A great blog I read, Teach Paperless, issued a challenge today to, “You have been put in charge of creating a brand new education system. … This being the 21st century, you have to explain your entire concept in 21 words or less.”
Here is my response:
“Learning – up front and essential. No marks, just feedback. Encouraged inquiry and problem solving. Create something original and meaningful. Be great!”
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Can we as an educational revolution please quit doing this? We keep wading ourselves into this rhetoric about the 21st century, like we’re visionaries. I’m just as guilty. But this phrase fractures the debate into questions of technologies and tools, rather than about better teaching, engaged learners and authentic learning. Isn’t the latter what we really care about?
I believe our focus as a revolution needs to be streamlined. We need to stop trying to sell it as a glimpse into the future. It is here. Now.
The 21st century that we talk and write about is elusive and abstract. Let’s change the vocabulary to that of the immediate, the actual. The “classroom of the 21st century” doesn’t exist, my classroom does. Talking about the skills needed of students today is much more pointed than the “skills of the 21st century”. As we force the individual and systemic change, we force the image of “bringing one to our side.” We don’t want that. I believe better teaching equals better learning. Better learning equals better learners. We should quit talking like these concerns are of the future and instead be recognizing their presence.
This rhetoric change will help us avoid the muck and mire of talking Facebook, access to technology and cell phones in the classroom and instead about relationships, community building and self-directed learners. We start talking about authenticity, assessment and evaluation with learning at its core, and tools that our students can use to fully integrate into the global village.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that by using the vocabulary of “the 21st Century” we lose our way a little. I think it is time to stop talking about the 21st century like it is on its way and start talking about better education that needs to be here. Now.
While we are at it, can we stop saying Web 2.0. It’s the web. That’s it. It is meant to be constantly changing, that is its nature. Web 2.0 is so 1.0.
Here are some questions I think we need to consider as we begin framing our lives for the 21st century. Some questions have been absconded, re-worded, or modified from various blogs I’ve read.
Attention: How do we need to change our concepts and practices of attention for a new era?
Participation: How do we encourage meaningful interaction and participation in a digital age? How do we transition our students from consumers of media to contributors, creators and participants?
Collaboration: How do we rework our ideas of possession of ideas and the creation of projects? How can we use the power of connection to push our ideas forward and to incorporate the strengths of the many?
Community awareness: How can we both thrive as creative individuals and understand our place within our community or network? How
Civic Duty: What is our responsibility to the world, now that we know so much more and we have access to more tools for change?
Storytelling: How do narrative elements shape the information we wish to convey, helping it to have force in a world of competing information?
Game Literacy: AS video games have overtaken television and movies as most consumed media, how does that change our students’ ideas of reality? How does it modify our understanding of student feedback?
Critical Thinking: How do we learn to be critical of what we consume, without a moderator? How do students separate the frivolous information with the necessary?
Digital Divide: How do basic aspects of economics and culture dictate not only who participates in the digital age but how they participate?
Ethics: What are the new moral imperatives of our interconnected age? How do we establish true character in our students when anonimity is created and celebrated online?
Assessment: What are the best, most fluid, most adaptive and helpful ways to measure progress and productivity as a part of a productive process that also requires innovation and creativity? How do we make learning the real motive for our students, parents and teachers, not just grades?
Sustainability: How do we protect the environment in a plugged-in era? How will new tools make it easier to go paperless, carbon-neutral or at the very least environmental conscious?
Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning: How do we teach student to learn something, identify the errors, unlearn what they’ve learn and relearn the process?
This list will surely continue to grow…
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