Letter to the Editor,
As it did with health care, Saskatchewan is poised to revolutionize education. We have a remarkable history of creativity, cooperation, and perseverance that will lead us into the new Information Age. Instead of angrily fighting possible school closures, we have an amazing opportunity to revitalize all schools as community learning centres.
Historically speaking, schools were a solution designed for the Industrial Revolution. They produced literate, citizen-workers. The workers, upon leaving school, could count on getting a job, learning on the job, and keeping the job until retirement. Schools, then and now, operate like the factories they were made to fill. Essentially, students are grouped into units, or classes, and assigned a teacher to pace them through a subject assembly-line style. The subject is determined by the tyranny of geography and pupil-teacher ratios. Like the factories that required the right amount of materials and workers in the same building, students and teachers had to be in the same school and there had to be enough students to justify offering the subject.
Enter the Information Age. It is forcing schools to change as it does not need workers. The Information Age needs thinkers, particularly diverse, computer literate, citizen-thinkers. The current educational lingo is "life-long learners" because today's students may have to learn, not one job, but possibly five or more. The Information Age needs diverse thinkers who can think "outside the box" to find viable solutions to an extensive range of problems. It needs computer literate thinkers who can take advantage of ever changing technologies. Above all, it needs citizens who can make informed decisions on social and environmental issues.
While forcing change, the Information Age is also providing the ability to change. Using our Saskatchewan creativity, cooperation, and perseverance, we can revolutionize learning by repurposing schools into learning centres that are not bound by the tyranny of geography. Saskatchewan has the traditional classroom as well as two forms of online learning; asynchronous (learners go online when they want and learn independently communicating with e-teacher by primarily by email) and synchronous (learners go online at regularly scheduled times and interact with e-teacher and classmates). It is critical to rely heavily on the traditional form until Grade 6 as students need to develop learning skills before they develop computer skills. However, from Grade 6 up, by using and blending all the forms; traditional, asynchronous online, and synchronous online, we can better meet the needs of our learners and overcome the challenges of our geography.
I have lived in rural Saskatchewan for 22 years and I have worked at a synchronous virtual high school for 2 years. From Grade 9 to Grade 12, my eldest daughter spent approximately 2,000 unhappy hours riding a bus. This is the equivalent of a whole work year or a whole year at university. My daughter lost the equivalent of a year's wages or a year's learning. This is no longer acceptable because it is no longer necessary. My son is in Grade 6 and I believe he could take his high school at his local rural school. He could even take online post-secondary programs there. We need to use our creativity to maximize the advantages of learning technologies, our cooperation to build a provincial network of connected community learning centres, and our perseverance to overcome our resistance to change, especially amongst our teachers.
Saskatchewan's goals of education recognizes that learners need knowledge, skills, and attitudes to function in a changing world. Schools designed for the Industrial Revolution cannot possibly meet these needs. For more information, visit http://www.carswells.com/sclc. Please proactively lobby for change by letting our schools, our school boards, our school divisions, and our government know that Saskatchewan has the ability and the determination to create community learning centres designed for the Information Age.