Tag Archives: 21st century learning

Are we teaching our students the skills they need for their future?

Are we teaching our students the skills they need for their future?

Do we know what these are and if we do, are we aligning these to our curriculum? Are we making the shift necessary for this to happen?

Dr. Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group has identified what he calls a “global achievement gap,” which is the leap between what even our best schools are teaching, and the must-have skills of the future: * Critical thinking and problem-solving * Collaboration across networks and leading by influence * Agility and adaptability * Initiative and entrepreneurialism * Effective oral and written communication * Accessing and analyzing information * Curiosity and imagination

Here are the 10 future work skills identified by The Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute.

  1. Sense Making
  2. Novel and Adaptive Thinking
  3. Transdisciplinary
  4. Social Intelligence
  5. New Media Literacy
  6. Computational Thinking
  7. Cognitive Load Management
  8. Design Management
  9. Cross Cultural Competence
  10. Virtual Collaboration

For teacher librarians, these skills clearly identify our areas of expertise at a time when some principals are making decisions to reduce staffing in school libraries, or replace teacher librarians with librarians or technicians, indicating their loss of faith that teacher librarians are an essential part of the teaching staff. Our strength lies in working with teachers to embed these skills in student learning, to encourage collaborative platforms and relational learning through the connections made possible by social media platforms, to embed critical, digital and information literacies into student learning.

Read more about the skills our students must have for their future here and here. Please share more if you have them.

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Schools can no longer provide students with a complete toolkit for their futures

Schools and unis can no longer provide students with the complete toolkit for their futures; now it’s about equipping them with skills to be lifelong learners.

Our students need self confidence, adaptability, and strong values

School’s task to develop people as successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.

Knowledge remains vital but it’s not enough. Success depends on deep understanding and having the skills to turn knowledge to useful effect. Deep learning and the development of skills is important.

The curriculum should not be a catalogue of content – things to be learned. Students should be building networks and developing collaboration.

Deep learning and development of skills are critically important.

In the modern world, the evidence needs to be increasingly in advanced transferable cognitive skill – critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.

There is a new emphasis on learner engagement. There is the idea that the learner has to take responsibility for his/her own decisions and has to be involved in his/her progress.

All learning has to become more ambitious. We have our new mission statements. We share the objectives but nobody has yet made the breakthrough to real 21st century practice.

When will we stop talking about this and start taking apart an outdated, irrelevant system?

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Our students were told to get lost – online

Yes, it’s true, our blogging boys were told by Nick to ‘get lost’

Have you ever had the pleasure of being lost? Not just a bit disoriented, but utterly, irredeemably confounded?

The excitement of not knowing what’s literally around the corner mingles with the terrifying possibility of never finding your way back home and the result is the humbling revelation that you’re not the centre of the universe after all; your known world is a tiny speck on the edge of a vast and beckoning globe. Bliss!

I’m amused by the esoteric nature of the student tasks, and how well they’ve embraced each new challenge, putting in their heart and soul in most cases. I don’t think they’ve ever been told to ‘get lost’ online, never been asked to think about and document the randomness of online browsing, to think about how it made them feel. One of the students commented at the end of his post –

Meh. By far the weirdest task so far –

but on the whole, students have good-naturedly played along and produced writing which was well worth reading.

Nathan is an example of this:

I soon ended up at the New York Public Library which was pretty bizarre considering that I started off with moths.

However, it wasnt the outcome of my research that left me spellbound. It was how I felt. I was reading article after article that I soon lost track of time. I was so engaged with these articles that I became lost.

The beauty of getting lost online is no matter how hard you try, you may never be able to retrace each individual step of getting lost. Each time you get lost online, its always a different story; always something new.

This task has inspired me to learn in a more positive light, that the online world has more power and is more influential than we know!  

Lachie was quite enthusiastic about the whole thing:

This task has inspired me to play endless hours of the wikipedia game to satisfy my now addicted curiosity of being lost. So goodbye satnavs and goodbye readers as hours of drooling over my keyboard tirelessly playing the wikipedia game await me!

Andrew did a lot of thinking and reflecting, coming to an honest conclusion about the task of documenting the process of getting lost online –

But, this gets me thinking. If getting something that you do conciously, to become something you do subconciously, is it harder the other way around?
Immeasureable amounts of information are processed subconciously. Can we get something we do subconciously, to become something we do consciously?

I honestly have no idea.

Fantastic! Questions leading to more questions – surely this is the beginning of a healthy thinking habit.

Richard started searching ‘purple’ and got lost on the way through the wrong meaning of ‘shade’, coming across an article about ‘umbrellas used about a Bulgarian who was killied by a dose of ricin injected by a modified umbrella.’ to secret police, methods of torture and finally thought experiments and Schroedinger’s cat.

I only just realised that I was well and truly lost online, here I was reading about some wierd paradox that I have absolutely no IDEA how I ended up here. So I guess curiosity takes over the feeling of being lost online. This activity took over an hour, but it was totall worth it and I have learned a lot more about the world. Looking back on this task, I am amazed and perplexed how I started from a simple colour, purple, to a brain-frying paradox.
It must be so much more satisfying to receive a comment from your class mate than your teacher, wouldn’t you think?
On first impression, the chain of links that you followed seems rather strange, but when I read your reasoning , I felt that the process by which you got to Schrodinger’s Cat was perfectly logical and quite coherent, which surprised me as the human thought process can be quite difficult to comprehend at all. It is testament to your very well-written and highly enjoyable writing style that people will be able to read this article and connect with it.P.S. Nice one on the Schrodinger’s Cat paradox. Have you heard about Wigner’s Friend. Read it, you’ll find it quite interesting.
It’s clear when comparing first posts with those recently written that students have moved away from the kind of formal writing they consider appropriate for submission to their teacher. They’ve relaxed and become quite comfortable with writing using their own voice. They are no longer writing for the teacher in a prescriptive manner; they are writing for their peer audience, and also for their wider audience. Most of them are openly enjoying the writing task, despite the ‘weirdness’, and occasionally a student expresses criticism at what he perceives to be a meaningless task. We noticed definite cynicism expressed by a particular student recently, but, as Nick says, ‘the positive spin on …’s post is that he is thinking about his mind, and forming opinions about productive ways to use it.’
This is why we both feel the blogging experience has been valuable – students are thinking. They are thinking about the world, knowledge, themselves and about thinking itself. Their writing comes from real perceptions and is aimed at real people. And more than that, they’re sharing their thoughts with class mates and the wider world.

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What exactly does a 21st century teacher librarian do? A list of curated topics in Scoop.it

This has been reposted from my school library blog.

On the topic of the teacher librarians’ role and exactly what it is we TLs do in our jobs, I wanted to share this article in The Guardian: Beyond books: what it takes to be a 21st century librarian.  We all know that there’s more to being a librarian than stamping books, as the subtitle of the article states. How bothered are we by the fact that a large proportion of our school communities have little idea what we do?

If we stopped the next person walking by on the street and asked them what our jobs as librarians involve, we’d be willing to bet that their first answer would be stamping books. This is because many people’s experience of librarians is of the frontline, customer service staff.

I think the same can be said of school libraries although it varies greatly depending on the interaction between teacher librarians and teaching staff. What the article says about librarians is surely relevant to teacher librarians, librarians and technicians –

If anyone ever thought they’d become a librarian because they liked books or reading, they would be sorely disappointed if they did not also like people too.

Of course, in the digital age, in fact, in the global digital culture in particular, teacher librarians play a vital role in schools. What exactly is the role of a 21st teacher librarian?

It’s not something which can be answered in a simple sentence. For this reason, I want to share links to curated websites on this topic. I am including a list of Scoop.its which have been curated by various people (including me) on the topic of the 21st century teacher librarian. I hope you find this list useful; it includes all things relevant to the 21st century librarian in the broadest sense.

My Scoop.it – What is a teacher librarian?

Curation and libraries and learning – Joyce Valenza

e-Books – Carmel Galvin

Create the web and learn to live – @pipcleaves

21st century libraries – Dr Steve Matthews

Educational technology and libraries – Kim Tairi

Embedded Librarianship – Buffy Hamilton

Graphic Novels in the classroom – @dilaycock

Information coping skills – Beth Kanter

Information science and library studies –  Joao Brogueira

Information fluency, transliteracy, research tools – Joyce Valenza

Inquiry and digital literacy – Shawn Hinger

Internet Search – Phil Bradley

Learning – Darren Kuropatwa

Libraries and ethnography – Buffy Hamilton

Libraries and Tumblr – Buffy Hamilton

Libraries as sites of enchantment, participatory culture and learning (what a title!) – Buffy again

Livebinders – Peggy George

Multiliteracies – Vance Stevens

New librarianship – Karen Burns

Personal learning networks for librarians – Donna Watt

QR codes – libraries – NairarbilUCA

Readers’ advisory for secondary schools – Marita Thomson

School libraries – Nickki Robinson

Social media content curation– Guiseppe Mauriello

Social networking for information professionals – Judy O’Connell

The library technician – Dawn Jimenez

Student learning through school libraries – Lyn Hay

Weird and wonderful – for librarians and booklovers – Jean Anning

This selection is only a small fraction of what’s being curated by people passionate about their topic on Scoop.it. It’s overwhelming but also a fantastic way of keeping track of evolving scoops on searchable topics. The fact that the list relevant to teacher librarians is so broad indicates the breadth of the teacher librarians’ focus and involvement. Of course, we can’t do everything but it’s a good idea to see potential involvement, and having seen the bigger picture, delegate to team members (assuming you have a team) the most pressing areas according to their interest.

By the way, Scoop.its are very easy to make and make reading enjoyable in their magazine-scoop-style presentation. It’s easy to follow, to search, to share and to recommend Scoop.its and articles. It’s also a brilliant way to build your Personal Learning Network by investigating the curators, checking out their bio, looking at what else they’ve curated or what they themselves follow.

You’ve got to start somewhere! Happy scooping!

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Can we see the process in the end product?

indoorlanewayproject

Last Saturday my sister (art teacher) and I finally saw the exhibition of work which was the culmination of The Indoor Laneway project. My last post explains the project.

The exhibition space is quite large and the ideas behind the exhibit well thought out. The adolescent bedroom and laneway leading to the main screen showcasing students’ work is effective. We sat on the chairs provided (I felt a little like Papa Bear on Baby Bear’s chair) and enjoyed the mix of styles and perspectives.

As we were going out, I said to my sister, ‘It’s more than it looks’.

That’s not to denegrate it in any way. I thought the exhibition looked professional, and considering the short six-week time period for the whole thing to come together, it was very impressive. It is true about art in general – and many other things too, of course – that there’s more to the whole process than meets the eye, and I think it’s worth thinking about. The Indoor Laneway Project blog solves that problem for students and educators involved, and in this way it holds the valuable stuff – the evolving thoughts, thrown-up ideas and resources, positive feedback, documentation of the process which leads to the final product, but which is almost more than the final product.

I thought I’d pull out some examples of what I mean from the blog:

Eugenia defines the most important part of the experience – collaboration:

Hi Indoor Laneway creators,

I can see you’ve been working hard and exploring the remix idea which is so excellent to see. A big part of this project is about connecting with others even if you live hundreds of kilometres apart and using this blog as a portal – and Terrie and Rebecca it’s so cool that this is the concept you’re using in your portal/portrait work.

Nikita (student from Mooroopna) says:

Hi everybody. I’m Nikita and i was thinking about making a virtual dance video if Daniel was interested…It would be great to have us both filmed in front of a green screen and then all footage is combined here… The most exciting thing about this is it could be the first time that this has been attempted. Hope you guys are really interested in this idea.

Yolander called for a combined effort from the cohort:

We need sounds such as laughter, voices of family and other important sounds that will relate to it, would you be able to assist me in writing this particular way?… Help in researching sounds. (it is easy to spend all day…) We have 8 min of swamp sounds as the birds all wake up for background… 

We would also like to use lots of home bits and pieces from both schools, sporting things and home items and animate them in and out. HELP!!!

Nikita thinks out ideas and process:

I was thinking of the way we could tackle this Virtual Dance video. Firstly we need to find a soundtrack from Jamendo that goes for 3 mins minimum that has an easy beat to dance a simple routine to. Then we should choreograph a simple routine for Daniel and I.

Pros- It will look great when finished.

Cons- It will look a little artifical and the greenscreen size will restrict movement but thats ok.

Kayla and Laura share an idea:

We are working with the other students on this project and we are glad that you like the idea of involving everyone.

We would like to get some Photos and/or short Clips of close ups of eyes or people pointing in and looking from WFS when possible to add to our project.

Emma, Yolander, Tom, Josh, Maddison ask for contributions:

A group of us have decided to concentrate on our original idea of the light beams coming from the computer screen. We would like to have the photos from home going into the computer with Indoor Laneway open on the screen, with the light beams as a way to remix them. We have recorded or sourced sounds that will be appropriate for this project, such as ‘catch it’ when a cricket ball goes into the screen and waves for a surfboard. This idea will incorporate everyones work. Could you please send us HEAPS of high res. photos and if possible with the objects eg. cricket ball, skateboard, guitar, etc. selected out and saved in a .PNG format? That would be really awesome

 These are just some of the extracts from the interactive process at the heart of The Indoor Laneway Project. I think you get an idea of where the strength and value of this project lies.

Will viewers of the exhibition understand the depth of this project? Probably not. If they took time to have a look through the blog on the computers provided in the exhibition, then they’ll have some idea. If they browse the tab ‘Make and create tasks and responses’ on the blog, then they’ll have an even better understanding of the project.

Does it matter? Do viewers need to know every aspect of the process? Well, from an assessment perspective, yes. Surely the entire process would be considered in the final evaluation. This brings me to the question of assessment in general. If we understand that the entire learning journey is valuable, and not just the final product, are we convinced that our method of assessment is appropriate, or should we rethink it?

Clearly, what the kids get out of it is more than the finished product. Their learning experience has been enriched by the challenge of a multi-tasked program, through online collaboration with another school, spurred by a project taking them out of the school to a public audience. I can imagine that the face-to-face meeting would have been fantastic, and building the sets together enjoyable.

Wouldn’t it be good if there were more opportunities for students of every discipline similar to this one?

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Live stream from ELH09 Lorne – Jenny Luca’s talk

Steve Collis was kind enough to livestream (not sure if that’s a verb) Jenny Luca’s presentation at elh09 technology and learning conference at Lorne today. Brilliant for me for two reasons: firstly I couldn’t afford to go, and secondly it’s my day off so I could watch it. Well done, Jenny! As always, Jenny has presented an engaging, informative and inspiring talk about nings, social networking and participatory learning.

I’ve been lucky to get to know Jenny well since my involvement with Powerful Learning Practice, and anyone else who knows her will appreciate that Jenny speaks from experience, not hiding behind jargon or titles, but saying it how it is. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the way to reach a wider audience in the conversation about 21st century learning and teaching.

One of the most powerful messages Jenny transfers, both verbally and in terms of modelling, is that she is a learner first and foremost, and that this has given her the wings she needs to fly as an educator (I’m paraphrasing). Listen to Jenny. Read her blog.

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Powerful Learning Practice presentation is finished!

Well, when I say finished, I mean that the first layer of our presentation is complete. Whitefriars College Powerful Learning Practice cohort has documented their PLP journey on a blog which is the platform for all the projects, experimentation and reflection during the course of this year.

Marie Salinger and I have spent long hours pulling the presentation together, and at the end of it we feel deeply satisfied. As I was saying to Marie earlier today, the experience reminds me of the ‘Stone soup’ story:

a tale in which strangers trick a starving town into giving them some food. It is usually told as a lesson in cooperation, especially amid scarcity. In varying traditions, the stone has been replaced with other common inedible objects, and therefore the fable is also known as button soup, wood soup, nail soup, and axe soup (from Wikipedia).

It really was exactly like that – at first we thought we didn’t have enough for the presentation but gradually we gathered things from here and there, pooling our resources and forcing reflection and evaluation, until we surprised ourselves with the result.

So we have the first layer. And as Marie Salinger has said,

It has been a very positive and affirming experience to take the time to do this. Evaluating, reflecting on , summing up and consolidating the work we have been doing for the past nine months has been a very worthwhile endeavour.

Now that we have the blog as a space for sharing, we can continue to add to it as we go. I’m going to link to a new blog which follows the progress of 7M Ning, and I hope other team members will do the same. What would be even more encouraging – if the blogs inspired other members of the school community to have a go. It would be fantastic to see blogs for each faculty, documenting progress, reflecting, evaluating and celebrating.

Here is a short audiovisual reflection and summary of our journey.

Here is a link to the blog.

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Reflecting again (still)

Last post I wrote a reflection for the culmination of my participation in the  Powerful Learning Practice program. Still, I felt I hadn’t drilled down to what was essential for me.

Listening to Howard Rheingold this morning, and rethinking things, I wrote another reflection.

My participation in PLP has been life changing. I know it smacks of evangelical fervour, and I’ve often written about this in my blog, but PLP came just at the point that I was ready for it. I’d just completed SLAV 23 things, and started a blog. Everything was new to me. Nothing was easy, I wasn’t a natural, probably more of a technophobe than anything, but something pulled me in. Jenny Luca must have read my blog somehow, and emailed me about joining the PLP cohort of Australian schools. It all avalanched from there. Soon I was blogging, wikiing, ninging, twittering, flickering, and having a great time.

Thinking about it more seriously, I realize there’s a big discrepancy between my personal awakening to online participation and what I’ve been able to do in convincing other educators at my school or anywhere else about what I see as a crucial path we must take in order to make learning relevant and engaging for students. Yes, I’ve made steps, and for me, these steps have been significant. I’ve been reflecting and sharing knowledge and resources in this blog, I’ve explored the literacy possibilities with Flickr’s image sharing, I’ve supported English and Art faculties with wikis, I’ve created a blog to inspire reading in the community, I’ve been working on a ning as a platform for learning, collaborating with a wonderful English teacher, I’ve sent countless links and resources to teachers as a result of my own connection to my online network. But it’s not enough. It hasn’t moved a significant portion of my school, it hasn’t changed the way my principal thinks, or other the way faculty heads function. Although, I suppose I shouldn’t underestimate small victories, such as the approval for an external fiction blog (read here and here).  On the whole, though, it’s often resulted in friends, family, colleagues casting a critical eye or making derogatory comments, telling me to get off the computerand get a life. Basically, I haven’t convinced many people that what I’ve spent an enormous amount of my own time on is worth anything.

It has, however, connected me to a network of people who are my lifeline. People I otherwise wouldn’t have met or known about. People who are experts in different fields, who are brilliant, engaged, supportive. It has crossed borders, transcended nationality, age-group, ignored physical apprearance and status – it’s been fantastic. I agree with many great speakers I’ve listened to: it’s not about the technology tools, it’s about literacies. Our students need critical thinking to navigate the flood of information and media that comes their way. They are learning outside of the classroom – and social media and technologies such as Youtube and Facebook provide a platform for communication, collaboration and collective action which is more important to them than their textbooks. One day it’s about organizing a large gathering through Facebook, and next thing, it’s organizing political action. None of it comes from teachers or parents; it wouldn’t spark that level of engagement.

I’m seeing the power of collective response to disaster. Why aren’t we thinking in terms of social capital? Why aren’t we thinking about how to mobilize people to do things using social media? What are we doing at school? How can we spark this level of engagement? Should we rethink the ways we are teaching, the content?

You can see that this isn’t about technology tools, although all of this is made possible through technology. These are the things that drive me today – as an educator, parent, citizen. I don’t have the answers but the questions are driving me forward, connecting me to others who find the conversation valuable. This is what my PLP experience has been about. Life is a series of new starts. That’s why we feel we never reach our destination. We’re always starting out with new questions and new problems to solve. That’s why it’s a journey.

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Spider’s web

Photo courtesy of moonjazz.

The Powerful Learning Practice experience is coming to an end, and it’s time for us to gather our thoughts and share what we’ve done.

I’ve been putting off my reflection because, frankly, the thought of gathering my thoughts about this relatively short, but intense, period of PLP participation, is overwhelming. Scouting around in blogs and Twitter links, I came across something which describes what I consider to be the focus of what is most valuable from my PLP experience: connectedness. 

I love the way Lisa Huff compares the spider’s web-weaving in Walt Whitman’s A Noiseless Patient Spider  with our reaching out to connect with others through technology.

Whitman, writing in the 1800’s, observes how a spider ceaselessly launches forth filament to explore his surroundings, to travel from one place to another, to bridge his world. Whitman notes mankind’s similarity to the spider. We too ceaselessly seek to connect, to make sense of the world, to reach out to others.

 Technology of the 21st century is connecting us like never before. We blog, we podcast, we collaborate via wikis, webcams, e-mails, discussion boards. We explore endless information easily summoned with a few clicks. We are living in the midst of sweeping technological changes that are reinventing the way we live, learn, laugh. At the heart of this change, however, is the basic spirit of exploration–that same spirit Whitman captured some two hundred years ago.

This is what I have learned since joining the PLP team – how much richer my life has become through connections with people globally via technology. I’m connected through people’s blogs, wikis, through Twitter, and other Web 2.0 applications, to a limitless network of resources, ideas, discussions and creativity. At the risk of sounding evangelical (once again), this is a life-changing experience. It’s not just a matter of acquiring some technological skills with tools, it’s what we have in common with Whitman’s spider as we ‘ceaselessly seek to connect, to make sense of the world, to reach out to others.’

Coming down to earth a little, I must say that my fervour about 21st century learning, and that of my team members, is shared by few in our school community, and I hear it’s the same everywhere. At times it’s lonely, other times frustrating, to be convinced that networked learning and teaching are in step with our fast-paced, global world, and to know that our current education system supports an outdated society. Trying to take tiny steps in convincing others is perhaps the only way to move forward, taking care not to alienate others, but to support them, model new ways of teaching, and to celebrate small successes.

What have I enjoyed the most?

  • writing my personal and fiction blogs
  • reading others’ blogs, wikis; commenting; taking part in discussion
  • creating and supporting nings, joining others’ nings
  • the support of my personal learning networks on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc.
  • sharing information and ideas
  • ‘converting’ others to the networks
  • discovering amazing people with great talents and wonderful minds
  • seeing engagement and joy in students, especially after the new ways of teaching have been a struggle to implement
  • being able to participate in professional development opportunities online at many different times
  • lifting up the minds of young people, seeing the spark in their eyes, hearing excitement in their voices
  • collaborating with others towards common goals
  • discovering unexpected and wonderful links to links to links
  • feeling energized by the depth of what’s out there
  • loving the learning

What have we learned, and what have we achieved? We’ve learned so much, and at the same time, we have so much more to learn. We’ve achieved a great deal, and yet we’ve only just begun.

What I’m sure of is that there are people I can rely on for help, ideas, support, resources, inspiration. These are the people I connect to as a teacher. I can never be bored, will never feel isolated, will always look forward to more.

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Moving forward and pulling back

Well, hello. Haven’t been around the blog lately. Mid-year holidays and taking time out of my head for a change. And, to tell you the truth, I’ve needed the break. No blog ideas put up their hands in their usual impatient manner. Nothing was hammering inside my head, clamouring to come out. No clear thoughts were forming, no ideas were sprouting. For a while there, I thought I’d dried out for good. Until I realised that I was looking back, only I’m not sure if I’m having second thoughts, or if I’m giving things a second look over.

Our PLP presentation is very close now. I can’t deny feeling unprepared. How have we, as a team, moved forward in changing teaching and learning in our school? How far have we come, if at all?

The answer is simultaneously a great deal and hardly at all. Taking part in the PLP ning, connecting to a rich network of educators, great minds, variety of personalities and viewpoints, forming a personal learning network that I don’t feel I could do without  – this is a new dimension that has changed my life as a teacher and a learner. The Art and English wikis, the personal and reading blogs, the ning I created to support students and teachers at my school are initial experiments, attempts to engage students in new ways, to share resources, to present different types of media as possibilities for discussion or creativity, to use technology for the purpose of re-envisaging education.

But how far does this go in making any difference to the way teaching and learning occur at my school? How many eductors have seen these things, and if they do, how many are convinced that I’m offering them something valuable, something worth trying out? The answer is – not many.

Dean Shareski’s post has resonated with me today. He describes the architecture of learning as transformative where there’s no going back.

The landscape of learning is changing. Rethinking what control means, understranding the power of sharing and transparency all work to topple many of the foundations our schools are built upon.

His post strikes a chord with me at this stage of my journey:

I know this, you know this but after spending 3 days amongst 18,000 in the educational technology field, I still say very few else know this. I made this observation (jump down to #4) last year at NECC and while the number may have increased slightly, those who really have any sense of the changes that are possilbe and perhaps inevitable in education is strikingly small. Yet sometimes the conversations amongst them would indicate they think everyone understands. A good example took place in the last session I attended on a panel discussion on Web 2.0. The panel was made up of all people that I and many in the audience knew very well either because we’ve spent time with them or know them from varoius online circles. The panel and audience were calling them by their first names and having a good discussion One lady stood up and felt frustrated since she didn’t know these people, these terms and most of the content of the conversation. That wasn’t her fault that’s ours. The assumption amongst folks who live and breath social media is that most teachers know about but they just don’t understand social media. We jump in with disucssion about Web 2.0 when they aren’t ready for that discussion since they have absolutely no prior knowledge. I”m not against having these kinds of discussions but it’s a bit like Christopher Columbus and crew arguing over how they would organize and structure the new world when most of the old world didn’t even know it existed and if they did, had no idea why or how they would get over to see it, let alone settle there. It’s not a totally useless discussion but perspective is important.

This is what I’m finding unsettling at this stage –  Dean’s analogy with Columbus. Should I feel unsettled knowing that I’m trying to populate a new world with people who deny its existence? Am I going about this the wrong way? Should I be happy to go slowly with a minority of takers? Am I being naive and unrealistic? Is trying to change teaching and learning in a school insane or egotistical? Am I unrealistically trying to change society itself? Can individuals make this change or is it only possible for politicians?

But then again, I’m pulled back by a comment on Dean’s blog by a teacher who attended NECC:

I paid my own way, as did many of the classroom teachers and a few of the administrators I met, because we are hungry to learn and starving for people who have the knowledge and experience to teach us. Of course, there were sessions and conversations at NECC that were way over my head, but hearing them and trying to understand gives me guideposts and goals for my future development.

If my new, recent direction in learning and teaching came ‘out of the blue’, then why shouldn’t other people make that transition? If a teacher cares about students and thinks about the best ways to inspire students to learn, then who’s to say my little steps, and those steps of my fellow PLP members, or anyone else who is struggling through relevant and engaging teaching and learning – who’s to say these things won’t make a difference?

Should we despair that our efforts are mere drops in the ocean, or should we appreciate our small steps?  So many rhetorical questions…

Dean points us to Tom Carroll’s article, If we didn’t have the schools we have today, would we create the schools we have today? written 8 years ago and still very pertinent:

If we continue to prepare teachers as we have always prepared them, we are going to continue to recreate the schools we have always had. We have to start preparing teachers differently. If we are going to continue preparing educators to work as solo, stand-alone teachers in self-contained, isolated classrooms, we are going to perpetuate the schools we have today.   If we want schools to be different, we must start today to prepare teachers differently… significantly differently.

Yes, I do feel a few can make a difference, but it’s a slow and laborious process. Why isn’t teacher training aligned with the educational needs of students today? Who should we be influencing in order to revise teacher training, in order to go to the source of the problem?

I might stop before another flood of questions is unleashed. Please come in and help stop the flood.

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