Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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You know the four Cs right? I mean everyone is talking about them. The four Cs that are going to change education in the 21st century? They are amazing! Do a Google Image Search for 21st Century Skills and you get a beautiful display of the four Cs. Great colors, wonderful wording and multiple ways to explain:

Communication

Collaboration

Creativity

Critical Thinking

I look at this list from the lens of a 4th grade teacher, a tech coach, a consultant or a substitute teacher and I can’t help but think…really? This is new? There is nothing new in this list that educators haven’t been teaching and focused on for years. Don’t get me started on these being “21st century skills,” a phrase I gave up over 7 years ago. So why do these things keep coming up?

As I work with schools and educators, we do focus on these four Cs. They aren’t new…but in a way they actually are new. How we view them is new, what they mean is new. In 2016 these four Cs have a different meaning.

Communication: Teaching to communicate the way the world communicates

Not sure if you have noticed, but we no longer write letters to each other. We write Facebook updates, Facebook messages. We write emails…lots of them actually. We write LinkedIn updates, Tweets, Snaps, and Grams. I’m not saying it’s right…I’m saying this is how the world, both socially and in the business world, communicate. So where are we teaching this in schools? Where are we teaching:

Yes…communication isn’t new to education but how we communicate has changed. Are we teaching these new forms of communication? Where do they belong in our curriculum? At what level should we start and how do we assess these new forms of communication? Those are the questions we should be trying to answer in 2016.

Collaboration: Across space and time

Collaboration isn’t new. I remember doing group projects in elementary school in the 80’s. We collaborated on projects, on worksheets, on reading and science projects. Collaboration….getting along, working with others…has always been a part of education. So why is this a “21st century skill”?

In 2016 collaboration means across space and time. How are your students collaborating across periods in the school day (2nd period and 6 period working on a project together)? How are they collaborating across schools in your district or across schools in your state/country/continent/world?

I think about this every time one of my friends that work for Amazon talks about getting up at 3am to be on a conference call with India, China, Singapore, name-your-country. Or every time I have to get up early or stay up late for an Eduro, COETAIL, or Learning2 meeting. Collaborating across space and time is how the world works today. It’s how business gets done. I was talking about this with a gentleman sitting next to me on the plane today who instantly went to understanding cultures. How his company was doing business in France and failing until they started looking at the culture of France and accepting that they have a different way of operating. Once his company accepted and embraced the culture, it became much more successful. Collaborating with other students in your class in so 1990’s. We need to start creating ways for students to collaborate across space and time.

Creativity: To a global audience

It’s one thing to create something for your teacher or even a presentation for your class where everyone knows who you are. It’s something completely different to create something for an audience that you don’t know. Whether that is a YouTube video, an update on a Wikipedia page or a comment on an Amazon book review. Have you ever noticed how students try a little harder, do a little better, when their creations go beyond the classroom? In 2016 when we talk about creativity we do not mean creating something for a closed audience but rather we’re talking about creating something for a global audience. We’re also not talking about just “putting something out there” but rather finding a community that will appreciate the creation that the students worked so hard to produce. Create a google map of the Oregon Trail? Share it with your local community or local government. Create a recipe? Share it with one of a number of recipe sites on the Internet today and see how others rate it and improve on it.

It’s not just about “putting stuff out there” but rather creating content that has a purpose, has an audience, has a community.

Critical Thinking: Creating Problem Finders

When we talk about critical thinking skills we usually talk about problem-solving skills. We want students to be good problem solvers. I’m not saying that’s a bad goal. But time and time again I’ve been told that what we really need is Problem Finders. That’s a different skill…that’s a different type of critical thinking. We need to be able to find the problems that need to be solved.

What about giving students a mathematical equation that has a mistake in it. Their job….find the mistake (problem finder) and then solve it correctly (problem solver). Where is the bug in the code, or a bug in the production line, maybe it’s a problem with a science experiment. Whatever it is….how are you creating opportunities for students to be problem finders not just problem solvers?

The “C” word of education:

The C word that doesn’t make the list and probably is at the root of a lot of things we’re talking about these days in education is the word CONTROL. It’s a nasty word that many educators struggle with. When we talk about giving up control in the classroom we do not mean giving up structure. If you are going to give the control of the learning over to the students it means you need more structure in place not less. Routines need to be in place, timing needs to be clearly delineated, and a system needs to exist so that students can have control of the learning. Giving over control of the learning to students does not mean less prep-time, less work for the teacher…..at the beginning it actually means more work as teachers learn a new way of structuring their classroom around student interest, student questions and take on a new role as a facilitator and coach of learning.

The four C’s are not new…they are different. We need to come to a new understanding of what these mean in 2016 and beyond. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but your grandkids are not going to write you letters, they are going to Skype or Facetime you. Your next employee might not work in the same room as you, and your next project might have you focused on finding the problem and then handing it off to someone else to solve. Your next job opportunity might come through a LinkedIn connection or via something that you published publically. This is how work gets done in 2016. This is how we need to start defining the four C’s for our students.

A teacher brought this contest ran by the New York Times to my attention the other day as they were starting to prepare for teaching summer school. This is the third time the New York Times has ran the contest where they ask students to submit 350 word responses to articles they read on the site or in the newspaper. 

Each week they will choose a winner who’s winning response will get posted on the website as well as shared on Twitter and Facebook. A great way to promote student work through the NYT.

Also not a bad way for parents to get their students involved in reading and writing over the summer. Reading and writing for a purpose around a contest. 

But I think it could be more….what if…..

blogit
CC: By Mike Licht

What if students had a blog where they could write as much as they wanted and linked back to the articles they were writing about? From what I can tell the New York Times doesn’t show/allow trackback links which kind of stinks as then students would automatically be linked to the piece they were writing about. Of course the way around this is to simply leave a comment on the article or piece of media you are writing about. Just like I’ll do on the link above in a comment. What if your child or students where responding to articles and wrote 1000 word responses or 1500 word responses or 200 words? What if we connected those responses to the articles they were writing about, reflecting about and learning from? What if some other readers of those articles followed the links to the students’ blogs and continued to read their reflections there? What if someone left a comment, or tweeted, or shared on Facebook one of the students’ responses to an article? What if we taught students how to build a network, how to use hyperlinks, and how to write for the audience that reads the New York Times. Of course students could still enter the 350 word contest and in writing blog posts probably make those 350 words more precise giving them an even better chance as winning the contest one week to the next. Once students realize they’re writing is linked to the New York Times and they start getting readers, then we start talking about improving the writing, working on technique, voice, grammer, etc. Because now there’s a purpose to be a better writer….you have readers. 

What if during class time you pulled up a blog post written by a student and read it together as a class? What if you had a discussion about the writing; what you liked? What could be improved? What does the author (seeing they are sitting there in your class) thinks about the piece? What if you looked for the strongest sentence, or the weakest sentence and gave the author feedback on how to improve their writing the next time? What if you have a couple different students respond to the same article and their responses were different? What learning could happen from this teachable moment?

What if a blog posts gets tweeted or shared on Facebook? Can you track how many people saw that link? Or how many potential readers a student might have had? Can you teach about the spread of information within social-networks and then apply that to where status updates go when you post them on Facebook and how quickly a readership can multiply?

It’s strange all the learning that could come from a simple online contest that incorporates social-networking and sharing.

Just a thought…. 

 

OK….I’ll admit over the past couple of months I’ve been hard on primary teachers on this blog. I have talked about my struggles with using technology with the younger students and how I felt we should be limiting their screen time to really good uses of technology. Uses that don’t include iPads as flashcard and game replacement devices. 

cover page monkey cat
cover of Monkey and cat

What I was struggling with was finding a project that I felt was worth the time away from exploring, running around, building, and imagining things in favor of sitting with a digital device. I still struggle with this actually. If all that iPads and technology can be used for in the younger years is games, flashcard replacement, and a handful of other replacement type tasks then I’m not sure we’re getting the bang for our buck with technology. I want it to do more, I want it to redefine the classroom and that’s hard when I believe kids should be spending time playing together, interacting, and imagining. Also knowing that outside of school many of them are getting plenty of screen time at home. So what I really am looking for is a project where I can say…that is a good use of technology with Kindergardeners. 

And I found it….

Ben Sheridan is a recently graduate of the COETAIL program. For his final project he talked about the way he was using technology to connect his students to other Kindergarten classrooms. His class has a blog, they tweet, they Skype, they use the SmartBoard…and the best part is they think this is all just normal Kindergarden stuff. 

Out of these connections came an opportunity when Ben connected his class with Zoe Page’s class, a Kindergarten teacher in Japan and current COETAILer. Their students set up a Skype call and introduced themselves to each other. They then decided that they wanted to write a book together for the iPad. 

That book can now be downloaded free in the iBook Store here

Ben outlines the project and how they completed it in a series of blog posts on his blog. If you are an early childhood/primary teacher Ben and Zoe are two blogs worth following. 

These are the kind of projects that get me excited about using technology with younger kids. Let’s stop arguing over how many iPads a class needs, or what device is right for the primary grades and lets find ways to create classrooms that connect students to each other and show them the true power of this technology. The power isn’t in the device, it’s in the connections that it can create that lead to learning.

Over the last year we’ve been fixing up the condo we purchased in Seattle. As we’ve been doing the remodel we find ourselves doing research on such things as kitchen faucets. Who knew there were 1000s of different faucets and not only are there 1000s of different faucets, we have access to all of them.

So on a Saturday morning my wife and I sit on the couch and start at opposite ends of the Internet and narrowing down the options.

In a world of endless resources how do you find the perfect resource? How do you find the perfect faucet?

You rely on others to help you out.

I’m not sure how many faucet reviews I read, how many rating systems I learned on different websites, but I do know without all those reviews, without people taking the time to write about their purchases our job of picking the perfect faucet would have easily doubled.

Are we teaching students to make choices in a world where choices are endless?

There’s a skill to all of this, and part of it is making a decision based on the best data you can find and have at your disposal. Are we teaching students to find and evaluate data? Are we teaching them to read reviews ranging from 5 stars to 1 stars and make a judgement call a product, or a piece of information?

I’ve watched people struggle with this world of endless choice and in the end I’ve watched people get so overwhelmed by all the information that they just pick one and hope for the best.

We need to be teaching our students how to evaluate not only information, but information about products and services as well and how to use that information to make an informed decision.

I have to share this story with you if for no other reason….I’ve shared it with anyone that would listen to me at school today. I believe this story shows the power of:

1. What can happen when we allow students to be “out there”.
2. What happens when our teachers become networked and can bring that network to their students.
3. That through connections educational possibilities are endless!

This couldn’t have come at a better time with Clint H leaving a comment on my last post about a conversation he had with his IT Director:

He has some very persuasive arguments for his ‘walled garden’ approach (including “nobody ever reads public blogs anyway so what’s the difference?”)

Really….nobody reads public blogs anymore……..please read on!

So here’s how the story of connections played out last night.

1. I do a lesson in one of our 5th grade classrooms where we have a great discussion around what it means to blog, what good blogging looks like, and the difference between leaving a comment and a compliment. We also learn how to add an image to our post and how to add a link. Following the teachers lead based on this blog post, the students homework is to write a reflective blog post about the science experiment they did and what they learned. I leave the room with this challenge:

I will read all your blog posts tonight and the best ones I’ll send out for the world to read.

Of course they no nothing of the 4700+ Twitter followers I have or the 400+ Facebook friends. Nor should they care…what is important here is that their teacher is connected into a wider community to help foster a global audience.

2. Late last night I visited the classes netvibes page and started going through the student’s blog posts leaving comments on everyone of them. I was proud to see that most everyone’s blogging had improved from before our lesson and some students had really taken the time to sit down and write out their thoughts.

img_33671One such student was Haley who wrote out the experiment that the students had done in class. A great little bit of procedural writing (writing connection). I decided that this was one of the top 5 posts in the class and sent a link to her blog post out on Twitter and to my Facebook Friends asking them to please visit the blog if for no other reason to put a mark on her map that there really are people out there who will read you if you have good writing (Hey, I’m not above a little fake audience to start a conversation with kids that will lead to deeper writing and understanding!).

3. It just so happens that Allanah K (who I had the pleasure of meeting last year) was on Twitter last night and reads my tweet about the students writing. Intrigued by Haley’s blog post Allanah takes the idea to school with her today in New Zealand and asks the students if they would like to try Haley’s experiment. By the time I get to school today Allanah and her class have finished their experiment and have blogged about it on their class blog….of course giving full credit to Haley.

Where to go from here:
Of course at this point my mind is racing. This experiment has to do with teaching variables and just think of all the variables we can now ask as we collect data.

  • What if we share our data with the class in New Zealand?
  • I wonder if longitude and latitude is a variable we need to consider (Social Studies)
  • I wonder if we’ll get the same results? (Science)
  • How can we best represent our data for someone else to read? (Math, Science)
  • Why is writing clear instructions important? (Writing)

Of course there are hundreds of possibilities now that can happen now that these two classes are connected. With a time difference of only 5 hours a Skype call even with students talking about their data and experiments to each other…or more blog posts with more explanations.

Yes this all came about because I am connected…but it’s not about me….it’s about the connections. Miss B is a friend of mine on Facebook and seeing me post the students blogs there….copied and pasted the addresses and sent them out to her Facebook friends. She too is a connected teacher, but up until this point had never thought of using her network of friends and other educators in this way.

There is great power when we put students out there and allow them to share their thinking. These students have had a blog for two weeks now and this is their first major connection as a class. As we continue to learn about blogging, as our writing improves and more importantly our thinking improves, I know we’ll see more connections like this….it’s just to powerful of a learning platform not to.

So to the IT Directors out there that say “It’s to scary.”, “We can’t do it.”, “What’s the point?” I give you this.

That making deep connections only happen when you put yourself out there….sure we can play it safe…but playing it safe has never lead to deeper understanding!

Image Credit: id-iom

I told this story as my 10 minute TED talk at Learning 2.008. As September 19th was The Stick’s 3 year anniversary.


http://www.thethinkingstick.com/site/wp-content/themes/Padangan/images/bg/tts.png

The Thinking Stick turned 3 a few days ago and it’s hard to imagine that it’s been 3 years since I installed WordPress and just started writing. As I started looking back through those first posts I started thinking about the journey that this blog has taken me on.

My first blog post was about a 5th grade classroom called the Polar Bear Class. The website no longer exists but this was my beginning into blogging. Talking about a class that was creating there own website. The website was not another subject, but was just what they did. It was apart of their classroom, it was a part of their learning.

My first comment came on post #10. Made by a good friend who at the time was teaching in Dubai. It was at that moment that I realized people where reading, even if only my friends….people were reading.

Post #14 Titled: Microwave Popcorn. One of the great first posts. Those of you that blog you know this post. The one that is going to get lots of comments. The post that will make people want to write, want to respond, want to engage in a discussion. The post talks about how technology works it’s way into our daily lives. How in 1982 I remember my father driving a combine in the Palouse all summer to save enough money to buy our first microwave and how today it is a part of every kitchen. My wife and I just moved to Bangkok, Thailand and our first major purchase…..a microwave.

The post was great, well written, well scripted. Guess how many comments……0!

Post #21 The Stick gets its first comment that is not from my friend Reece. The comment was left by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. Little did I know at that time that Sheryl would become part of my learning network and over the next three years I would learn more from her about building virtual communities on the web than from anyone else. You see, The Stick was the start of our connection.

Post #25 I recieve my second comment from someone other than my friend Reece. This one left by Dean Shareski. My favorite part of the comment was this:

PS. Did you know your flickr zietgiest includes pictures of nude women? I was a bit taken back when I came on your site. Just curious if you intended that or not.

You see I was still trying to figure out the tools and some how didn’t have the flickr badge configured correctly. I made changes to the badge that day and learned some quick html as well.

Over the next 3 years Dean would become a valuable node in my network and at one point while he was teaching an undergrad class in Canada and I a graduate class in the States we would have our students create a wiki together. Learning from each other and learning the value of wikis in education. The Stick started that connection.

Post #28 Tim Lauer leaves a comment on a Firefox extension that allows you to highlight text on a web page. I would later meet Tim at NECC that year and he would become the first person in my Personal Learning Network that I would meet face to face.

But the big coming out party in my eyes for The Thinking Stick was on post #36. The title: NETS in a 2.0 World. I remember writing that post while in a meeting and posting it. Basically I took the NETs (the old ones at the time) and did a find and replace with the words Technology and Information.

I went to bed that night not thinking anything of it and woke up the next morning at 5am to find 6 comments and trackbacks on the post. I was completely taken by surprise. Up until this point to my knowledge I had 4 people reading my blog and all of a sudden I have 6 comments?

One comment/trackback was left by David Warlick. I couldn’t believe it! David was one of the first people I found in the blogosphere, he’s one of those “big bloggers”. He’s reading my stuff? Not only that he left a comment and gave me the hightest complement you can give to a blogger….he linked to my blog.

I remember going back into the bedroom and waking my wife up.

“Honey….it’s time to get up.”

“5 more minutes”

“No honey you have to get up now and you’ll never beleive who left a comment on my blog.”

“You’re waking me up because someone left a comment on your blog?”

“No, I’m waking you up because it’s time to get up, and not just someone…..David Warlick!”

“Who’s David Warlick?”

That was the moment when I realized what this network really was. It’s not about blogging. It’s about understanding that leanring takes place through connections. Whether we are connecting people, information, knowledge, or thoughts. That the learning lies within the connections that we make. My blog is where I started in making those connections, connections that have lead me down a path of deeper learning than I ever knew possible.

The Thinking Stick is now 3. It contains some 598 posts and over 2200 comments and trackbacks. I’m not sure how it all happened. It’s a learning blur that just seems to be there. My blog is my connection creator, my reflection engine, and where my journey of learning has been over the past 3 years. Thanks you for reading, Thank you for being a part of my network.


Other stats if you are interested. Not that they mean anything, just kind of fun to look at.

Technorati Authority: 226
Technorati Ranking: 19,182

From Google Analytics
54% of traffic comes for Search Engines

From Clustrmaps
Running total of visits to the above URL since 12 Jun 2006: 73,720
Total since archive, i.e. 17 Jun 2008 – present: 15,145 (not necessarily all displayed – see below).
Visits on previous ‘day’: 174.

Photo Credit: Zenat_el3ain

So many times we use the phrase “Teaching & Learning” but really we need to be asking ourselves:

Are we focusing on teaching or learning?

This came up in a discussion with Kim earlier today, (BTW….the two of us in a room for longer than 10 minutes is enough deep conversation to keep me going the rest of the day) that what we are focusing on is not necessary student learning, but instead teachers teaching. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and take our eye off of what we’re really here for.

As we continue to support teachers using technology tools in their classrooms we need to realize that teachers’ use of technology is not the same as supporting teachers teaching with technology. In these early days I’ve been supporting the use of technology. Answering questions about SmartBoards, Entourage, Office 2008, OSX 10.5, etc. Although it’s important to support teachers in the use of technology it’s much different then supporting teachers teaching with technology.

Supporting the use of technolgy

Supporting the use of technology focuses on the tool itself. Not on the learning or the students. When we support teachers by helping them with a SmartBoard Notebook file, or teaching them some new trick in Office, we are supporting their use of the tool, not their use of that tool for learning. One can easily get sucked into supporting the use of technology full time (such as I have lately) and not make a true impact with technology in the classroom as a learning engine.

As long as we continue to think of technology as a tool for learning we are going to get caught in this circle of supporting teachers use of the tools, rather than focusing on student learning.

Technology as a tool worked when the impact on learning was small. I think of the use of Word or any Office application for that matter. It was a tool that we used to replace a way we had/have always done things.

Technology for Learning is Bigger than the Tool!

Technology for learning is about connecting students to information and using applications that allow students to manipulate data, ask questions and interact with information.

I think of the use of Google Earth…not to study the Earth being round (using the tool like a globe) but instead using Google Earth with an overlay of migration patterns to talk about why people migrate (a lesson I did last year with 5th graders). Then having student interact with data by having them create their own migration pattern, and share that information with others (connecting information) to create an understand of why students in international schools migrate and where they come from.

I am continually reminded of the Marc Prensky article in edutopia where he states the different levels of technology use.

  1. Dabbling.
  2. Doing old things in old ways.
  3. Doing old things in new ways.
  4. Doing new things in new ways.

To me using technology as a tool is still dabbling with technology and not really affecting learning in a deeper more meaningful way….I mean it’s 2008!

When a new technology appears, our first instinct is always to continue
doing things within the technology the way we’ve always done it.

Technology as a tool.

What we’re talking about is invention — new things in new ways.

Technology as a connector to information allows us to look at data, to interact with learning like we have never been able to do before and connect with people, places and things in ways we were never able to do prior to the Internet.

What I find when I talk to teachers it that this is a HUGE jump! Thinking beyond replacement into a world where you can create, invent, and think about information and learning in new ways does not come natural to many educators. (Ouch!)

Let’s focus on learning, let’s focus on creating an atmosphere in which technology is more than a tool, but is an embedded part of our classrooms, our own thinking as we plan lessons, and a gateway to inventive teaching. Let’s stop using technology as a tool and start using it as a way to connect ideas, to create new and interesting way to learn and interact with information in ways that were never possible before. Let’s use technology as a way to make learning meaningful and authentic to learners.

It’s more than a tool….it’s a connection creator!

(Cross posted at Techlearning.com)

I’ve learned a valuable lesson this week. One that shows the importance of teaching our students that the connections the web creates and the content you put on the web becomes a part of you.

Last year, I was reading a lot about digital stories in the blogosphere. I saw some good examples of how they could be used in education and decided that I should try this whole digital story thing out for myself. At about the same time, YouTube was becoming more popular and I was intrigued by the power of this new social site. So I downloaded a free trial of Camtasia and set out to create my first digital story.

I was still trying to wrap my head around Web 2.0 at the time and decided that a digital story on Web 2.0 would be a good start. So I went to Wikipedia, printed off the Web 2.0 article, did some editing to make it flow a little better, and used it for my script. I then went to the web and found pictures that matched what I was talking about and made, I thought at the time, a decent first attempt at a digital story. I created myself a YouTube account and shared it with the world.

The video had received very little attention, only being viewed just over 1000 times in the last 14 months. That is until Michael Wesch of Kansas State University decided to post this video as a video response to my Web 2.0 video. I received an e-mail when he posted it and went to have a look. Like many others, I found the video to be very well done. I linked to it on The Thinking Stick to share with others and then didn’t give it another thought…until the next morning when I checked my e-mail to find 20 new people had subscribed to my Web 2.0 video.

In the past week and a half, I’ve seen my first attempt of a digital story go from being a little unknown corner of YouTube to having over 48,000 views. Now my poor little attempt at creating a digital story is getting knocked around with comments. Michael’s video has surpassed 1 million views, but because his video is connected to my video, I’m getting visitors as well.

We often forget about the power of connections on the web and how one good connection can propel you or your video into a whole new world. My Web 2.0 video, from what I have been told, is connected to Wikipedia (I can’t access Wikipedia in China due to the filter so I have no way to confirm this for myself).

An interesting component of this whole ‘power of connections’ has been the comments left on my video. Nobody besides the readers of this blog know the story behind my video, yet the comments are as if I should have been a real movie producer. Some are downright mean, others just nonsense, and a few are thought provoking. What ever happened to “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”

This whole experience has me thinking about our students and the content they produce on the web. Everything from the videos my students have on YouTube to their personal Myspace accounts. It’s a great lesson that content can lay dormant for a long time, and it only takes one connection to bring it to life. I think about our high schoolers today who are putting things on the web that today seem harmless, but tomorrow could cost them their job, or impact a family member or friend’s career. There is a lesson here that connections are constantly being formed; everything and anything you put on the web can be connected too. Our students, no matter what their grade, are creating their digital profiles, a profile that is clickable, connectable, and tells a story of who they are. Now, I wish I would have read over my script a few more times before actually posting the video, cleaned up the images, and made it a little less boring (as most of the comments state) but at the time I wasn’t thinking it was going to be viewed by 48,000 people. I was practicing; learning a new skill, and trying something new…and now the world has a hold of it.

[tags]Web 2.0, connections[/tags]

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday was a half day at school. A little extended weekend for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Our High School took part in a couple different sessions. One of those sessions was by me giving a talk on “The Flat World”. I would have titled it “Your World” but the title doesn’t really matter.

I had 20 minutes with every 9-12th grader at our school I started by saying, “You are very fortunate. You get to grow up in an amazing time in history.”

I then played Karl Fisch’s Did You Know presentation with the follow slides added.

  • There are 57 Million Blogs
  • 100,000 new blogs created daily
  • 1.3 million blog articles created daily
  • That’s 54,000 articles being published every hour.
  • Who’s verifying this information?
  • Who’s telling the truth?
  • Last year more students in China took the SAT in English than did so in the United States.

The information comes from the latest report of the blogosphere from Technorati and from this update from Karl Fisch.

After the PowerPoint was over we had a discussion about what all this information means. One student shouted “Shift Happens” the rest of the students laughed and I said “Exactly!”

Another student spoke up and said “Everything we’re learning now doesn’t matter.”

To which I said, “I know all your teachers standing around here are going to hate me, but you are absolutely right.” I then talked to them about the skills they need to learn while in high school starting with learning how to learn. We then talked about their generation. I asked the students “What’s the name of your generation?” a student spoke up and said “Millennials.” I then talked about the book Millennials Rising, and how in 1997 abcnews.com ran a poll on their website where this generation got to choose what to be called. They were proud of it, laughed, and thought it was cool. I asked them how many of them had a myspace.com account. To which over half raised their hands. I asked how many of them had a cell phone and a mp3 player. Every single student raised their hand. I asked how many had their own computer. All but a handful raised their hand, but when I asked who had access to the Internet in their house? Again it was 100%.

I asked these questions for one reason and one reason only. I wanted the 20+ teachers that were standing around to see the response, to understand where these students are, and what they want/can do.

It was a great 20 minutes. The most fascinating part was the students just looked at me like “We get it Mr. U, we think this is awesome, this is our world, this is where we spend our time and where we want to be.”

The teachers (many coming up to me personally after the presentation) had the opposite look. “This is scary, where do we begin and what do we do?”

It was fascinating to see the disconnect between the teachers and the students. Students understanding the 21st Century and teachers scared of it.

I had the head of our IB department stop by my office later that day. The first thing he said was, “Wow, if that doesn’t show that we need to be teaching skills and not content nothing does.”

Maybe, just maybe I’ve sparked something…now I just need the opportunity to turn that spark into a flame. If I can get some time from the administration to talk with teachers, I can start taking this to the next level. My fear is that this will be a one time thing. That I will not have an opportunity to follow up with the staff and that all those WOWs by Monday will be forgotten and we’ll go back to learning page 56 in the textbook.

I have to tell you, I was pumped after the presentation. We talk about there being something bigger, something needing to change in education. For 20 minutes while looking directly into the eyes of every high schooler, I saw it. I’ve said it before, this past year in the blogosphere has changed me, that 20 minutes in front of the students took it to the next level. It was verification that what I’ve been trying to do, trying to change is right. I could see it in their eyes. The wanting to be in a school, a world, where they could be connected. The students get it….we don’t. That needs to change, or education as we know it, is not long for this generation. We’ll loose them, and once we do…I don’t think we’ll ever get them back. Not when you can learn more from Mr. Google than you can from Mr (teachers name).

[tags]21st Century Learning, Karl Fisch, Did You Know, High School, Connections, Millennials, myspace, google[/tags]

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