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Teachers, grab your popcorn

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday night's televised address by Premier Gordon Campbell is expected to announce big changes to education in the province.

What changes, exactly?

Watch for two main themes: (1) reform of elected school boards, and (2) a move toward 21st Century Learning.

Read VO's article on the expected school board reform announcement here.

The idea of 21st Century Learning began in the UK and has been discussed in education circles about for approximately the last decade. In general, the broad initiative has to do with shaping education to become more personalized and connected to the community, often by bringing technology into the classroom. Some associate 21st Century Learning with distance education.

According to the Ministry of Education's website, "In 21st Century Learning, students use educational technologies to apply knowledge to new 
situations, analyze information, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions."

Taylor Webb, a UBC Associate Professor who studies educational policy and practice, says that if the government announces a move in this direction, the daily practices of teachers may not change overnight.

"It's not likely to turn into concrete action right away," he says when reached by phone on Monday. "[The government is] going to have to meet with groups... maybe target a few districts in the lower mainland just to get a sense of where they are in this."

Webb, who follows how educational policies unfold in various places, says he sees a pattern to how governments unveil reforms.

"Oftentimes policies, no matter how clear they are, have to get figured out over time," he says. "You can think of formal policy just as a set of intentions... rather than any sort of full-fledged articulation of solutions to problems."

BC teachers, then, will play a big role in the success of the coming initiative.

"My guess is that the BCTF is going to want to know a lot more about this," says Webb.

With so much budget bickering in teachers' recent memory, I asked Webb what he thought of the government's timing.

"It might be a great time, or it might be a really bad time... to be throwing down some decrees or mandates," he says. "There's some raw nerves 
right now."

Meanwhile, in a meeting on Saturday, BC school trustees resolved to "enthusiastically embrace" a move toward 21st Century Learning, provided it:

a. has at its foundation the importance of positive  relationships, particularly for students, and also among individuals and groups at all levels;

b. is based on a vision developed through a collaborative process

c. recognizes and builds on the existing strengths and successes of BC’s public schools;

d. is purposeful in enhancing the public system and deepening the democratic governance of public education;

e. is adequately resourced.

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