A shift of great importance is happening in our world right now. And it is happening at West Bay, too—demanding our attention, prompting powerful conversations, and driving decisions regarding how best to support student learning. The concept of writing is changing. In addition to using writing for the traditional purpose of communicating, writing is now used for connecting with others from whom we can learn. As we prepare our students to be successful in the 21st Century, we need to ensure they develop proficiency with the tools of technology in order to connect them safely and effectively to a global audience.
In his recent blog post accessed here, West Vancouver Superintendent Chris Kennedy referred to the education plan released by the Minister of Education, the Honourable George Abbott. Based on the principle that every learner will realize his/her full potential and contribute to the well-being of our province, Abbott lists ‘learning empowered by technology’ as one of the five elements of this plan. Certainly at West Bay we have on-going conversations about how technology can be used effectively to empower the learner. But even the nature of our conversations is changing. This is not surprising given the tools for communicating are expanding, thus allowing greater access to information. And with increased knowledge and understanding, our thinking often changes. The graphic below illustrates the many ways learners are able to connect with others, thus arming them with information, different perspectives, and ultimately empowering them.
Author Will Richardson, whose articles on social online learning networks appear in educational journals, points out that two billion people are now connected to the Web and an anticipated five billion will be connected by the end of the decade. Students, therefore, have billions of potential teachers from around the world that they are able to connect with through writing. The amount of writing that occurs using these tools in sixty seconds, as depicted in the graphic below, illustrates just how our world is exploding in terms of writing.
The culture of learning in the 21st Century is becoming more public. The closed, protected classroom space with teachers directing the learning is becoming less of a reality. In today's classroom where teachers are facilitators, learning is often student-directed and personalized. The student Dashboards, an educational tool the District introduced this fall to our intermediate students, provide a vehicle for students to write for real audiences outside the clssrooms, to network with others who share common interests, and to further their learning through collaboration. In a recent blog accessed here, Gary Kern, Director of Instruction of Technology and Innovation, mentioned how West Bay's Grade 6/7 students are using the Dashboards to connect with others during their IB Unit of Inquiry on Ancient Civilizations.
The uncertainty and unpredictability that is part of learning today can understandably be unsettling for parents concerned about their children's safety. In order to address these concerns and protect our children, we must provide scaffolds and help our young learners use writing to make connections safely, effectively and ethically. Teachers are taking advantage of using the Dashboards to teach students how to engage safely with others.
As a shift of this magnitude continues to occur, change must be acknowledged and embraced. As Will Richardson observes, if you’re not feeling uncomfortable, you’re not paying close enough attention.