Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Reflecting on our Work for 21st Century Learning

New terms, methods, ideas, assessments, and technology seem to be coming at educators all at once.  I think there is wisdom in adapting to change by choosing what not to do as well as doing "new things." There is no doubt technology and the fast paced, information driven world students live in has created our need to adapt and provide different approaches.  However, we cannot forget, and we do not forsake understanding and practicing teaching and learning principles that never change.

For example, our District learning theory is based on firm principles of learning and teaching:

Students learn best in an environment of caring, trust, respect and high expectations with the opportunities for learning based on the creation of powerful, varied learning experiences where students actively participate in their learning and when opportunities to work collaboratively in the classroom are provided on a regular basis. 

We could argue the emphasis today is on students being much more active in their learning as compared to the old and accepted model of students being passive receivers of information.  That is a change in our approach, but it is not a change in how we learn best.  Students always have and always will learn best by "doing" and being interested and even emotionally involved in their learning.  

Why the big push to go this direction today (as opposed to the lack of urgency when the former set of standards first arrived)?  I think the urgency is equated to the pace of change and the conditions of the world our students will be stepping into as they leave our schools.  Students need to have skills that allow them to adapt to an environment that will produce new jobs with a variety of skill sets that have not yet even been determined.  In lieu of just singularly preparing students for specific jobs and careers, all students need to be prepared for a common set of skills and proficiencies that provide a foundation for their success.  Students need to be great communicators, creators, problem solvers, collaborators, critical thinkers and men and women of character.  

In other words, the urgency is not just about content.  It is much more about preparing our students to be equipped with those competencies that provide the skills and confidence to be successful in their specific areas of interest and passion.  Therein is the change we need to embrace to make this happen.

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