Ensuring Learning, Meeting Needs

Cross-posted from the ZIS “COETAIL” group blog.

When it comes to tagging blog posts, I am a burgeoning maestro. For this post, I have selected “21st Century Skills,” which is a term approaching Pee Wee’s Playhouse-style Secret Word madness with me. So, you see, that’s it! That’s an answer to the question. How do we ensure that students are learning what they need when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy? Teach 21st Century Skills, that’s how!

Ok, so that’s clearly not an answer. Here’s how: give the kids something to do and let them work out how to do it. I truly don’t believe that it matters if the solution involves picking a dodgeball side or working to protect the rainforest via a vast global network of like-minded youth, because I believe both are essential skills for this here century of ours, at once here and futuristic. It is not for me to decide what each kid needs, and need is essential to the question at hand. As we have been told by Sir Ken and his contemporaries, many of the jobs of the future don’t yet exist, so we can’t tell what kids need. Of course, the family of the future, the community of the future, and the future of the future do exist now, so we should keep teaching 20th, 19th, and 18th century skills, too. The world of work isn’t the whole world, after all.

Of course, I am more excited about authentic curriculum than I am about dodgeball (mostly). If we know what we would like students to know and to do, then I think we are best suited to help them if we couch their learning in authentic learning opportunities or projects. Of course, these should include the authentic use of technology, not to reach out to pretend audiences or to solve pretend problems, like writing a letter to the editor about dinosaur extinction, but to connect with anyone, anywhere, to talk to strangers, to take the ideas of others, ethically, and use them, advance them, in the pursuit of a solution for something. What won’t help students is using lasers to answer chapter review questions or the gamification of spelling tests. Learning a mix of skills for human interaction in the physical realm and the virtual realm is the best bet for securing a future for ourselves and our students that meets our individual and collective needs in this 21st century.

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