Kristi Blakeway, a principal in Maple Ridge, and West Van's own Sean Nosek, were the organizers behind DisruptEd, a professional development day event last Friday and one of the guest speakers was Quest University's David Helfand. The theme of the event was to showcase examples of schools and ideas that push the limits of what is possible in education and that is exactly what Quest has been doing.
The Squamish-based university has been making some waves over the last few years, in particular since it is focusing on exactly one of the key campaign issues the school trustee candidates have been discussing recently, namely how technology is impacting learning. It is the number one issue in my election platform and it is indeed not so much a question of implementing technology or getting the information, it is a matter of how to use and sift through everything that is available these days. Helfand of course can be counted on making a few noteworthy statements that will underline exactly that and I will select these two:
“In the last 10 years, the situation has radically reversed. Information is ubiquitous and it’s free,” Helfand said. That makes an education system focused on giving kids information and having them master it “completely useless in the current world.”
My favourite however is this one:
“A university education today is excellent preparation for a job — in the 19th century,” Helfand told educators. “Everything has changed, except education.”
Of course Helfand is not suggesting the end of universities, his comment is rather that universities, colleges and schools will really have to try and do things in a very different manner. And as prospective trustees we should take that message to heart and engage with our communities to discuss it. I can talk with a bit of direct experience here. Having had the privilege of running one of my tech start-ups out of office space at Quest a few years ago, I can attest that the Squamish-based institution is providing a unique and stimulating approach to learning. More Helfand and more discussions on new approaches to learning please.