A video created to stimulate discussion on a new 21st Century model of public education in New Brunswick was uploaded onto Youtube last week. (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=new+brunswick+education&aq=f)

 The video was originally targeted at an internal audience of education leaders in the province’s Anglophone sector as a means to foster debate. However, the video was so warmly received Youtube was seen as the best vehicle to share its message further afield.

In previous articles for ITBusiness I have shared ideas on 21st Century learning and the role of ICT. The video’s overall message is that life and business are now moving at the speed of the internet, and New Brunswick wants its students out in front leading the way. The brainchild of the video is Bill Kierstead, a former principal and now key member of the department’s leadership team. He wanted to show how rapid advancements in ICT are transforming the world and that these transformations are precipitating the need for new approaches to knowledge acquisition and instructional practices.

Besides helping viewers understand “why” change is required, the video also notes that both what and how we teach must adapt if public education is to stay relevant to today’s 21st Century digital students. 

The video was released as New Brunswick education officials were meeting to put the finishing touches on NB3-21C, an “officials’ perspective” on how to shift the province’s public education system to a 21st Century model of learning. ICT-rich classrooms are not only seen as essential to a 21st learning environment, ICT is playing a critical role in the process of how the new model is being designed. This time, instead of departmental officials designing a plan in virtual isolation, they have gone virtual. Besides taking a collaborative approach to the two face to face leadership summits, education leaders at all levels in the system are able to exchange ideas and drafts electronically on an ongoing basis, effectively allowing the entire leadership team, whether they be located in schools, districts or at the department, to co-lead in the design of the plan. ICT also played a key role at the leadership summit, Charles Fadel, one of the authors the new book entitled 21st Century Skills (Trilling and Fadel, 2009) to provide a keynote address, virtually, from overseas.

However, this innovative approach to designing a 21st Century model of learning will also engage every teacher in the province. Every teacher in the province will soon be forwarded a copy of NB3-21C for their review and comment, made possible by the fact that every teacher in the province was allocated a laptop computer by the Department of Education a few years ago. These laptops, all to be refreshed by the end of June 2010, provide the potential for every teacher in our system to contribute directly to the creation of a provincial plan for the first time in history. Of course, we also know that in the future implementing a 1:1 student computer model will also facilitate students directly participating as well. ICT has the potential to more effectively democratize our public education system of the first time in history, an exciting proposition for New Brunswick education leaders committed to making learning more engaging to and relevant for our students.

So, how do you shift your education system to a 21st Century learning model? The fact is: you don’t. Only the education leaders and teachers within your system can make that kind of systemic change happen.

And if you are still wondering why a shift is needed, watch the video!

John D. Kershaw
Deputy Minister
NB Department of Education
Anglophone Sector

David M. Kershaw
MA, Computer Science
Dalhousie University

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