Your comments are most welcomed.
See at the end of the text, just before Appendix A.
Modern communication and information technologies are having an increasing impact on learning - how we learn, where we learn, when we learn, what we learn, what learning resources we have, and why we learn.
It is important that our learning systems are guided by a vision of learners and of the communities to which the learners belong and which they are helping to create.
To open a discussion of these questions, SchoolNet held a workshop on April 19-21, 1996 at the CIBC Leadership Centre in King City, Ontario. There were over 30 participants from across Canada, coming from schools, governments, universities and a variety of organizations.
The purpose of the workshop was to develop a Vision Statement on learners in the 21st Century: what assumptions we should make about the characteristics and beliefs of a successful learner and a supportive learning system, the pressures and tensions involved in developing such a system, the core values that we should hold about learning, some of the possible directions we can follow, and some elements of a vision of learners, learning communities and the learning systems which would support them.
The purpose of this Vision Statement is to help SchoolNet build a vision of learners in the 21st Century and the kinds of learning systems needed to support learners and their communities. It is based on discussions in the workshop and on further development of the ideas by a working group.
The Statement is a work in progress, addressed to learners, educators, parents, policy makers, business and community leaders, politicians and all who are interested in the important subject of learners, learning, and learning communities.
This Vision Statement is intended to invite participation in building a vision of the learner - the assumptions we are making, the core values guiding our vision, and the elements of this vision. Participation is also invited on the problems and tensions we must address and the alternative directions we might take.
After reviewing a number of possible visions that are briefly described in Appendix B, consensus emerged on a vision of interconnected learning communities.
This vision is based on the principle that diverse learners need diverse learning systems.
Two educational metaphors are blended:
Learning follows a developmental sequence from childhood through adulthood and maturity. We begin in families and communities where we learn our sense of personal identity, language, and cultural heritage. As time goes on, we interact more and more with other learners in the community, in learning institutions, and in other kinds of institutions. We make more use of technology and communication to expand our visions and range of knowledge.
As our learning and development increase, we learn to discern meaning from information and to expand our understanding of other communities in our country and around the world. We merge local and global approaches to learning and, with the guidance of teachers, we develop maps which help us maintain our roots and proceed on our journey.
A new learning system for the future would involve changes in all the interconnected elements of the system: the framework of structures and funding; the processes of curriculum, instruction and assessment; the modes of access including institutions, teachers and technology; and the rationale for the system based on research and evaluation. Many of these changes are now occurring in different places and in different ways. What they need is a guiding vision to shape them and to integrate them.
1. Structures are more varied with less emphasis on hierarchies and more on intersecting networks. Some networks are based on location (integrated school/community services), diversity of background (rural and urban schools, links among different kinds of communities) or community of interest (e.g. current centres of excellence).
2. Governance is based on the concept of the "learning community," participation of all members of the community in the decision-making processes. The role of political and professional leadership is to promote a common vision, guarantee respect for rights and quality of service, and stimulate progress.
3. Funding is diversified but equity is protected by sharing resources among all members of the community. New approaches to funding and resource allocation need to be explored.
4. Curriculum is typically built around learning outcomes or common essential learnings, clearly defined knowledge, skills and attitudes together with standards of expectation; basic education stresses multiple literacies, thinking, feeling, ethical behaviour, problem based programs, and applications of learning in work and life.
5. Instructional design links outcomes to assessment and stresses both individual learning (projects, independent study) and cooperative learning (peer teaching and collaboration); emphasis is on (a) constructing meaning, (b) skill mastery and (c) interpersonal relationships.
6. Assessment includes evaluation of prior learning (e.g. pretests, challenge for credit, recognition of life experiences of adults) and alternative forms of assessment (e.g. portfolio, performance and authentic assessment).
7. Institutions provide resources and services in a structured learning environment with an ethos supportive of learning individually and in groups; attendance involves different forms of contact but not necessarily full-time physical presence, and learners may "attend" many institutions simultaneously. Schools, colleges and universities are linked with other formal learning institutions and with institutions outside the formal system (museums, libraries, science laboratories, business, and community centres). The effectiveness of institutions is defined in various ways, according to both the nature of their results (academic, personal) and the quality of their environment (security, resources, quality of teaching, student life, community links, etc.).
8. Teachers continue to be the main learning professionals, acting as guides, organizers, leaders, resources, program designers and facilitators of learning - and as models of educated persons. Many teachers work in schools, while many others exercise their profession as independent consultants, in government agencies, private enterprise or in community services. Some roles now filled by teachers are assumed by non-professionals and paraprofessionals. As teacher roles evolve, there are important implications for the definition of teacher, teacher education, professional development, working conditions and professional associations.
9. Technology dramatically expands access to learning, enriching the resources and expertise available to all learners, and expanding services to those whose access to resources is restricted or who are not well served by present structures. "Distance" education, independent study, and "following programs" are alternative means of learning. Learning becomes separated from time (schedules, duration as a measure of achievement) and place (classrooms, schools and universities).
10. Research provides the intellectual basis for learning systems; if our learning systems are the best we know how to design and our learning services are the best we know how to offer, then research must enlighten policy and practice and the links among research, policy and practice must be strengthened.
11. Evaluation provides feedback to learning systems, institutions, teachers and learners on whether we are learning the right things (as indicated by our state of knowledge in different fields), how well we are learning (in terms of efficiency and effectiveness) and the degree of match between learning services and learner needs. Current efforts to develop learning indicators are a step in this direction.
Almost all of these initiatives are occurring today. Many are moving us in the direction of a new vision of the learner and learning; some need rethinking and modification but still appear promising.
A vision is a set of ideas, based on certain values, that requires leadership skills to develop, to win support, and to implement.
Visions do not become realities unless someone gives them life. Any vision of the learner and the learning community - however clear, imaginative or attractive - will continue to be little more than a dream unless it finds sponsors with leadership and will, goals and resources, foresight and skill.
Working and thinking together, SchoolNet, educators, governments, business leaders and community groups are capable - with our present knowledge, resources and technology - of providing all Canadians with a learning environment that is the best in the world, a defining feature of our society, and a rich resource for all Canadians.
In the process of developing this vision statement, we have created a community, a family of educators, with a common concern and we have begun a process which will be ongoing and can be accessed through SchoolNet.
On behalf of the participants in the Workshop on Vision of the Learner in the 21st Century, held on April 19-21, 1996, at the CIBC Leadership Centre, King City, Ontario, sponsored by the Training, Research and Evaluation Sub-committee of SchoolNet,
N.B. Special thanks on behalf of SchoolNet to Hubert Saint-Onge for facilitating the process and Norman Henchey for writing the drafts of this Vision Statement.
Norman Henchey (McGill)
Thérèse Laferrière (Laval)
Marita Moll (Canadian Teachers' Federation)
Hubert Saint-Onge (CIBC)
Arie Van der Vlist (McGill)
Ted Wall (McGill)
Our era requires substantial investment of society's resources in the learning community and profound changes in the role of learner and educator. As we move towards a new vision of learning communities and learners, we must acknowledge that certain problems, tensions and dilemmas will need to be addressed over the next few years. Among them:
We continue going as we are, relying on our existing assumptions, structures and labour-intensive ways of teaching and learning. Attempts continue to integrate technology into existing structures. Resources are limited and in many places decline, affecting learning quality and public confidence. Competition among schools and school systems intensifies. Is this approach serving individuals and society well at the present time? Can we provide quality learning services with the resources available? Are we missing opportunities to make creative use of the new technologies?
The range of opportunities narrows as technology and global competitiveness limit the job market to low-level service skills needing little education and high-level technical and managerial skills based on post-secondary certification. For most of the population, a rewarding job is a scarce resource with few winners and many losers. What happens to the link between learning and career? What kind of learning is needed for those outside the job funnel? Can learning enlarge the funnel? Do we need new definitions of work and job?
There is growing political conflict and economic competition for clients and funding, between the present education establishment and the virtual learning system of communications and information technologies in which teachers and institutions are of minor importance. Is such a conflict inevitable, built into the nature of competing philosophies? Would it be helpful or dangerous?
Mathew Baril, AIESEC Canada Inc., Toronto, Ontario
Monique Begin, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario
Jean-Baptiste Bergevin, Sillery, Québec
Alain Breuleux, McGill University, Montreal, Québec
Roy Dalebozik, McGill University, Montreal, Québec
Linda M. Harasim, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia
Norman Henchey, Montreal, Québec
Doug Hull, Industry Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
Dan Keating, OISE, Toronto, Ontario
Marcel Labelle, CECM, Montréal, Québec
Veronica Lacey, North York Board of Education, North York, Ontario
Thérèse Laferrière, Université Laval, Québec, Québec
Bob Logan, OISE, Toronto, Ontario
Rose-Alma McDonald, Assembly of First Nations, Ottawa, Ontario
Lisa McPhail, SchoolNet, Ottawa, Ontario
Marita Moll, Canadian Teachers' Federation, Ottawa, Ontario
Craig Montgomerie, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
Trevor Owen, York University, North York, Ontario
Chad Park, AIESEC Canada Inc., Toronto, Ontario
David Porter, Open Learning Agency, Burnaby, British Columbia
John Pringle, Claremont Secondary School, Victoria, British Columbia
Tom Rich, Department of Education and Culture, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Hubert Saint-Onge, CIBC Leadership Centre, King City, Ontario
Jean-Pascal Souque, Conference Board of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
Arie Van der Vlist, Terrace Vaudreuil, Québec
A.E. (Ted) Wall, McGill University, Montreal, Québec
Harvey Weir, Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland
Howard L. Yeager, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta