Saturday, February 1, 2014

ED 722 - Week 5: Deeper Learning and The 21st Century Learner

As an educator, I want to provide my students with the best possible classroom environment in order for them to succeed.  I want my students to walk through my classroom door each day and instead of looking at the class as just another math class, I want them to look at the content as something that will help them everyday in life.  That is my long term goal.

This past week I had the opportunity to view a video of a presentation by Grant Wiggins: Understanding by Design Part I and Understanding by Design Part II.  Although the video was not even thirty minutes long, I found myself reflecting throughout the week on what he spoke about and how it played a role in my life as an educator.  The biggest takeaway that I found from his presentation was that we as educators need to have a long term goal for our students.  This goal is not the objective that we list on the board, but rather what we want our students to realize or infer with the information that we are providing them.   We need to create lessons and goals that can be transferred to real world applications outside of the classroom.

In his video, Grant Wiggins provides an example of a math lesson on fair and not fair.  At the end of the discussion he responded to a question from a participant.  His response was that as educators we must make every one of our lessons interesting and intellectually engaging for our students.

For days my head was spinning thinking about his response.  I spent hours looking at my curriculum to see if I was already using or could build upon what my district provided to me to make my classroom not only intellectually engaging, but also interesting for my students.  As I began to look at performance tasks that I have my students complete and other activities, I realized that they were designed engage the students on multiple levels.  There is only one flaw with what I use currently.  That flaw is that although I am tapping into what 21st century learners need in order to learn, such as critical thinking and independent learning, I have to remember to constantly tweak my lessons to keep up with the changes in technology and society.  

I have all of these ideas after reading Tony Gates' A New Pedagogy is Emerging...And Online Learning is a Key Contributing Factor about how not only myself but other teachers in my school can utilize online learning to reach the students we teach.  They are 21st century learners who need to acquire skills that are different than the skills we needed to have when we graduated from high school.  Yes they still need to do be able to complete math problems, analyze literature, and write up science experiments, but they must be able to do all of these with the use of social media, computers, blogs, and other technology sources that are prevalent in the workforce today.  

Gates mentioned in his article that educators need to rethink their roles and authority in the classroom, especially if online learning is incorporated.  Last week I learned a lot about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).  The following link will direct you to my blog post from last week:  Elizabeth Ferry - MOOCs.  There is one type of MOOC, the cMOOC, where the focus is more of a community approach to learning.  Yes there is an instructor, but that instructor is more of facilitator of the learning and the participants learn from each other's experiences and what they find when researching the topic.  As a current student, I think this type of learning environment is fantastic because you are hearing from multiple sources on one topic.  As an educator, I can see where instructors are hesitant to allow students to control the instruction and communication of the content.

I admit that I am a control freak when it comes to my classroom, but within the last few weeks I have allowed my students to take on more responsibility in the class.  Although each of my sections is not alike and some need more guidance than others, either because of their academic or motivation level.  I am finding that the students are engaged more in the content and the learning process.  I took what Gates mentioned as the three emerging pedagogical trends and tried to integrate them into my classroom to see if my 21st century learners would respond to the strategies.

While doing so, I also began researching other strategies and skills that 21st century learners need to take part in deeper learning experiences in the classroom.  I have Storified a list of tweets, websites, and videos of what I found: Elizabeth Ferry - Storify 21st Century Learning  Educators in all levels of education today should look at these skills and see how they can better prepare their students for the future.

A few of the highlights from the Storify include:

-  The first video about 21st Century Learning captured my attention.  It is a fantastic 2 minute and 20 second video that explains what 21st century learning is and what we as educators need to keep in mind when we choose the long term goals for our students.

- Brenda Bailey's Tweet:  This tweet has a link to Brenda Bailey's Scoop.It site.  She has a variety of link that take the viewer to sites that discuss 21st century learning.  Her site is a great resources for both educators and students.

- The Four C's video shows examples of schools that incorporate collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication.  These skills are identified as skills for 21st century learners to provide them with deeper learning opportunities.

-  Rob Hoffart's video on Environments for 21st Century Learning discusses different environments to reach students with a variety of learning styles.  I found it interesting that a lot of the layouts in the schools had rooms that had walls that could move and create smaller classrooms inside a larger room.  If a school district was looking to design a new school, this information would be beneficial to ensure they create an environment for 21st century learners.

-  Partnership for 21st Century Skills is an organization designed to help schools create partnerships with businesses, communities, government leaders and others to incorporate 21st century skills into their schools.  They also have a twitter feed @p21centskills

- NEA partnership for 21st century skills has a few links that provide interactive web tools that showcase 21st century skills


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