Last week, I attended a meeting of the Heads of School from all 26 members of the Independent School Association of British Columbia (ISABC). Over two days, we discussed the future of education and work.
The conversations and collaboration were illuminating. All schools, it seems, are analysing challenges such as artificial intelligence (AI), making meaning from metadata, and surging rates of mental health issues. Between the gnashing of teeth and chat about progressive pedagogical practices, one force continued to anchor our collective thinking – human connection.
The data is very clear. The time and impact of our digital world is rapidly increasing. From smartwatches that track steps, heart-rates, and sleep hours, to social media feeds that curate the “perfect life”, the on-line genie is very much out of the bottle and will not be crammed back in to resurrect the good old days.
More than ever before, students are being home-schooled and taking on-line courses. The convenience, cost, and personalization of the educational experience are definitely driving demand. Human connection, however, continues to optimize learning. Of course, I can digest content from a book, blog, or YouTube video, but the most impactful learning experiences still come when a trusted adult (teacher, coach, instructor) is face to face with, and in the company of, a group of young people (students, players, artists).
What struck me during this strategic discussion is how many times this group of educational leaders came back to stories of human connection in their schools. At one point, the ISABC Chair asked us to share one inspiring story from this school year - all 26 were related to human connection in the classroom, sports arena, stage, or studio and, perhaps most interestingly, not one involved a digital screen.
As someone with very few responsibilities - I have been dubbed the Director of Hanging Out, DHO, for short - I get the opportunity to see these strategic human interactions take place every moment of every day. No, it doesn’t mean that technology is not embraced or used, it means that these digital tools are used to enhance learning. I would go even further and suggest that the details of the curricula, competition, or performance, while important, are put in place to help facilitate human connection.
The Executive Director put it this way: “Human connection is the new privilege” or better put “Human connection is privilege”. I am privileged to serve in a school that values, above all else, human connection. Long may that exist at Brentwood.