocated a notebook computer, for the first time in history we were able to forward a copy of a draft learning strategy to every teacher, for their advice and counsel.
The plan, entitled 21st Century Learning (NB3-21C) is available for review at our departmental website: http://www.gnb.ca/0000/index-e.asp.
While the three year plan is quite comprehensive, four key elements are emerging as critical pillars to success. Let’s call them the CRT2 formula, where C is Creativity, R is Relevance; the first T is Time and the second, Technology.
Public education in the industrial era was founded on discipline and facts. In the 21st Century individual and societal success will be founded on creativity. Creative thinkers will be in demand to guide business innovation and to solve complex societal issues, some of global proportions. NB3-21C is designed to produce creative problem solvers. Today, creativity trumps regurgitation of facts. Facts you can access on the internet.
The OECD, EU, Partnership for 21st Century Skills in the United States, and many authors are calling for significant changes to what students learn and how teachers teach. NB3-21C calls for a complete assessment of our Essential Graduation Requirements, curricula outcomes and instructional practices to determine which ones are truly relevant to the 21st Century learner.
Last year, 50% percent of the students at a local high school missed 50% of their classes in December. When asked to explain why, they stated that school was a waste of their time.
The response is an alarm bell from two perspectives. First, the students found school irrelevant to their needs (see above). Secondly, students value their time.
Society invests millions of dollars every year in educating our youth, so of course we value their time. But do we give serious consideration to and value every minute they are giving us? There is urgency here. We need to position each and every child to reach their full potential, within a set time allotment.
New Brunswick’s school calendar equates to roughly 170,000 minutes of instruction between kindergarten to grade 12. We have students at school for only 170,000 minutes! Throw in a few snow days and instruction time decreases accordingly. For NB3-21C to be successful, we will be examining our school calendar, instruction time allocations, lessons, activities, instruction, and learning environment in an effort to make every instruction minute engaging to and relevant for our students.
And at the same time, we know we need to strike the right balance between a student’s instruction time, and our teachers having the time to plan for instruction. Seeking the advice of our teachers on this issue will be critical to finding solutions.
The 21st Century Age of Knowledge is rooted in rapid advancements in information and communications technology. ICT facilitates access to information for every student via the internet. We intend to create ICT rich learning environments because students deserve to have access to the tools of their generation in the classroom.
NB3-21C’s focus is on producing creative problem solvers, being relevant to our students and using their time wisely. This will include creating ICT rich learning environments, where each student can access information at his or her own speed of learning.
John D. Kershaw
Department of Education
New Brunswick, Canada
David M. Kershaw
Masters, Computer Science
Halifax, Nova Scotia