Posted by: kbater | October 15, 2011

Big Ideas from the 21st Century Learning Forum

Sir Ken with CRPS Trustees and Superintendent

The 21st Century Learning Leadership Forum wrapped up yesterday.  Sir Ken Robinson kicked it off with a wonderful key-note that was full of heart and wit.   Sir Ken encouraged us to really focus on the Teacher-Student relationship.  He also urged us to shift our thinking towards education using the metaphor of gardening.  It is important to create the conditions for growth – for students, teachers, support staff, admin, trustees and parents. 

The Forum that followed had many excellent thought provokers:

 Jennifer James: Globalization

Jennifer high-lighted some new work being done that indicates that the greatest predictor of success in life is GRIT.  A grit scale has been developed and includes such things as: persistence; zest for life; social competence; resilience; self-control; and gratitude.  These ideas come from a New York Times Magazine article – “What if the secret to success is failure?”

She suggests that the issue for the future is character. So we must focus on understanding and developing character in young people.  She also said that civilization is the ability to channel fear in the face of a threat.  How are we doing right now?  Not so good she says.  She closed with a focus on happiness – getting satisfaction from life.  Here are the four elements to create happiness according to Jennifer James:

  1. Openness to new ideas
  2. Belief that you control your own destiny
  3. Intimacy – friends, family, community
  4. Meaning beyond self

Thomas Homer-Dixon: Sustainability and the Ingenuity Gap

Thomas focused on complexity and how we are misguided by still thinking about our world and education from a mechanistic view that has come out of the industrial revolution.   To manage the complexity he suggests we should:

  1. Build resilience – able to withstand shocks, have the capacity for self-reliance, and be creative in response to novel challenges.

  2. Cultivate a prospective mind – open to reason and evidence, street sense for science, flexible in response to constant change, nimble, is curious, learns from failed experiments, and sees opportunity in crisis.

Charles Fadel:  Learning

Charles wants us to shift our curriculum focus.  The current curriculum approach was developed in the late 1800’s and we suggest we shift to a multiple deep expertise approach using clues from the Renaissance.  He also suggests focusing on character, 21st century skills, and using neuroscience to inform learning.  He also suggests that relevance is essential for learner – and that neuroscience has demonstrated that cortical plasticity is conditional upon relevance.  Doing means deeper learning and it is a transfer mechanism.

On the last day provincial groups identified three high level goals and then one that needed immediate action.  Delegates will be connecting around their personal action plans following the forum.  The Alberta working group I participated in (there were two Alberta groups as there were so many Alberta delegates) created a high level view including what could be a draft Vision or Mission statement.  Kirk Linton a school administrator took our ideas and has put them on his blog – take a look – I think it is impressive.  Key ideas from the conference are on this Weaver Report PPT.



  1. […] I was very lucky to be able to attend #OECDILE all day on Thanksgiving Monday, as well as other sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Canadian Rockies Public Schools District was the local host, while the Alberta Ministry of Education deserves kudos for its endorsement and sponsorship of the Congress. I was not able to attend the subsequent Forum. Kim Bater has written about it here. […]

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