Saturday, October 11, 2008

What IS 21st Century Teaching and Learning?

Last week two completely separate events inspired this post. First, I had the honor of visiting three schools to respond to the topic of this blog, "What IS 21st Century Teaching and Learning?" The topic was definitely on my mind. Then, while browsing Jeff Utecht's Universe, his link to Pro Blog Design's "25 Ways to Spice Up Blog Post Photos" caught my eye. I'm sure Jeff's intent was to link readers to tips for improving blog graphics, but I never got past the second paragraph. I stopped at, "A post without any graphs, drawing, or photos can look daunting." Now, I'm a brand new blogger and I am still learning the rules. I had not considered using pictures in previous blog posts. I apologize for publishing so much daunting text. That ends today!

I love images. I chose this fabulous graphic from the online collection Library of Congress Prints and Photographs to shape the theme of my presentation, What IS 21st Century Teaching and Learning? Does it seem odd to select an image from 1905 to make a 21st century point? Bear with me, this historic image communicates an important message. Please understand, I am driven to help teachers know and be able to "lead the learning" of 21st Century skills in our public schools. While I admire the Framework for 21st Century Skills, published by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and I genuinely appreciate the enGauge 21st Century Skills model, I know teachers need to move beyond models to "cut right to the chase." They need a clear picture of today's challenge. Thus the 1905 image and my simplified response to a loaded question: What IS 21st Century Teaching and Learning?

Take a close look at the picture the Library of Congress labeled "A modern training school." Girls are sewing and cooking. Boys are woodworking. The students are using the TOOLS of the era to prepare for the work of the era. The teachers are working beside their students, coaching and mentoring them as they refine skills that transfer beyond the schoolhouse to life in the real world. Zoom in. Look a bit closer. The TOOLS include needles, knives, chisels, hammers, picks, heat, ovens. The tools of the age are potentially dangerous - but they aren't blocked from the school. Teachers are teaching students to use the tools of the age - and use them safely.

One more picture to make this post less daunting. This image from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs is entitled 1910 -1930 Infantile speech defects corrected by games. This class is playing "train," making "ch" sound. What a great example! The students are learning the CONTENT of the era using the highly relevant CONTEXT of the era. At the beginning of the 19th century, trains were a phenomenon. The railroads were slowly joining rivers, canals, coaches and carriages in transporting people and goods across the country. The "ch-choo" train was serious pop culture in 1919 and students must have engaged in learning about them. The "ch-choo" that was so relevant and popular in that era seems remote and out of place in the schools of 2008. Yet, we persist in "ch-chooing" when we could be "cha-chinging" the critically important 21st Century lessons of Financial Literacy. Our school train just hasn't engaged the context of the 21st Century.

Let me wrap this up. What IS 21st Century Teaching and Learning? In very simplistic terms:

1. Students use the TOOLS of the era to prepare for life and work in the era.
2. Students learn the CONTENT of the era in the fascinating CONTEXT of the era.
3. Teachers COACH and mentor students who refine skills that matter and transfer to life in the real world.

1.)Tools. 2.) Content. 3.) Context. 4.) Coach. Not so very new or different. We just need to bump the focus of all four up a mere one hundred years - and we're here - in the 21st Century!

Image Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Digital ID: cph 3a15671
Digital ID: det 4a27732
RIGHTS INFORMATION: No known restrictions on publication.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

ME? Hang on Facebook?

In response to October 5, 2008 post, "Facing Facebook" by David Truss: Pair-a-Dimes for Your Thoughts

I've been thinking a lot about Facebook. In fact, I created an account several months ago. Never added a profile. Finally, I deleted the entire account. Why? I just couldn't figure out how I could "contribute" in the Facebook social environment. I could not see myself having a pillow fight with a colleague. I didn't really want to send an exotic cocktail to new a new friend. I wasn't interested in forming a new social connection with an adolescent or a college student. I didn't know how to speak the "Well, ah, like, what-e-e-vvvvr-r-r, you know" language. I just could NOT envision myself in the Facebook crowd.

So, I'd been wondering why it made sense for an educator like me to participate. My interest was piqued by the number of outstanding educators I know who enjoy maintaining Facebook accounts. When the Cool Cat Teacher, Vicki Davis, shared that she had a Facebook presence, I thought, "Well, I know you're cool - but, Vicki, you have adult connections on Linked In! What's up with you, friend?" I just could NOT understand WHY. Vicki is not the only first class educator I know on Facebook. I know many stand-up adults who are members of the Facebook community! Their career interests and professional goals are the same as mine - but they knew something I didn't know. When David Truss, an admired Twitter colleague, hinted that he'd be blogging on the topic "Facing Facebook" I was delighted. Soon, I'd be in on the secret!

Now, here you come, David, with a whole new spin on Facebook! Responsibility. You really "got me" with this appeal. You paint a picture of teachers that "follow" students for all of the right reasons: showing interest, standing up for online integrity, demonstrating altruistic values. You made me think. I have hundreds of former students on Facebook. I still care about them. I always enjoy reconnecting with them face-to face as adults and learning about their lives and careers. I am attracted to the idea of "being there" for them in Facebook - unobtrusively but staunchly standing for high standards in adult life and in digital citizenship. I'd be honored to reconnect with them as a former teacher - professionally - continuing my work with them as a mentor. I can see myself in this role - and I like it.

It is odd. When I deleted the Facebook account a pop up message appeared as I clicked "OK. Delete Account". Perhaps it was serendipity. The message touched me: "Come back to Facebook. We'll miss you." Now the message is more compelling. Facebook is missing me. It is missing the presence of adults who care enough about our young people to network in their space.

Thank you, David. I really like your post. It is valuable and helpful. "and so, like eeeeewwwwww, I'm off to hang out." ;~)