On the road to revolution

In fact, that’s something Barrie teacher Liz Collett rarely does.Instead, she’s on the move, talking to students about their work, fromthe small group sitting on the floor playing Monopoly to others nearbyfiguring out a math problem.

No rows of desks in this classroom, and no teacher lecturing at the front.

In fact, that’s something Barrie teacher Liz Collett rarely does. Instead, she’s on the move, talking to students about their work, from the small group sitting on the floor playing Monopoly to others nearby figuring out a math problem.

The children in this Grade 2/3 class have not taken a spelling test all year — in fact, the school avoids all pencil-and-paper tests — nor have they been assigned homework. Instead, their teacher gives them immediate feedback on their work throughout the day; they rarely hand in something for a final grade that she hasn’t gone through with them and handed back with tips for improvement.

Welcome to the school of the 21st century, a place where teachers and students collaborate and co-operate. Such cutting-edge classrooms, gaining ground across Ontario, are trying things that some might consider coddling kids or even lowering the bar.

Without it, educators say schools risk tuning out — or worse, turning off — today’s learners. And though critics accuse schools of dumbing things down, others will say such changes are actually based on the newest research on how to appeal to today’s youth and boost not only their interest, but their achievement.

The Canadian Education Association found only about one-third of 32,000 students across the country, from Grade 5 to 12, are interested in class. Students today say they want their education to be relevant, and don’t want to be simply regurgitating the facts.

“That’s the kind of learning that requires you to think, and think deeply, and it may not be happening for many kids,” says Penny Milton, the association’s chief executive officer.

“What we could argue is that to become good learners, they need to become thinkers.”

Principal Jan Olson at Prince of Wales elementary school in Barrie — where Collett teaches — says schools have basically been operating the same way since the Industrial Revolution. But the digital age is bringing an education revolution all its own.

While using technology is a part of it, what’s important for students “is being able to use information and understand it, versus just remembering it.”

Students know more about technology than their teachers; and they’re being educated for jobs that haven’t yet been created, he adds, so what they really need are transferable skills.

 
 
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