Beware the Jabberwock, ‘er Margaret Wente, on 21st C Learning

Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a hyperbolic rant against 21st Century, Personalized Learning.
In a column on June 28th (Brave New World of 21st Century Learning) Ms Wente cherry-picks criticism and PR bumpf to trump up her opposition to the long-overdue movements to remake approaches to education and nurturing learning that were first minted when we were lighting our houses with whale-oil lamps and experimenting with ‘horseless buggies’.
Here are three things Ms Wente overlooks or ignores in her column:

1. kids in classrooms today know they are being sequestered from the ‘real world’, that the  ways their schooling is being assessed (A, B, C, D, etc.) does not reflect valid assessment of  learning, and that their deep learning interests don’t matter a fig. Students also know how technology use in service of learning is generally impeded in their local school, largely because teachers continue to resist its use. And if you think that doesn’t matter, then I’ve got a case lot of whale-oil to sell you.

2. Two parallel revolutions happening today, in healthcare and business; in both cases, the shift to personalized options, accelerated with the help of technology, are roaring to life and are characterized by happy clients and healthy bottom lines. In 10 years I predict most people won’t remember not having personalized healthcare options that offer them more satisfying choices and better outcomes.

3. Check out the gains made by the professional coaching industry into personal, business and sports coaching and you’ll see ample evidence of the benefits of this approach to accelerating learning and the acquisition of ‘real results’ that count in the real world. i.e. not school-based results that don’t matter anywhere beyond school.

And if that weren’t enough, Ms Wente also has the gall to decry “half-baked neuroscience” informing education overhaul! Considering the astounding insights gushing forth from neuroscience these days confirming neuroplasticity and the characteristics of ‘neurobiological learning’ driving significant change in approaches to mental health, worldwide, the most “half-baked” thing I can think of is a one-size-fits-all classroom based on standardized curricula.

Note to Margaret Wente:  Four years ago, when senior high students in BC schools were asked what would they like to see changed in their education (a question very rarely asked to kids, for obvious reasons), they replied “just about everything” (ref: The Student Voice, 2010, here: ). Their response helped shape the new BC Ed Plan and its emphasis on 21st Century, Personalized Learning, now awaiting implementation in BC schools. Opinions like Ms Wente’s on this issue, serve neither kids in schools anxiously awaiting system makeover nor a society that has embraced disruptive change almost everywhere you look. Except education.
Your buggy awaits you, Ms Wente, and remember to blow out the candles and lamps before you go to bed tonight.


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