Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Perspective on 21st Century Learning

As I was reading some twitter posts yesterday it suddenly came to me what the term 21st Century learning means to me and the school reform that goes with it. I believe that we are looking at traditional education and questioning the phase "we've always done it like that before" and trying to prepare our students for their world. We consistently hear the same terms and my thoughts are we have finally put adult meaning to them in an effort to make education more meaningful to the world outside of school.

Collaboration-We have always said and believed two heads are better than one, and its true. If you have a problem and one person in the room can solve it, you no longer have a problem. As adults if someone is doing something that you are interested in then the logical thing to do is to visit them to see the ins and outs of what they are doing. Our administration team will be visiting VanMeter, Iowa, schools to see what they are doing for example. So does it not make sense for our students to work together instead of the age old system of doing all your work independently? Why we insist if students work together its cheating I don't know.

Mobile Devices-Why do so many schools view these as the devil is a mystery to me. We all carry them and we might as well face it they are a part of life in this day and age. We need to teach responsible use in that they shouldn't go off during class, but to ban them is a losing battle. I can only imagine the reaction if we confiscated our faculty's cell phones prior to starting a professional development session.

Filtering-Once again we need to teach responsibility instead of blocking all things, which is a hinderance to staff as well as students. When students leave our hallowed halls they will have access to everything, and the only way to teach appropriate use on the job or elsewhere is to have them learn it in school.

Making Learning Meaningful for Every Student-Why we have taken the cookie cutter approach to teaching for so long no doubt has increased our dropout rate. Differentiated Instruction means that teachers should spend more time on their lesson preparation instead of grading worthless worksheets.

Homework-I've written about this before so not much time here, teacher guided homework is so much more meaningful, and if you have enough friends you will get your homework done. We are paranoid about cheating and yet assign things daily that screams for students to cheat. Teacher guided practice would also serve as step one to learning to collaborate.

Assessments-The conversation always comes around to meaningful assessments. Okay, how many tests do you take after leaving school? Your driver license exam. So how much sense do these make?

Technology-I have a confession I fought technology for quite some time. I was wrong. As many have said before me its not about the computer, its about learning and being prepared once again for the world. When you can have conversations world wide, do away with textbooks, work smarter instead of harder, then why is it not embraced more? The vast amount of information also is a work in responsibility, so one can learn good information from bad.

Life-Long Learner-What college told us that the day we graduated we had all the knowledge we would ever possess? None. For heaven's sake we are in the learning business, keep learning. We owe that to our clients.

I realize this is long today but when an epiphany strikes you have get the thoughts down at my age or you'll forget them.


  1. Your driver's licence exam is only the first step. Following that you do the practical test. That is the real test because it demonstrates your practice, not your memory.

    I commented recently that schools do not teach life long learning. We are all life long learners, that is our nature. What public schools can do is make us better learners. Or perhaps it can make us worse if by our practice we devalue certain types of learning or life experiences.

  2. Sure to teaching responsible use of mobiles in the classroom. Sure to technology - big buff of this myself - but remember, it's only one tool among many. AfL is obvious. I think the question to answer is - when we say we want to prepare children for the world or the world they will mature into, what does that world look like. It's perhaps the key question. We can give children what are now cutting edge skills but will they be cutting edge skills when they have left the school system? Chances are they will - but it requires we teach children how to figure things out themselves. i fear that much of contemporary western society schooling has become instructional and exam oriented rather than educational in the true sense of the word.
    I think you could write a book on the basis of this blog post.