As I remember it, the 20th century classroom was designed to enable students to learn about what had happened. Well-used textbooks written by seemingly ancient authors were used to tell us about the world around us. Our sage teachers passed their wisdom to us as if by formal decree. Knowledge was imparted.
21st century learning is all about interacting with what is happening now. It is about engaging with the technological mediums at our disposal as well as with each other. It is about collaboration, problem solving and analysis. The learning environment of today can resemble a boardroom as much as a classroom. Ideas are discussed, research is far-reaching, global connections are made and one person’s opinion is not simply accepted as gospel. The modern classroom is a mixture of story-telling and story-making. It is a place that engages each student while at the same time builds a strong foundation for the future.
After graduation from Brentwood, we attempt to track the success of our graduates. We do this because it makes us better. One thing our recent graduates continually reinforce for us is that they felt well prepared for university. For most of them, the transition was seamless. While many of those around them in 1st and 2nd year often flounder and feel unprepared, our students seem at ease with the demands, the expectations, the pace and the material. For the most part, they are able to collaborate, synthesize, analyze, extrapolate and deduce, while at the same time they are comfortable presenting, sharing and using the technologies available to them.
It is no fluke that physically, our school looks a lot like a modern college or university. We are a university preparatory school and our goal is not only to get our students into university, but it is to ensure that they are successful there. Though I am no fan of the Fraser Institute Rankings (or any kind of ranking system for that matter) even though we were ranked as the top boarding school in British Columbia last year, there are some statistics that I do like. The other day I was examining our English 12 results by drilling down the Fraser Institute report; I was pleased to see a strong correlation between marks submitted by our school and the results our students received on their provincial exams. They were virtually identical. To me this speaks of a school that not only knows its students, but cares enough about them not only try to get them into university (schools can inflate marks for this purpose) but seeks to ensure they are successful there (this report reflects that our students have an authentic understanding of their abilities).
To be successful in a 21st education system, students need to feel comfortable, confident and empowered; they need to be able to work together with each other and with technology. They need to know who they are and they need the confidence that they will be prepared for the future. Brentwood strives to be a university preparatory school for the 21st century.