7 Responses for this post

  1. Aviva
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    Brian, this is a very interesting post, and one that I tend to agree with. What do you mean though about “teachers ignoring policies and procedures in certain instances?” How is embracing inquiry, student voice, and student choice doing this? The students and the curriculum still guide what we do in the classroom. It’s just our approach that may change. Right? I guess I’m curious to hear a little bit more from you about this.


  2. Sharon Drummond
    Sharon Drummond
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    Over the past couple of years, I have been thrilled with the amount of student voice the Ministry has been incorporating. Every session I attend has student voice deeply woven throughout. Just one recent example (Brian – maybe a student of yours would like to apply?) http://edu.gov.on.ca/eng/students/speakup/index.html Yes, there are grassroots movements and that is amazing, but I am thrilled to know that our Ministry has been paying attention to this as well. Teachers aren’t alone in their desire for change!

  3. Michelle
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    As a self titled edu-hacker, you might think that I would love the notion of ignoring policy. But, this is not the case for me. I don’t think that student voice and choice is in opposition to policy. Indeed, these elements are all part of an ecosystem. They relate to each other, exert and feel pressure and tension but need not be in opposition. This continuous evolution, which in shiny moments may appear Renaissance like, are full of counter-intuitive truths. As a fellow math person, these are equations seeking proof, solution, balance.
    More concretely now, can the teacher be the advocate for student voice and choice? Teachers of any aged old must not infantilize students as they gather more power and autonomy thru today’s context which includes both meat space and bit space. Steinberg, editor of Kinderculture (2011), points out that “new children” play increasingly adult roles and drive home life, purchases and schedules resist being treated like helpless children at school. Is this a good thing!? A bad thing?! Again. Let’s not seek to put ideas in opposition or dichotomies. These realities have pressures and tensions and affordances we ought not ignore.

    Oh, and by the way….. Totally off topic I am reading Rock star Amanda Palmer’s book. It’s amazing. Hi Brian. Thanks Bri. Good talk good talk.

  4. Peter Skillen
    Peter Skillen
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    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for these ideas to make us all think about the issues more deeply!

    You say, “I think we can all agree that for the first time in history a change is taking place in education.”

    Actually, I don’t agree. 🙂 Being an older dude, I have been part of many (r)evolutions since 1970. There have been been many changes through these years.

    I see the possibilities now again with recent advances, and—as you know, I ain’t a Luddite—but, my enthusiasm for unbridled change this time is tempered by my experiences.

    When I started teaching, we were coming out of the predominantly Skinnerian behaviourist era of the 50’s and early 60’s. This was spurred on by the freedom movements of the sixties and, of course, by the rise of Jean Piaget’s constructivism and Bruno Bettleheim’s play-based learning. This was a radical time. I was fortunate to be at the forefront of open classrooms, activity-based approaches, centre-based classrooms, student-centric thinking, open-area multi-age groupings with team teaching, active learning, hands-on learning, a focus on process rather than product, and of course the Hall-Dennis Report. We brought all sorts of manipulative into the classroom and filled our rooms with sand boxes and water tables. Heady and wonderful times! The years of Skinnerian rat mazes were behind us!

    Well, geee…it didn’t quite work out. 🙁

    Things went wrong with the implementations. Theories were misunderstood and poorly implemented. People interpreted student-centred to mean laissez-faire. People understood that discovery approach meant no instruction. People believed content and product to be evil; that process was king! We fell into activity traps—as Leithwood and others have said—where the activity becomes the goal and the learning is lost as a goal.

    So, we fell back to more traditional methodologies—because, after all, those approaches obviously don’t work! 😉

    Then, aha! Towards the end of the seventies, the microcomputer appeared on the scene. A teaching machine! You could see the die-hard Skinnerians wringing their hands in delight! Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) would be the next (r)evolution that would radically improve education! I was horrified and was calling it Computer Assisted Institutionalization.

    But, alas, very shortly after that—circa 1980—Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas was written by Seymour Papert. A new (r)evolution was upon us! Microcomputers were invading schools by the truckload. Many were excited about Papert’s vision. Others were thrilled with the notion of educational software. Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary) started The Learning Company and made his fortune—as did many others. But, regardless, many of us saw that we were upon a new era in education. Sigh. We still suffered the tensions of varying educational theories and implementations of these marvels.

    But, along comes the internet and then the World Wide Web! Surely THIS will be the defining moment of change! A democratization of the power structure. Kids in control.


    The edu-renaissance is not going to be easy.

    You say, “What I mean to say is for the first time teachers are ignoring policy and procedure and rules and regulations in certain instances. Instead teachers are making decisions based on student best interests. For the first time, we are taking real risks and feeling confident that we are supported in the decision making. There is little fear – and the real beneficiaries are our students.”

    Brian, I appreciate your enthusiasm and your fight—but, you cannot ignore the fighters who have come before. Many folks I have worked with over the years have had rough and tumble pathways within the educational system. Read Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society or A.S. Neill’s Summerhill.

    And, in fairness, as Michelle has suggested, the Ministry of Education’s documents and policies are really quite phenomenal. If we were all to implement that which is suggested those documents, then we would have an edu-renaissance.

    One last point, and I hate to be a downer LOL but, as smart as Sir Michael Barber is, Pearson is profit motivated in terms of big data collection on students for the creation of assessment materials and subsequent learning materials to ‘fill the deficits’.

    Ok, Brian, I feel I’ve been kinda tough on you here. 🙁 I just had to express all this.

    I believe your mission for student voice and choice is bang on. I would love to have further conversations with you about why previous (r)evolutions haven’t worked and how we might help this one succeed. We have a lot to learn from each other and I very much appreciate your ideas and thoughts—so please take this ‘push back’ with all the passion, heart and goodness intended.

    Thx Brian,


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