The Future of Learning

During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, amid the chaos in my home with my grandchildren, my children, and their spouses, it occurred to me once again how learning has changed since I was a child.  I’m keenly aware of the pace of this change across generations from my 31-year-old son, to my 15-year-old daughter, to my 2-year-old grandson. The evolution of learning from static to dynamic is akin to the evolution of yesterday’s Encyclopedia Britannica to today’s Wikipedia. Technological advances are transforming us from passive learners to active learners.

Information is everywhere and is available all the time, fueled by the passion and interest of our learners. My children download recipes for a delicious meal or watch a video that teaches them how to bake a pie or prepare sweet potatoes.  Learning is becoming more personal because technology provides information instantaneously.  This instant access to knowledge is pushing the education profession in directions we thought were not possible just a few years ago.

PK-12 education truly sits at a crossroads and is in the midst of deciding its future. We must remain relevant by designing educational opportunities that embrace the technology and help our students understand what they are learning. We must guide them as they apply their knowledge and show them how to behave ethically with large amounts of information.  Today, teachers must be conduits of learning, instead of the sole purveyors of knowledge. They must engage all students to become independent learners.

I hope we take this moment to shake off the legacy of the factory model where we sort and select kids. I hope we design a future where we support our teachers and administrators as they transform our schools from a “one size fits all” to a collaborative, problem-solving environment where students think critically and globally.

We must support teachers as they help students discover the joy of learning through real-world opportunities. As educators, we must share their excitement for learning. We must give students nurturing and supportive environments where they can create, solve problems, make mistakes, and find their voice under the watchful eye of a professional educator.

At Westside, we are developing programming to help students direct their own learning PK to 12th grade, through approaches such as school-wide enrichment, internships, and possible academies. These approaches allow students to understand the relevance of school and how classroom content applies to the real world.  We want to develop opportunities where students can identify interests and see a glimpse of a possible future, one that is meaningful to them and fuels their passions.

The Next Generation of Westside Community Schools

McCann family photo 1

In our ongoing efforts to communicate with parents and other members of the community, I have established a blog to share ideas about public education and to provide information about the Westside Community Schools.

I’ll begin my first post talking about the future of our school district with a reference to the past. The picture that accompanies this post is of my great grandparents, sitting in front of the family homestead in 1909. Like many old farmhouses, throughout the years, it has been renovated and remodeled. My father purchased the homestead in 1966.  As part of his renovation, my dad decided to tear down all but the original cabin, built in the 1870’s.  He also kept some family heirlooms and furniture – items that were important to our family and our history.

I was reminded of the family farm when I wrote a paper outlining the future of our school district.  The document is entitled The Next Generation of Westside Community Schools. Among other things, it outlines my observations and recommendations about Westside as we look toward the future of our school district. We have many exciting opportunities ahead of us as we build educational experiences for our students.  To realize this new vision for the Westside Community Schools, we will need to work together.

As we embark on this journey, I want us to keep alive the values and the vision that make Westside unique. Just like the original cabin on my family’s farm, we need to identify and retain those programs and cultural ideas that are distinctive and important to our Westside community and its history.

Once we have identified what we value, we must review current programming to ensure that it aligns with our vision moving forward.  We may need to eliminate some programming to make room for other ideas that support the educational goals we have for our students. It will take discipline and open thinking as we work through this process, but it will be worth the effort.

I hope you will take a few minutes to learn more. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, it is available as an EPUB digital book at http://lst.westside66.org/wcs66_tng/.  A PDF copy of the paper is available at the following link http://www2.westside66.org/wcsblog/files/The_Next_Generation_of_WCS.pdf