This Tiger Had Better Change its Stripes

This week, our discussion in EC&I 831 centered around the generational changes we are seeing, and the ramifications they carry. Specifically, we spoke to our youth are essentially being immersed with technology, and speculated on the impacts this might have.

Throughout our reading for the week, a recurring theme took shape around the question of whether or not schools needs to change in the face of our youth being so adept with technology. As students potentially come to school already being able to make more proficient use of devices than their teachers, do we need to change how we do things?




For one, it seems clear that our economies, and as a result our future livelihoods, are in the midst of a transformation. In its report Future Work Skills 2020, the IFTF identified several key drivers that they foresee as fundamentally changing the kinds of work-skills that we will need for employment. They say skills that have dominated the past, like rote manufacturing and computation, will be taken over through increasing mechanization and the continued development of robotics and computers. Honestly, this is hardly breaking news. Take, for example,  the stresses facing Canada Post as they grapple with the rise of digital billing and the mechanization of mail sorting.

Out with the old, in with the new. IFTF predicts that in place of traditional jobs that emphasize rote, manual labour will be new jobs that requires skills that emphasize higher order thinking, like sense making, social intelligence, adaptive thinking, and statistical analysis.

As I mentioned before, I don’t even think there is a question as to whether or not our schools need to change. Knowing that the kinds of skills required for the jobs of tomorrow will change, are already changing, how can we not change how we educate our children?

It’s Already Happening, Has Happened, and Will Continue to Happen

That said, agonizing over whether or not schools need to change may be irrelevant. Change is already happening. In fact, I would not disagree more with statements like “The classroom hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years. Even the bell design is the same as it was 50 years ago.” For one, the bell design is not actually the same. But more importantly, historically, schools have always changed in response to societal pressures and demands. An article written by Chris Weller queries new and experienced teachers how schools have changed since the 1990s, and came up with statements like these:

“…tools like Google and Wikipedia have made it unnecessary for students to memorize facts as much as they did in the past.”

“And instead of considering the diverse development rates of children, we have a rigid set of structures that, if not met, mean the students are somehow behind.”

For better or worse (testing…?), schools have changed, and will continue to do so.


How are we Changing Now?

Like it or not, schools change. As teachers, I firmly believe that we need to be comfortable with the fact that our profession is not static, and is susceptible to change (like any other profession). If we do not change, as my colleague Wendy Mymryk eloquently points out, we risk being left behind or becoming irrelevant for the needs of our growing children:

Will schools BE the place where students develop their skills for the future or NOT BE because education has a difficult time evolving?

I believe Saskatchewan actually has long since begun to change in response to the requirements of future jobs, and the kinds of skills these jobs will require. Consider the provincial curriculum.While there are certainly outcomes that emphasize a product, there are many indicators that emphasize the demonstration the kind of higher order thinking skill discussed in Future Work Skills 2020.  Take, for example, this mathematics outcome SP8.1:

Analyze the modes of displaying data and the reasonableness of conclusions.”

It is not construction of the graph that the outcome is assessing, but analyzing a graph for implications, as well as analyzing conclusions and implications drawn by others.

Change is Hard

This week in #saskedchat, we had a lively chat on formative assessment. We discussed its value, how to use it, and how it distinguishes itself from summative assessment. The chat was not without, at times, some tension!

The entire #saskedchat  is worth looking over, as I believe it touched on many of the current tensions surrounding changes in progress in our education system. Change is hard, and perhaps that is proof enough of how important and meaningful that change is.

Thanks for reading!









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2 Comments on “This Tiger Had Better Change its Stripes
  1. Agree! If we don’t move with the times, we will be left behind… and there are already a ton of teachers so far behind, I’m not sure they will ever be able to catch up (or even want to)!? I also think our system is going to have to change the requirements for hiring of teachers. If they don’t have technology in their back pocket… should they be hired?

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