In February, I participated in the second summit hosted by an organization called C21 Canada – Canadians for 21st Century Learning and Innovation.  The goal of the organization is to support the accelerated and effective instructional integration of 21st century skills, competencies, teaching practices, and learning technologies into Canada’s education systems.  The belief is that this is essential to position Canadians for success.  The summit brought together stakeholders from across Industry, Government, Education (both the K-12 system and higher Education) who share this belief and have a vested interest in Canadian success. 

 
The Summit’s agenda featured keynote speakers, as well as panel and group discussions.  Amongst a slate of very interesting keynote speakers was a fireside chat with the Right Honorable Paul Martin.   After getting over being a bit star-struck over having the opportunity to listen to a former Prime Minister in a small, cosy setting, my focus was drawn to how Mr. Martin passionately articulated the impact of Education on the economy and the skills that are needed. He spoke about the amazing opportunities for innovation in education and the relationship to funding.  He expressed that the best way to fight a deficit is to invest in economic growth: "If you do not invest in future capacity, you will shrivel and die".  Talk about impact and a visual!  The other point that Mr. Martin made centers on a question that I have often asked myself–what is the cost of not investing in education or in appropriate technology and training for students and teachers? 
 
I believe that the question of cost is the one we have to look at seriously, but the language needs to change from the word “cost” to the term “investment”.  Investment in new skills, new professional learning approaches, new supporting technologies, and new ways to assess learning. It is about keeping students (and teachers) more engaged in their education.  More engagement means a better chance of students completing high school and going on to post-secondary education.  With that in place, there is more opportunity for better employment and less drain on social systems and health care.  That is why it is so critical to have many different stakeholders continuing this conversation. 
 
Of course, if any of this were easy it would all be done by now. That fact is, the shifts in the education system that would lead to these rewards are difficult and challenging. But is that not the case with anything that is worth our time and effort?
 
For more info, check out: www.c21canada.org/