What skills, what intelligence, what’s important

I’m having trouble embedding the video, so here’s the link to Daniel Goreman’s talk about emotional intelligence: http://www.edutopia.org/daniel-goleman-sel-video
I’ve been mulling over what 21st century learning is, and why we need to change our understanding and approach to teaching and learning, as well as how to explain it to teachers and parents in a way that will create a lightbulb moment for them. Here’s what’s been going around in my head:

Alvin Toffler, in Rethinking the future, said the following: ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn’. Keywords: change, flexibility, skills-focus as opposed to content-focus.

I found in Edutopia a video where Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional intelligence, speaks about the value of social and emotional learning. He talks about the need to get over our fixation with academic achievement and reminds us that we are educating the whole child. He calls for a shift towards helping kids become more self-aware, and being able to make good social decisions. These are social-emotional skills – getting on with others, managing anger and impulses – the skills that form the basis for a better world.

In her video presentation for the Learning 2.008 Shanghai Conference, Sheryl Nussbaum spoke about change happening extremely fast in our world, and suggested ways to manage that change as teachers. She quoted those famous statistics (can we verify those anywhere?) that by 2010 knowledge will double every 72 hours. That makes the focus on content mastery, which is still the main focus of our teaching in schools, a misguided one. Sheryl points out that our current system of schooling is based on the premise that knowledge is scarce, but since that is obviously no longer the case, this current system will not work, and will not prepare our students for the 21st century world. Sheryl advocates the teaching of Web 2.0 technologies to enable students to pursue meaningful, authentic, passionate scholarship, to connect them with global communities and allow collaboration in projects that have been chosen by students themselves because they mean something to them. Sheryl also speaks about 21st century education preparing students to become responsible and self-motivated citizens, getting out of the classroom and involved in real projects in life right now, not after they finish their schooling. This is something I feel was lacking in my own education, which prepared me for expert knowledge of certain areas (which I’ve largely now forgotten), but not for the ‘afterlife’. I see many schools now offering more opportunities for students to take on positions of leadership, to get involved in community, environmental or social projects, to work in teams and learn to get on together, appreciating each other’s differences and unique talents. With global connections through new technologies, the stage is set to free students from traditional classroom practices, but this is not yet happening as quickly as it should.

As educators we have a responsibility to keep ourselves up to date with the way the world is headed, to connect with others instead of staying within the walls of our own classrooms or staff rooms; to notice what young people are doing and what they’re passionate about – to move, ourselves, even if we’re comfortable where we are, or tired. It’s not about us, whether we feel uncomfortable about the changing world – it’s about the students. We should continually ask ourselves: what kind of world are we preparing our students for?

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