What is the future of education? Where are we headed as an industry? And, more importantly, how should we be getting there? When I reflect on that question myself I am drawn to an interaction I had with a student this year as he planned his end of term social studies project. The project required students to select an invention from the Industrial Revolution, research it, and create a model of it. As the students planned their models, I sat down with each individually to check what they were planning on making, and offering feedback as to how they could complete the project by the assigned deadline.
One student in particular, had a very hard time articulating his plan. He knew what he wanted to create (a working model of a camera), however, he struggled to articulate his ideas effectively and I could see the frustration grow in his face as he felt that his words were not doing the vision in his head justice. I tried to offer him suggestions of easier ways for him to complete his project, but each time he turned down my suggestions adamant that, although he could not describe what he saw in his head, he could make it. We ultimately decided together that he would stay the course and continue with the project as he envisioned it.
Fast forward to the presentation date, and every single aspect of his project that he described to me was exactly how he had described it. That project was a revelation for me as an educator as it reminded me about something essential to good teaching - just because I could not see it, does not mean that he could not see it. And, that our role as educators is not to make meaning for our students, but rather to create the conditions for our students to make that meaning for themselves through agency over their own educational experience.
It is with that spirit in mind that the Future of Education Conference was born some five years ago as a Grade 6 capstone. The Future of Education Conference (FEC) is an opportunity for Grade 6 students to reflect on their academic journey at the end of their primary school experience and consider what they felt was missing and what schools can do in the future to best suit the needs of their students. The FEC is an acknowledgement that all students learn differently, and as such have different needs, wants, and ideas for what the ideal school might look like. Academically, the conference is a culmination of a series of Literacy units that focus on informational reading and writing, employing the techniques that the students learned.
The conference is not just a research project, but a meditation on the educational experience of each student, which encourages them to consider who they are as people, not just students, and evaluate how they learn best. Through the project, we as educators and an institution, gain valuable insight as to what the future of education could and should be from the perspective of the students experiencing it, and through this a better understanding of how we should be nourishing them as learners.