The Superintendent's Report: 21st Century Learning

Posted by Daniel Seamans on 10/24/2019 12:00:00 PM

Dr. Jerry L. Oates, Superintendent of Schools


Superintendent's Report


          John Gardner, a noted scholar, public servant and leader once noted in his book, No Easy Victories, “ I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back on education as it is practiced in most schools today and we would wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive—in the end it is the love of learning, curiosity, self-discipline, the capacity to think clearly that will define the key to a good education.” His comments are so true and appropriate for today’s society.


          If one thinks just about the area of technology and its impact on society it is apparent that it was not part of the strategic thinking of schools twenty or ten years ago. In the past fifteen years, just in the area of technology we have seen great strides made that have affected our daily lives. Holography, fiber optics, flash drives, satellite to roof top communications, have all changed the way we gather and process information. Tablets and the ubiquitous cell phone have become handheld computers that enable us to talk, read our email, send and receive text messages, remind us of our daily schedules, provide us music and directions to unknown locations among a plethora of other things. This is an impressive list of innovations, and not only have they impacted our personal lives, they have impacted our schools. Yet, for the most part, the classrooms across our nation are just as they were in the 1950s—replete with desks in a row with a teacher in front of the classroom with a textbook as the primary form of learning.


          It is an interesting paradox to live in such a technologically driven society but have a primitive expectation of learning in schools across our society. I am proud to say that in our school system, we have worked hard to ensure that our students continue to stay abreast of technological advances and use these advances to enhance their learning. Our students come to us typically as digital or technological “natives”. Our students have always lived in a world where cell phones, tablets, and Google searches existed. Therefore, when they come to school their learning should not be slowed down by the lack of technological resources they are accustomed to using at home. To this end, our Instructional Technology Department led by Acacia Dixon and our Technology Services Department, led by Debra Bair have worked together to provide every student with devices to be used in conjunction with teacher-prepared lessons so that they have a 21st Century learning experience. Through careful planning, purchasing, and allocation, we will reach our goal of one device for every BCS student during the 2019-2020 school year.  As we move forward our focus will be on maximizing these devices to prepare our students for career, college, and beyond.


          So what should a school system do to bring societal advances that dictate new skills that students must master and render obsolete those things of the past. First of all, the school system should begin by asking the following questions:


  1. What will be the resource issues in five to ten years?
  2. How will these resources be allocated?
  3. How will the county, state, and federal resources be distributed?
  4. What will people need to know in the future?
  5. How will learning be different in the future?
  6. What will the technology of the future be like?
  7. What other unknown forces will impact our lives?
  8. What do our current customers think about our schools?


Answers to these and other questions, will enable decision makers to better plans for the future.   The Brunswick County Board of Education, being very much aware of the need to bring the school system in line with emerging and future learning needs of the children and youth of the county, and the reality of today’s world of work demands, have begun the process of strategically planning for the future educational direction of the system which will enable us to address these and other questions so essential for future resource allocations.


          In June, 2019 a five year strategic plan was adopted by the Board of Education to meet this and other society challenges impacting the school district.  Future columns will focus on other facets of the strategic plan.