I was recently afforded the opportunity to deliver the keynote address to 700 educators from Latin America and the Caribbean. The occasion was part of Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program, an inspiring annual enterprise designed to showcase innovative teachers and instructional practices in public education from around the world. This event, held in Santiago Chile, assembled teachers from that region and celebrated their classroom innovations.
While preparing the keynote address I was drawn to the theme that in the 21st Century public education must be about “creating creators.” Success is now about making every student as creative and innovative as they can possibly be. The exponential increase in technological innovation coupled with the growing complexity of economic, social and environmental challenges are increasing the demand for highly creative and collaborative people to find innovative solutions.
Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Program is a testament to the fact there are already excellent examples of teachers inspiring creativity and innovation in their students. The participating teachers share their innovations in instructional practices and compete for prizes. The judging criteria rewards 21st Century oriented instructional practices, including the integration of technology with pedagogy.
In this era innovation in classroom instruction needs to be the norm, not the exception. Any government wise enough to transform their public education system to a 21st Century model of learning will be rewarded in the future with a highly creative, innovative and skilled citizenry and labour pool, thus attaining a competitive edge.
There are a number of key conditions or predispositions to set the stage for “creating creators”, and listed below are those I believe worthy of note.
The vision of any learning plan at the provincial, school district, school or classroom level must be rooted in positioning every student for personal success, and society at large for economic, social and environmental success, in the 21st Century and beyond.
Achievement of the vision requires a systemic alignment of all subsequent decisions, such as investments in education, internal funding allocations, policy reform, and the design of programs and services.
New 21st Century competencies for education leaders at the provincial, school district, and school level must be identified and the leaders recruited and trained accordingly.
Students must achieve high standards in literacy, numeracy and scientific thinking to set the stage for success with the 21st Century competencies of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and culture (5 C’s). Digital literacy is a fundamental requirement. Together these are the foundational literacies of the 21st Century learning model.
The primary focus of learning outcomes must be on student’s mastering the aforementioned foundational literacies and the number of outcomes reduced to the most relevant to allow sufficient instructional time.
Public education at all levels must create an environment where innovative instructional practices are nurtured and shared.
Educators must be digitally literate and information and communication technologies must be ubiquitous in the learning environment.
New 21st Century teaching competencies must be identified and pre-service and in-service training aligned accordingly.
Educators must adopt collaborative models of teaching (professional learning communities concept).
Learning activities must be personalized and project based models of learning become the norm.
The 1:1 student to computer model coupled with project based learning is the “platinum” learning environment.
Classroom and School Design
Design standards for future schools and classrooms (including renovations) must be predicated on meeting 21st Century learning and teaching requirements.
Parental and Community Engagement
Parents, community members and society at large must appreciate the need for and be actively engaged in the transition to 21st Century model of learning if the shift is to occur smoothly and expeditiously.