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Blog: Friday, January 18th, 2019

Six (Sort of) Bold Predictions for 2019

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

As is my usual practice, I will start this year with some predictions about trends that I think will materialize in the K-12 education sector in our province. Making predictions about our sector is a difficult task for a number of reasons. Education generally moves slowly, and has not been disrupted to the same degree that other sectors have. For example, the tech sector was dramatically impacted a few years ago by Apple when they introduced the iPhone. In a short period of time this technology changed how we communicate by taking a giant leap into the world of mobile technologies. It also spawned a host of other applications from social technologies to gaming that legitimized the changes that Steve Jobs had predicted.  However, if you look at how these technologies impacted education, it is fair to say that they were incremental and not revolutionary. For a number of reasons, schools cannot pivot as quickly as the corporate sectors. This is both good and bad. 

It is good because as one of our foundational institutions, education should be carefully protected. We should be careful to not tilt at every windmill that comes our way. Our institution is premised on the principles of equity and common good, something which does not always align with consumerism and individual enterprise. You need only ask parents about the values they want their schools to instill in their children to discover why school should protect their DNA. Being a kind, respectful, cooperative, responsible, creative and critical problem solver and communicator -- a citizen-- is the foundation of our education system, and our society should rightfully be skeptical about change that threatens this.

Being resistant to change can also be catastrophic. You need only know about the Blockbuster Video story to see what I am getting at. Netflix began streaming movies well into Blockbuster’s domination of the movie rental market. The video rental giant could not see the change that was upon them, and it ultimately cost them billions of dollars. Similarly in education, the world is changing dramatically around us.  Teachers are no longer the font of knowledge they were in the previous generation, and the world is expecting our schools to prepare children for an uncertain and disruptive world ahead. If we are not careful, schools will look less and less like the world our children are growing and learning in, and we will run the risk of disengaging an entire generation of children and relegating ourselves as necessary drudgery.  It will then be a matter of time before Neal Stephenson’s view of education in the Diamond Age will come to fruition.

This is a roundabout way of getting to my predictions for BC education in 2019. I plan to expand on each of these during the course of the next twelve months, but here they are in no particular order:

  1. Deep Learning about Deep Learning
    Some call it personalized learning, others deep learning.  Most of us get the idea that our curriculum is expecting us to look at learning differently than we did in decades past.  But what does that really mean for adult learning? Can students learn deeply if their teachers and principals do not?
  2. Bridging the Courage Gap
    In order for us to make the promise of our public education system a reality for EACH child, leaders in our systems (trustees, superintendents, principals and teachers) must tangibly take action on some of the things we know will be better for kids, but more difficult for the adults.  When I post my list you will see the kind of courage I am thinking about.   
  3. Graduation Program Assessments
    Some of you will know that there is a literacy and numeracy assessment in grade 10 and a literacy assessment in grade 12. I have some thoughts about the kind of assessment evidence that will provide assurance to the public that our education system is indeed poised to be the best in the world.
  4. Artificial Intelligence  
    I mentioned this last year, but didn’t get a chance to address it. I will do so this year, in part to highlight the interesting ways that we can bring technology to bear on our educational challenges, but also in part to create a call to action for us about modernizing our pedagogy. 
  5. Contract Negotiations 
    Of course, our fingers remain crossed that negotiations between the BCTF and government will be much smoother than they have been in the past. I know it rests in the backs of our minds and will become a growing point of public discourse later this spring
  6. Inclusion, Equity and Diversity, Again 
    I have mentioned this already, but we need to set a high bar for ourselves in Canada as a more just, equitable and inclusive society.  Pretty good is not good enough, and it starts with our schools.

There you have it. None of these is particularly earthshaking, but in my view each will play an important role in education in 2019.  My overarching point (and perhaps caution), is that while education should desperately hold only to those things that truly matter and are critical to maintaining the society we value, we must also be equally ready to abandon those things that will not prepare our children for the better world we aspire to create. It is a delicate balance for sure, but our children are counting on us to discern the difference.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.