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21st Century Learners August 16, 2008

Filed under: School — tlsussman @ 2:43 pm

A friend of mine recently finished her professional development days for the start of school and was totally inspired by the things her principal and superintendent talked about: 21st century learners, teaching our students to think and not just take tests and more. I can appreciate all of these sentiments and know that the more we teach our students to think the better off we are. She sent me a link to an interesting youtube video

I can appreciate the desire for kids to use technology as much as possible. However, I don’t think we should lose the value of paper and pencil. What is the good of having students write on the web if they don’t know vocabulary or sentence structure? There is certainly value to creating videos and podcasts, but the basic fundamentals need to exist. Kids need to be reading literature and not just blogs, they need to learn how to compose a letter and not just an e-mail. I am all for technology (I wiki, blog, use facebook, etc), but our students need other skills as well. They complain of not being engaged, but I believe some of that comes from the fact that they expect everything to be glam and glitz. That isn’t necessary and it isn’t good. Their lives are (hopefully) not going to be constantly and always filled with technology.

This is not to say that technology is not important, but there has to be a balance. Without a balance, I think we actually do a disservice to our students as we tell them that technology is the world. I know that tech plays a huge part in our lives, but there is definitely more to life than tech.

The other issue is with the time to educate and create using technology. As with anything else, it takes time and resources to integrate these things into the classroom. While many kids know how to use technology, many teachers do not. There is not only time and money to teach teachers, but I have found that most kids have a very limited skill set when it comes to technology. While they think they know how to make a PowerPoint, they really know how to make a pretty background and add cool effects. In order to start a new technology project, the teacher needs at least one class period to teach how to use the program and then has to closely monitor to ensure that students are concentrating on content instead of colors and images. While all these things ARE important skills, it often takes so much time to teach the skill that it is frustrating and feels that we are losing important teaching time.

Do the kids remember these skills afterwards? Do they take the time to read the handout that details step-by-step instructions on how to use the new tool? Kids are so dependent on others that they are unwilling to explore and try without asking for help.

I don’t plan to stop using technology, but perhaps I need a better way to teach the skills and keep the kids using them. If I want my kids to use the wiki all the time, I have to constantly come up with ideas. Using moodle? It has to be updated all the time, along with my school webpage that is required by the administration, the report cards and progress reports, etc. When do teachers find the time to be technologically advanced and encourage 21st century learning among all the grading and lesson planning?

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One Response to “21st Century Learners”

  1. Laura Says:

    Very interesting video. To be honest, it annoyed me. And, to be honest, I was not “engaged” after the 3rd minute of the same gimmick. Where to begin? Turning on a computer or hooking into a podcast does not automatically mean “engagement” — you have to do something with that. Yes, I completely agree that technology should be integrated into the classroom, and I believe that it is…. in the schools that can afford it. At the Newcomers Center in District 114 (one of the richest districts in Illinois), the teachers made excellent use of reading software to work on students’ literary, vocabulary, and listening skills. However, that was not the ONLY method they use. This video made it look like we have to choose digital over pen and paper.
    Also, the video implied that the reason students aren’t finished high school is because teachers aren’t using podcasts and wikis in their classrooms. I didn’t see any cute whiteboards flashing up saying, “I will not graduate from high school because I have to go to work to help support my family” or “I will not graduate from high school because college is too expensive, I can’t afford it, so I might as well start working now” or “I will not graduate from high school because I was basically pushed out of school due to the fact that I never had a teacher who actually cared about me and challenged me.”
    When students talk about what really mattered in their high school, they usually talk about the relationships — the influence of peers and the influence of teachers. They rarely say, “My best memory of high school is how we listened to ‘Pride and Prejudice’ on a podcast.”
    I agree with you, Talia, that technology certainly is a fantastic and fun tool to use in the classroom. I also agree that it is increasingly imperative for students to be able to use technology effectively to succeed in today’s society. However, I do not believe that its presence or its absence determines entirely the success of students as this video suggets.


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