Monday, 2 January 2012

Achieving...or Becoming? Janus and the Educated Citizen

Here is the audio of this blog:

The "2-faced" god Janus

The Roman god Janus was depicted with two faces, not for his social shortcomings but rather his ability to see both the past and the future simultaneously.  He represents transition, change and progression.  His name of course, is also the origin of our first month of the year.

It seemed fitting to start this year's reflection contemplating this image and concept not only because of the date but especially because of the transitions we are currently undergoing in BC towards a 21C learner.

As I look back at some of the blogs and conversations this past Fall, one that struck me as particularly interesting and relevant is, "The Educated Citizen - Do We Have it Right" - a blog put out by Chris Kennedy , superintendent of West Vancouver School District, in early December.  It refers to to a description of the Educated Citizen put out by Statement of Education Policy OrderThe Educated Citizen, in 1989 and is worth reiterating here:

To this end, schools in the province assist in the development of citizens who are:
• thoughtful, able to learn and to think critically, and who can communicate information from a broad knowledge base;
• creative, flexible, self-motivated and who have a positive self-image;
• capable of making independent decisions;
• skilled and who can contribute to society generally, including the world of work;
• productive, who gain satisfaction through achievement and who strive for physical well-being;
• cooperative, principled and respectful of others regardless of differences;
• aware of the rights and prepared to exercise the responsibilities of an individual within the family, the community, Canada, and the world.

I was struck by two things when I saw this list; 1.  How closely it is aligned with the 21C skill set that we have been discussing - particularly around creativity, collaboration and communication, 2.  It is less about a student achieving goals than it is about a student becoming an educated, ethical and productive citizen.

Unfortunately, this prescient description back in 1989 did not translate into curricular outcomes based on what a student can become but rather what knowledge he/she can recite from various topics. In our current digital age, the 21C learner has this knowledge literally at his/her fingertips and therefore we must move beyond the memorisation paradigm.

Like Janus, we need to look to the past to recognize and retain our best practices and thinking - such as the 1989 Statement of Education Policy Order.  As we look to the future however, we must be able to transform that description into a new vision that reflects the digital age in which we live and one that puts the emphasis on the so-called "soft skills" of the 21 C learner.

In my opinion, the diagram below from the Alberta Ministry of Education depicts quite well the framework for that vision.

Have a great week,

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