AS A SMALL BUT FORWARD-THINKING SCHOOL SYSTEM, WE STAND TODAY AT THE THRESHOLD OF AN EXCITING AND UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITY.
For the first time in our history, we have the resources and tools we need to achieve our educational ends. Now, I realize this is a fairly broad statement that could easily be misinterpreted to mean that we either haven’t been achieving our educational ends up until this point, or that we’ve been doing so but only marginally. Nothing could be further from the truth. The BRSU has a long history of preparing its students academically, socially, and culturally for life in the real world.
What the statement means is that for the first time in the history of not just the BRSU, but also the State of Vermont, the United States, and the entire world, we now have the ability through the use of technology to connect our classrooms, curriculum, and professional development to the knowledge, experience, and expertise of educators from around the world. Our ideal educational goal has always been to develop personalized learning plans (PLPs) for all of our students. Until now, however, this has largely been an unattainable goal. But with today’s technology and leveraged access to resources throughout the world, we are now able to design, implement, monitor, and assess a world-class, personalized learning plan for practically any student in any grade in any classroom in any one of our towns, irrespective of his or her age, grade level, or ability. That is both exciting and unprecedented.
Rather than (by necessity) confining our curriculum and teaching methods to the knowledge and experience base that exists within our relatively small school system and geographically isolated corner of Vermont, we now have the ability to offer an “open source” education to all of our students – open to the collective resources and wisdom of educators, scholars, and specialists from around the world. This is how our global society will soon operate, and this is how, going forward, we will be preparing our students to live and succeed in that world. And as we make the transition to this new way of learning, the role of our teachers will shift from being what has traditionally been called the “sage on the stage” (one size fits all) to being coordinators, guides, stewards and managers of our students’ PLPs.
How will we make this transition quickly, responsibly, and effectively? Until now, school systems have based their curriculum and professional development strategies on top-down policies and approaches that rely on outdated standards and state-level assessments, even though it is well known that there is a significant lag time–often several years–between the development of those standards and the implementation of their related assessments. But in today’s quickly changing and evolving world, we simply cannot afford to take years to develop curriculum that may not only not keep pace with what’s happening in the world at large, but that also may not be implemented consistently from school to school. We need to establish what author David Hargreaves describes as “lateral networks” that can connect our teachers with available resources beyond our traditional organizational boundaries.
Using lateral networks, Hargreaves believes and we concur that curriculum and professional development become “open sourced,” allowing best practices to be identified, implemented, and evaluated much more quickly, since teachers are no longer required to work in isolation within their own schools or districts. Of course, standards will remain an essential component of our educational system, if only to ensure quality. But rather than being driven from the top-down in a way that narrows and limits curriculum, they will become a method of building curricula from the ground up.
In the end, educating our children and preparing them for life in the modern world will come down to three basic things: Giving them the tools they need to thrive and succeed in the international society in which they will live; instilling in them a thirst for knowledge that will make them learners for life; and giving them access to the knowledge, experience and expertise of their peers, locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally.
These web pages has been prepared to give you a general idea of the direction in which we’re headed; how we will approach and implement the changes that lie ahead and what we believe will be the long term benefits to students in the BRSU. I encourage and invite your participation in this exciting endeavor, and I welcome your thoughts and comments along the way.
Daniel M. French, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools