21st century learning – a presentation

We heard Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach speak to teachers at a forum yesterday. Her presentation to the teaching staff at the school was about 21st century learning. To get everyone focussed she used the following video, “The Cisco anthem” but a powerful snapshot of what is happening around, and in, the world today. 

Sheryl illustrated how far we have come, and how quickly, in the world of technology, discussing terms Web1.0, Web2.0 (the ReadWrite web) and Web3.0 (immersive worlds (eg.SecondLife), artificial intelligences, etc.) I researched SecondLife, as part of the Web program I took part in, and I thought, that at present, there seems to be many barriers to schools effectively making use of virtual worlds for education, but there are future possibilities. As with many such options, as more people take part in, and improve on, them, this situation will most likely change.  

If schools are to part of preparing students for life in the 21st century, then there needs to be a change in the general approach to learning and teaching. Sheryl questioned the relevance of education today. What is being taught and what is being learnt? The following video has become quite famous, as it portrays what 200 students at Kansas University think.

Sheryl then began talking about students having network literacy, to equip them for a world beyond the industrial age. There have been some who claim that, in 2020, information will double every 72 hours. How will people cope with this? The expansion of the “knowledge world” will mean that education won’t be able to remain linear and information may become obsolete much more quickly. In this world education cannot be about content or memorization of facts alone. Sheryl went on to talk about students having innovative/adaptive expertise, about students who will be self-motivatating, self-educating, self-directed and effective communicators. We were then shown tne video that Darren Draper created and Have you been paying attention?

Have those in education been watching their students communicate with each other? Have they seen how they have been using the technologies in their lives and have they used this knowledge to engage students in their learning? From the experiences related by students in the video “a vision of students today“, probably not a lot of attention has been given to how students live in today’s world.

Sheryl spoke about the power that comes from connecting with people around the world which is amazing. The combined knowledge being much greater than in sum of the individuals. So education is about building human talent, combining the strengths of many and technology can help us do that. To paraphrase “Technology is not about the tools themselves, but the learning they can help bring about. It is not about teaching but about learning.” This is the idea behind Victoria’s own VELS. This is not a new concept and many of the things would not be not new ideas to a number of those at my school. It was great to here the message re-iterated and re-inforced. There was also the challenge to re-evaluate and look at things in new ways. What do teachers need to do to be part of 21st century  (relevant) learning for students? They need to experience this world if they are going to teach in it. to play in the world of our students, even if we are not comfortable. Sheryl spoke about the new digital divide; those who know how to connect on-line and those who don’t. She commented that teachers/educators  will have to build personal learning networks. They will need to be able to share, consult and communicate. 

 One anecdote she related was basically this. You find you can go back in time so you go back one hundred years and bring back a surgeon and a teacher. After a few days adjusting, would you be willing to have an operation performed by that surgeon? Could that teacher go into a classroom and teach a class? The “moral” is that surgery has changed monumentally in 100 years but the profession of teaching has not, even though the world outside the school boundaries has. Sheryl continued discussing the need to redefine the role of the teacher. In working out that role, we need to think about the place of technology and its use. Sheryl quoted from Geetha Narayanan. Judy O’Connell reported on Geeta’s presentation at a conference who has discussed Personas of Practice (of practicing teachers). Geetha describes of the kind of characteristics she sees in educators: Techno-skeptics (who don’t embrace change), Techno-evangelists (who pick up and pioneer use) and Techno-mimetics (copiers who settle for the latest fashion/fad/treand. There is no depth or greater understanding of the educational benefit).
The biggest challenge facing educators is how to engage the hearts and minds of the learners. Change is inevitable. It must come and teachers may have to go beyond their comfort zone but Sheruyl is someone who encourages teachers to see change as exhilarating and to embrace adaptive expertise.

There is an impetus to be global, get outside the school boundaries, outside the local suburbs and connect with students and teachers across the world  – it is becoming more tantalising and more possible. The presentation she made to those present tied in very neatly to the PLP Program that we are embarking on. She challenged us and encouraged us. She exhorts us to embace change, to model change, to collaborate, to connect, to become 21st century teachers.

I know this is a very long post but I wanted to try and think through the presentation, which was very easy to listen and relate to. I feel I ought to apologise but I hope that anyone who reads it may find it useful, especially with the links. Maybe it will help support change elsewhere!

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