TransformEd Change Agents: Jeff Hainbuch

Two educators work on a laptop together, with the headline "TransformEd: Class of 2030"

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Jeff Hainbuch is a former superintendent and the Head of Educational Partnerships at WE Schools. In his work with WE, Jeff empowers students to make a worldwide impact as part of the WE Are One initiative and recognizes the innovation and empathy at work in today’s amazing students.

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How do you think technology—and students empowered to use technology—will create an impact on the world of tomorrow?
The world has become much more interesting than when I went to school.  In high school, every answer was presented by a teacher or found in a textbook.  I remember sifting through dusty university library stacks, trying to find the answers to my inquiries.  Using microfiche was a skill I had to know.  Today, information is readily accessible and available.  Technology has provided students with ever-increasing access to information and content.  This new knowledge is essentially available at their fingertips.
As a former Superintendent of Education, I’ve seen classrooms transformed as teachers relinquish their power as the sole knowledge-providers and, in response to this new world of information, have created learning places that allow students to seek, find, and come to understand the world for themselves. This access to knowledge brings new challenges and a greater responsibility for educators to empower students to discriminate the information they’re absorbing and synthesizing to become more critically literate than I was as a student.

Access to this new world of information presents a challenge as students are bombarded with content, which is sometimes disreputable as in the case of “fake news.” It’s become ever more important that students are able to critically analyze and discriminate what information is factual and what has been “spun.”  This is not an easy task—many adults struggle with parsing online information.  Many see the fake news phenomenon as an attack on journalism, the political process itself, and ultimately democracy.  The classrooms of today play a huge role in ensuring that students know how to find the truth.
While technology has created this challenge, it also provides an incredible opportunity for student empowerment.  There are teachers that have already shifted from being a knowledge provider to a knowledge facilitator and discerner of information in the classroom.  Teachers have begun to relinquish the power that they previously had in the classroom and have created spaces for students to discover the world on their own.  Students today need to be able to discriminate information for themselves and not accept information accessed from the textbook at face value like we did when we were in school.

I’ve seen students empowered to use technology. They’re able to verify information using multiple sources and create a student support network to collaborate for understanding.  No longer are students dependent on the teacher to provide the “truth” as it were.   Future-ready students are able to review articles, blogs, journals, textbooks, all from their own devices.  They’ve become greater collaborators than ever!
At our WE Global Learning Centre in Toronto, I’ve seen our expert staff support students and teachers as they learn about social justice issues that they’re passionate about both locally and globally, then take action.  This learning is unlike anything I’ve seen in my extensive experience as an educator.  With technology and resources provided by Microsoft in the hands of our expert WE facilitators, we’re able to use technology to enrich the learning of relevant social justice issues with the participation and collaboration of students and teachers from around the world.

Technology has changed the world of today for tomorrow and given students the ability to hear the voices and opinions of their peers from classrooms across the country and around this globe.  This knowledge-sharing breaks down the barriers of “us and them” and creates a world where everyone is working together to solve the problems of this planet.

We’re seeing more and more inclusion in classrooms across Canada. What effects do you think that will have when today’s students get out into the working world?
The working world of tomorrow requires us to collaborate more than ever.  The majority of students are learning in more inclusive and diverse environments. Inclusive, diverse classrooms provide students with an opportunity to contribute their unique talents with one another in ways previously unheard of.  Many classrooms today represent different cultures and languages that are more reflective of the world as a whole.  When I was a principal in Toronto, one of my schools brought students together who spoke more than 30 different languages at home.  Students today understand equity and are more culturally responsive and sensitive than ever before. They understand differences in abilities and learning styles much more than we did when we were young.  As the world continues to collaborate across workplaces and countries, today’s students will clearly be at an advantage.

How have you seen technology work to equalize opportunities for young people?
Technology can level the playing field immediately, providing instant access to information and the ability to organize and create understanding.  Technology provides additional opportunities for diverse learners, including those with learning disabilities or challenges. Teachers play a key role in these opportunities as lead learners in the classroom. They take risks with technology and the opportunities that it presents alongside students.

What do you think the opportunities are for students equipped with technology and passion?
To change the world!

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To find out more about future-ready learning and the skills that will matter most for the Class of 2030, head to microsoft.ca/TransformEd. For courses, resources, and a community of edtech-empowered educators, visit education.microsoft.com. To learn about Microsoft education tools and classroom technology, or to schedule free PD for your school, take a look at microsoft.ca/education.

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