It’s been a while.
After enjoying a brief few months as a prolific beginner blogger life seems to have gotten in the way and the blogging momentum has tanked. I suspect that this is a common trend amongst us blogging newbies and I think that, in my case at least, part of the difficulty has been in taking myself too seriously. I enjoyed blogging a lot more when I used my blog as a platform for thinking and trying out ideas, rather than as a place to store fully formed thoughts.
I suspect that the shift towards “serious blogging” stems from the fact that I am trying to write posts that I can cross post between Tech Eddy and my school blog, and the school influence is pushing me towards “seriousness” and “finished” rather than “work in progress”. I prefer “work in progress”.
So, in the spirit of thinking out loud … recently David Warlick wrote a post about 21st Century Literacies in which he quotes James Paul Gee:
In my view, in the twenty-first century we need the following—and we need them fast and all at once together: embodied empathy for complex systems; “grit” (passion + persistence); playfulness that leads to innovation; design thinking; collaborations in which groups are smarter than the smartest person in the group; and real understanding that leads to problem solving and not just test passing. These are, to my mind, the true twenty-first century skills.
I found this a refreshing change from the usual topics normally associated with 21st Century Literacy, so I wanted to try and unpack a few of these ideas.
embodied empathy for complex systems
The world we live in and the problems we face are all really complex. In my experience as long as a teacher tries to be the repository of knowledge they will end up simplifying the issues and students will end up with a limited understanding of the problems and a very simple ideas regarding the solutions. The only way we can really help students understand the complexity around us is to allow for messiness and “not knowing’ in our classrooms.
“grit” (passion + persistence)
It seems to me that it is easier than ever these days to find a community that shares and can support your passion, but I was recently in a staff meeting where I was told that universities are complaining that kids these days are lazy (read lack of persistence). I’m not so sure. I think that kids learn differently and have different expectations regarding the ease with which they can access information, but I’m not sure that equals laziness. I do wonder though whether the ease with which my students can use technology to access information makes it more difficult for them to learn persistence. If they can’t google it or find it on Wikipedia they are apt to give up.
playfulness that leads to innovation
This is all about not taking yourself too seriously so that you aren’t afraid to make mistakes (sort of what this blog post is about). You have to be willing to make and learn from mistakes to innovate.
I think that embedding the design cycle into all my lessons has been one of the best changes to my teaching practice, ever. Why? Because I can see my students starting to look at what they are producing and asking themselves “Is this the best solution to the problem?” rather than “Is this going to get me an A?” Ok, this might be a bit of an exageration. They still want that A.
collaborations in which groups are smarter than the smartest person in the group
This is the next step I want to take in my classroom and school, I’m just not quite sure how. The past year of blogging, tweeting and being involved in a flat classroom project have convinced me on a personal level of the power of personal learning networks. Now I have to figure out how to gently introduce these concepts to my students and teaching colleagues.
real understanding that leads to problem solving and not just test passing
The first thing that comes to mind when I read this is YES, but “how do you measure this?”. In my technology classes I can honestly say that I do teach this 21st century skill. It’s all about project based learning. But my math class is a different place. I want to teach real understanding, but sometimes and for some students the rules have to come first and the understanding later. And sometimes real understanding is what helps them pass a test. I still struggle with this one.
Photo by by FotoRita [Allstar maniac] on Flickr