Keep on Pushing - Curtis Mayfield
In 2013, the LRSD School Board announced that they had three priorities for student learning: literacy and numeracy, student engagement, and citizenship. The Board reviewed the Ends Monitoring report, presented in January 2017, showing evidence of progress in these areas and agreed to maintain the same three priorities with some fine-tuning. Specifically, they decided that we needed to place a higher focus on financial literacy, mental well-being, and creativity and innovation. It is creativity and innovation that I would like to share some thoughts about today.
Over the summer, I read, listened to podcasts such as CBC’s Ideas and Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, and watched the news on CBC, Fox, Aljazeera, MSNBC, or the BBC (yes, accessing a variety of news sources from different perspectives is good!), I was struck by the fact that while things largely remain the same, we are also facing significant new challenges, changes, and opportunities.
I used to really have my head around technology, and yet visiting some McDonald’s restaurants lately, and going through Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto, I was alarmed by digital devices being provided as the way to order my food. At Pearson, everyone in the restaurant was glued to a screen to order food, play games, or surf the internet. No one was talking to one another. People selected their food items, inserted a credit card, and the food arrived. Another thing that hit me was what is the future of service jobs? The people who used to come and take your order? I went through customs at Pearson and didn’t have to talk to anyone. A machine with facial recognition technology determined if I could come back into Canada or not. At the new Save-On-Foods in Bridgwater Estates, there are more self-administered digital checkouts than there are checkouts with real people.
This summer, Amazon bought a fantastic grocery chain called Whole Foods and are promising to expand their already massive business of online shopping having items, including food, delivered straight to your home... They are expanding the number of massive distribution centers they have in North America in which much of the ‘heavy lifting’ is done by robots. Those used to be jobs.
I spent some time on the Disruptor Daily website that identifies the top disruptive companies in the world. Major themes seem to be the development of algorithms that allow companies (and governments) to track all of our online activities and likes, and then to market specifically to us every day.
Then there's acceleration of nanotechnology in which miniaturized technology can be brought into our bodies. Advances in DNA coding which can allow us to gain a sense of not only where one's lineage came from, but also what diseases and afflictions we might be predisposed for. Tesla is marketing cars that can travel over 500 kms on an electric battery while going from zero to 100 kms an hour in four seconds. This is how technology is evolving.
Climate change is real. The implications of more storms and the rise of sea levels are frightening.
In the field of education, in many ways, we are still maintaining the factory-based system that was implemented with the ideas of Frederick Taylor in the beginning of the twentieth century. On a good note, the very notion of a public school system, was to maintain a system through which a liberal democracy, developed and maintained for all people, regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic background, could flourish. Today, however, Stanford University is providing online courses for middle years and high school students in 46 American states and 32 countries. You might have seen advertising on TV for K12, which aims to replace the public school with online learning. Pearson Publishing is the worlds’ largest education aimed company, I believe they would like to replace public education systems around the world.
So what am I talking about here?
I believe that we should be about the development of wise, caring, curious, interdependent, citizens in liberal democratic societies. I believe we have to prepare our young people to not only survive in the new, ever-changing society and economy but to also be ready and able to take advantage of the new opportunities that are becoming available and to thrive in this ever-changing environment. I believe that as other industries and sectors are being changed dramatically, we in public education cannot believe that our worlds cannot be challenged and changed as well. This means we need to evolve creatively through innovation and make a compelling case that public schools in LRSD and beyond are the places that can prepare our students for our current reality and the future – not private schools, not charter schools, and not online learning.
In LRSD, the best that we are doing is building strong caring relationships between adults and students. The best of what we are doing is finding ways to make learning interesting and engaging while also being rigorous and challenging. The best of what we are doing is teaching our young people to think critically but also with creativity and with heart for themselves and for all others.
For us to improve in LRSD, I look to the words of Sir Ken Robinson,
"The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it's to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they're valued."
All of us are to be leaders, all of us can be influential in the lives of others. I ask all of us to take risks to be more creative, more innovative, and to make mistakes as we strive to improve the life opportunities of others. Can we possibly think of more meaningful work?
Change Le Monde, Changing Worlds
This is our collective work.