Just how “forward” is New Brunswick, Canada’s education system?

In a recent comment to a post by Stephen Downes on the 7 Habits of Highly Connective People, I comment about Stephen’s point 3 Connections Come First. I criticize the tone of this point in which Stephen seems to portray that going online to write emails, blogs, forums should come before other things like reading a book or magazine. I wrote that critique 5 hours ago at work, and here I am blogging to partially retract it.

I am partially retracting it because I just sat through a supper out for a friend’s birthday party. Opposite to me was a teacher in the Fredericton NB Canada School system teaching 15 year olds.  She is teaching in a middle school where there is a trial program for all students to have laptops and use them in class for projects, notes etc. The school is one “hotspot”. When I told her I was taking CKK08 Connectivism and Connected Learning, she seemed somewhat interested until I described how the course actually was about being online a lot and using computers to learn. She commented that she was glad that this year the Department of Education was blocking Facebook because now the kids would pay attention in class (to her)

I couldn’t believe my ears. She explained that kids would spend too much time doing non-education surfing and that New Brunswick system encouraged non-failing of students and the kids knew it. By blocking popular Social Web 2.0 sites, the kids would focus on more educational surfing. When I described what CKK08 advocated, she did not want to hear that. And this was from a lady no older than 35, which is to say, a relatively recent grad of the university Education program. I described how curriculums needed to be built around connective/network learning and how students could learn more. I did agree there was a basic knowledge level that needed to be achieved and that perhaps 5 and 6 year olds might not be ideal candidates for online connective learning. I dropped the subject because it was turning ugly at the table.

When I got home, I asked our 15 year old grade 10 babysitter if they had wireless in the high school. The high School consistently does well in achievement standings. She said yes. I asked if anyone brought in laptops to take notes, surf the web to look for materials while the teacher was talking and she said they were only allowed to use laptops at lunchtime (if they had laptops. I asked if anyone used electronic pens so they could digitize their notes. She said no. I described how in the business world, you can’t afford to be offline, that even in meetings, you are expected to come up with answers right away.

It would appear that one school still lives in the 1980s as for note-taking and interacting with content, the other restricts what techniques of networking and interacting can happen. I do not know if they are representative of the whole province, but as a concerned educator and a son in an elementary school who will eventually go to a similar middle school and that high school, I think its time to go investigate and maybe start a grass roots revolution!

School District 18 in Fredericton likes to pride itself as a leader in the province, so I think its time to see how forward thinking it can be.

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3 Responses to “Just how “forward” is New Brunswick, Canada’s education system?”

  1. Stephen Downes Says:

    I think that george and I are both aware that we are designing educational startegies for the next generation of children, not the current one. Which is sad, because there is so much potential lost. But there is also no way to convince a person like that teacher, at least, not until a computer becomes a part of her daily life and she sees. But it won’t.

  2. Jeannine St. Amand Says:

    Bradley I hope you will be attending the Parent Forum on October 16 – input from parents will be used in setting priorities of the new DEC. We can always use advocates of “forward thinking”. (http://www.district18.nbed.nb.ca/districtforms/parentforum2008/)

  3. bradleyshoebottom Says:

    Jeannine,

    I had intended to contact you and the other course mate form Frederiction to see if we could create a 3 person group, but other things have caught my attention, like blogging about Nassis Middle Schools laptop program.
    I had an earlier title that used “backward” instead of “forward” but I changed that because I was being influenced by a lack of information as to what the schools, district and provinces policies, guidelines etc were on the subject of social websites and how studnets can use technology in the classroom.

    I would love to participate in any advisory committee on the subject of IT integration into the classroom.

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