Education Canada Magazine

EdCan Network, Promising Practices

The Signal: The demand to build adaptive expertise

A Slew of Signals


The demand to build adaptive expertise in educators is a powerful signal of change. Recently, I sat in on several sessions at an educational technology conference, where seven local school districts collaborated to share knowledge. As I watched teachers at all stages of their careers gather in classrooms to learn and exchange ideas in areas ranging from apps for teaching math to online portfolios for student assessment, it reminded me that the goals we share go beyond simply keeping pace with the latest tech tools. The premise of a peer-led conference is illustrative of how we must approach education’s most profound shift in a century.

So what?

The demand to develop adaptive expertise matters because educators must prepare learners for a world that few can imagine: a world where technology often outpaces our understanding of its implications, where the global village demands collaborative solutions, and where critical thinking is our only life vest in a swelling tide of information. Educators and learners alike need to build their skill set for adaptive expertise: critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and the willingness to engage with others.

Now what?

Teachers need to model the change in practice that allows these skills to become habits or attributes in the lives of learners. This is how we develop resilient learning communities. As Stephen Downes of Canada’s National Research Council wrote, “We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for us.” We demonstrate a willingness to adapt as we create space and opportunities for personalized learning, build understanding of shared histories, and use technology for deeper learning. Even learning spaces must transform – rows of desks and the hierarchies they underline are often incongruous with the collaboration required to propel real innovation. As educators, if we can recognize our own inter-dependence, we can build resilient, lifelong learners who understand their power to both adapt to and shape the world around them.


Participant reflections on signals of change

Participants at the 2016 EdCan Network Regional Exchanges discussed more signals of change than we could possibly cover — but we wanted to share a sense of their range and significance. We invited a number of participants to write a short piece reflecting on one of the signals they brought to the Exchange.


Discover more signals at:


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Photos: Max Cooke and Yolande Nantel

First published in Education Canada, March 2018

Meet the Expert

Kevin Kaardal

Superintendent of Schools/CEO, Central Okanagan School District 23

Superintendent of Schools/CEO, Central Okanagan School District 23

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