Saturday, March 15, 2008

21st Century Learning: Not Just for Kids

I recently read a blog post by Will Richardson titled URGENT: 21st Century Skills for Educators (and Others) First. In this post, he talks about attending a conference where experts were talking about educational reform who aren't part of "networked learning." Will states, "from none of them did I get the sense that they could give a great response to a request to model their uses of technology to teach and learn effectively, especially in the context of networks."

I believe that this is very unfortunate. All too often in my education career, I have come across folks who have espoused different approaches to education while using a typical "death by lecture" style themselves. The power behind what they are saying gets lost in the translation because of what they are doing.

Part of the move to 21st century skills includes the idea of lifelong learning. This is something that I have heard about now for at least ten years if not longer. There's not an educator I've met who has not said they want their students to be lifelong learners. Some of these same educators, however, don't apply the concepts of lifelong learning themselves. I've been part of groups of people in staff development efforts who have said that they don't have the time to be active with the learning going on. What I want to say back to them is that they can't afford to not be active.

I was working with small groups of educators this past week and several said that they are concerned about using web 2.0 tools with their students because there is so much on the Internet now that is not true. My response was that's why we need to use web 2.0 tools with students so they can learn how to think critically about what comes along. These same educators, however, don't always apply the critical thinking skills themselves to what they find on the Internet.

I have heard Will Richardson say more than once that we need to start with the teachers. Teachers need to become active participants in networked learning. While I don't disagree with this, I know that some teachers won't take that step until they think it is something they need to do to "keep up" with their students.

We've been discussing at our school the need for these approaches to be used in all of our staff development classes, whether they are "technology oriented" or not. This summer we will have a mini-conference of sorts where teachers are leading 14 different sessions on topics important to our school's improvement efforts. The hope is that we will convince all of the leaders of these sessions that it is important for all of us to continue these conversations in a social network we have set up specifically for our school. If we can take this step, then perhaps we will have a chance to truly make an impact regarding the use of 21st century skills.