The purpose of education in the 21st century is to prepare children, young adults, and any interested lifelong learners to be critical thinkers, engaged citizens, and researchers. The problems we are wrestling with today will not be the same problems we face in 5 years, or 10 years. In many places in Canada, the United States, and across the globe there is pervasive poverty, repression, conflict, racism, gender and ability discrimination, and disregard for sustainability. The responsibility of any educator right now is to encourage learners to take an active role in research and problem solving, while maintaining a healthy, skeptical view of scientific fact and what is promoted as “truth” by those with the power and authority to craft it. Truth is a socially constructed phenomenon in our world, as is all knowledge. Educators must encourage learners to be active participants in this construction, relying on personally discovered evidence and practiced reason to manage unreasonable times.
In order to support critical thinking and research skills, teaching and learning needs to be differentiated, and wholly learner-centered. Supporting skill acquisition in math, reading, science, the arts, and the humanities, must center on the interests and motivation of learners. Educators must help learners make connections between what is being learned, and why it matters in the learners’ unique everyday experience. This includes the social connection of sharing among learners, and with a wider community. Digital literacy, discernment, and digital research skills are core to the success of modern learners. Educators must hone these skills in order to design immersive experiences, aligned with the reality of a globally connected society, and the lifelong learning path of all people.
Learning experiences must be designed and delivered in a way that preemptively remediates content and pedagogy, ensuring that physical and/or neural differences among learners do not lead to a disadvantaged experience. Inclusive design, of physical and digital learning spaces, that improves the teaching and learning environment for everyone, is the spirit and letter of inclusive (disability) legislation – and the right thing to do at all times. In order to realize inclusive education individuals must take responsibility: every educator, administrator, staff member, and learner involved in the process of public and community learning. This can only happen through informed, authentic partnership.
My research interests embrace several areas of education including open educational practices, learner-centred design, public, online education, and community teaching and learning. I seek ways to support the following: use of open educational resources; open pedagogy; increasing skills in discernment and sharing of resources; inclusive design of online courses; and selection of technology tools that promote social relationships and active collaboration during learning.