Wednesday, October 12, 2011

10 of the best: 21st Century Learners need 21st Century Teachers

Here is another in the 10 of the best series.  This one was first published in March 2011 and has also been read thousands of times.  I'm reposting for my new readers.
I was reading a post today from Derek Keenan on the Developing Education blog.  Derek lists 5 traits that are essential for teachers who are working with changing students and practices.  I am copying these from his blog post below, please click on the link to read his full post and the interesting comments made about it.

  1. Driven to Learn - Educators absolutely must be driven to learn in order to teach effectively in the 21st Century.  It is no longer acceptable to teach only from a textbook, to rely on the same worksheets an methods year after year without at least questioning them and researching why they are the best resource available.  There is simply too much new information, too many new strategies, and new learning available to us to ignore the implications it may have for students in our classes.
  2. A Media Creation Expert - Whether posted online or simply used in the classroom, our materials must be highly engaging and effective.  Powerpoint and Word are becoming antiquated as newer and more powerful presentation and editing suites become available to teachers.  It is our responsibility to compete (where necessary) with the quality of video games and media construction in order to hook students into great learning.  As media conscious teachers, we can win student attention by working with them, not against them, for their learning.
  3. A Digital Navigator – Not many teachers would consider themselves digital natives, but we must understand enough about digital content and how it is used to effectively operate in our student’s world.  This means having social media accounts and understanding how they are used, even if you don’t use them specifically for learning.  We must be familiar enough with the new digital landscape that we can help students navigate their journey online, even if we don’t (or can’t) join them.
  4. An Empathetic Mentor – Gone are the days when teachers dole out assignments and send students on their merry way.  A modern educator realizes the plethora of factors impacting students in our current world, and strives to tailor learning where possible toward individualized needs and interests.  This student-centered focus also creates learning opportunities for the teacher to learn with students, developing their teaching and collaborative skills.
  5. A Technology Harmonizer – As teachers of our time, we must realize the implications of pervasive technologies such as smart phones and highly mobile tablets/computers.  In addition, we must find ways to ‘make it work’ with technology, which may include enlisting students to help or (as in trait 1) learn more about the technologies we are using.  One of the keys here is that we work at making the technology work (in the best way we can) so the lesson becomes about the learning instead of the management of machines.
Some reflections on these:
One of the things I've been impressed with this year is the way some teachers are driven to learn.  Oftentimes this drive comes from teachers new to a team or a school.  They are learning about the PYP programme here, the units of inquiry that the students are studying and perhaps they are also teaching a different grade level than they have taught previously - they HAVE to learn and take on-board new things.  Others are happy to talk about what they did last year and to recycle some of the old activities.  Despite the fact that we are told to "start with a blank planner", some find it hard to do that.  And now that we have moved all our planners onto Altas Rubicon, I'm wondering how realistic this is too:  it seems we actually have to delete the things that are on the old planners each year, rather than starting with a new one (this is new to us this year and it may be that it actually works better in practice when we revisit these units again next year - time will tell!).  I know at school this year some teachers are unhappy because they have been told they have been teaching the same grade for many years and now it's time to move to a different grade.  However I think this will be a very rejuvenating experience.  It's time to move away from what Ian Jukes refers to as TTWWADI (that's the way we've always done it).  In the grades that I have taught this year I love the way that the teachers are questioning their practice and embracing change.

This year some of our teachers have also been driven to create in new ways.  They have been blogging and as a result have been finding out how to post and embed media into their blogs.  I think that this will be given a big push forward as we start to quad blog.  Already I've seen teachers using YouTube, VoiceThread, Animoto and Issuu to publish student work on class blogs.  In Grades 4 and 5 students all have their own blogs and are using Google Docs.  This is also pushing teachers to think in different ways about creating and collaborating.
Social media - an interesting one that.  I assumed most of our teachers were on Facebook at least, simply because I am and I have many friends who are colleagues and ex-colleagues.  I know others are on Twitter, LinkedIn and are using various nings and wikis (not as many as on Facebook for sure, but the numbers are growing).  However in the light of plans for parent education sessions, a couple of teachers and administrators have mentioned that they do not use these at all - though their students do.  Again I feel it is a responsibility of teachers (and parents) to be aware, at least, of what their students are doing.  To be alert to signs of problems so that they can deal with them.  At my last school I decided to explore Second Life, only because I knew the students were using it.  I'm now asking myself should I also be exploring some of the popular games the students are playing? (Rob Newberry has written a great post about Minecraft and how he uses this with students in an after school club).

I know we are moving forward here - but my question is, as always, are we moving far enough?  Are we moving fast enough?  Are we really the teachers that our students deserve?

Photo Credit:  Building a New World by Jaki Lopes dos Santos

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Maggie for your excellent post! I enjoy reading your thoughts and reflections.

    My response to some of your closing questions is, yes, we are not moving fast enough. I think this is for several reasons.

    First, I think there is a definite difference between the learning curve of the Digit Natives, our students and the Digital Immigrants, we the teachers. It is an uncomfortable thing to know that students may have skills that surpass our abilities and knowledge. I am at ease, though, sitting down with a student and asking them to teach me. They enjoy the challenge and it gives them a different perspective on my everyday job!

    Second, I think the reason why we have so many teachers with TTWADI syndrome is because when change is moving so fast and you can`t even seems to grab onto the wave, it`s overwhelming, so it`s just easier to stick to what you know. It is scary when I walk into a grade 8 classroom and see all students colouring in a poster for display, or a teacher who still gives handwritten photocopies for their students. How does this teach 21st skills.

    I am currently enrolled in a COETAIL course and I find it overwhelming, but a necessary challenge. if I want to really help students, I have to upgrade my technology skills. This is really the first time I have heard of such a course to help teachers along in this pursuit. If more COETAIL courses are offered, we may be just making a dent on the fast changing landscape of education!

    Thank you again for your insightful thoughts and for inspiring so many!

    Viviane Van Esch