State education chief gives Freeport educators a glimpse of future learning

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FREEPORT — Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen sees future learning methods vastly different from the ones currently used.

He also sees his department playing as minimal a role as possible in developing the standards and practices to make Maine students globally competitive.

Bowen was the keynote speaker Tuesday at the annual Regional School Unit 5 Education Forum at Freeport Performing Arts Center.

“This is a high-level view philosophically where we are headed,” Bowen told a crowd of about 70 people.

About half of those attending the forum were district teachers silently expressing their displeasure at a lack of a unified district contract by displaying vibrant pink signs.

In discussing the Strategic Plan Framework developed by the Department of education and called Education 4.0 by Bowen, the commissioner avoided talking about specific legislation while calling for changes in classroom structure and teaching methods.

“This is not a state mandate,” Bowen said as he stressed the need to pay more attention to how students learn things differently and the failure of teaching methods designed to boost test scores.

Bowen said innovations in learning are occurring throughout the state as educators blend students from different grades, or mentor those who learn better individually. He compared the methods to his daughter’s swim competitions, where racers were selected because of their best times.

“We need to build a system adapting to kids,” he said.

Constructing the system begins locally, Bowen said. At the very last step in the framework is his department, where larger questions including a possible re-evaluation of subsidy formulas should occur.

The department should be evaluating changes in technology and how they affect learning, Bowen said.

“What kind of devices do we want in classrooms in five years?” he asked.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Maine Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen urges educators from Regional School Unit 5 to break away from traditional grade structures and  consider more individualized learning plans to help students compete globally. Bowen spoke Tuesday at the annual Education Forum held at Freeport Performing Arts Center at the high school.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.