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Education events to look decade ahead

Curriculum Development, Global news, Vocational Training

You’re going to be tempted to say, “Back in my day …” but you must resist.

If you attend one of the three Education Summits hosted in the next eight days by the Wichita Falls Independent School District, you will come face to face with a paradigm shift in education that is so vast, it’s affecting not only classrooms but also the buildings that house them.

It’s also creating an educational environment completely different from the one you remember.

The summits — the first begins today at 6 p.m. at Scotland Park Elementary School — will be the school district’s opportunity to introduce you to the challenges facing them and then ask you to join them in a brainstorming session.

Instead of looking back, you will be asked to look ahead and help craft an instructional vision for WFISD’s future.

“We need our participants to look 10 years ahead and think about what our learning environment will look like,” said Tim Powers, WFISD assistant superintendent.

On its website, WFISD pictures the classroom you remember, with a June-Cleaver-looking teacher instructing students who sit in rows. That contrasts sharply with the photo of today’s classroom: Students equipped with iPads conferring with one another in small groups.

The website also includes statistics like these: The U.S. Department of Labor estimates today’s learners will work at 10 to 14 jobs by the time they’re 38 years old. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t even exist in 2004.

Schools must prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet, with technology that hasn’t been invented yet, said WFISD Public Information Officer Renae Murphy.

“We have to make sure our kids are flexible,” Murphy said, “and have skills that can transfer over to different types of professions.”

All are welcome to join the discussion. The city’s leaders — county commissioners, judges, city council members, and chamber leaders — were specifically invited to attend the Tuesday noon brown-bag meeting.

“We’re trying to incorporate other entities in this plan,” Murphy said. “(Superintendent) Dr. (George) Kazanas sees it as an opportunity for Wichita Falls as a whole. There may be partnerships that can be developed. We want to encourage that thinking also.”

Ultimately, discussion about how schools must change to adapt to technology advances will lead to decisions about how classrooms must be equipped to support today’s teacher and students, then what the buildings must be like.

“Eventually, it will become a tangible facility plan,” Murphy said.

The district leaders anticipate revamping the district’s secondary facilities and raising money for the project through a bond issue.

In the not-so-distant past, the district planned new buildings by hiring a facility study and focusing on brick-and-mortar buildings and school locations.

But not this time.

“This is a different approach,” Murphy said. “Dr. Kazanas is wanting the community to think of the end product (the student we want to create) first, then ask how to support the teacher to get the kids to that level. It’s a big paradigm shift to challenge our community to think in those terms first.”

Community members must begin by trying to comprehend the evolution of technology, its influence on education, and the reality that students no longer compete with students in neighboring counties.

They race against students in China, India, and all over the world, Powers said.

“We must wrap our heads around the fact that our students are entering a global economy and will change jobs at a much higher rate than we did. Students graduating will be more fluid, flexible and versatile when they enter the job market. We must be prepared to provide them with the skills and tools they will need to be successful,” Powers said.

The focus now is creating students who will be lifelong learners, who are equipped to find information and use it to problem-solve.

The second summit convenes Tuesday at noon at the Education Center, 1104 Broad Street in Room 302. The third summit meets April 10, at 6 p.m. at Barwise Junior High School.

Prior to attending the summit, participants are urged to preview an introductory video about today’s students that’s posted on the district’s website

Times Record News, 02 April 2012


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