I’ve just come out of the student-portion of my bachelor of education where I’ve been taught the 21st century fluencies, shown how to encourage critical and creative thinking, how to incorporate problem-based learning, trained to always take an inclusive, equitable and student-centered approach, and to allow my assessment to drive the instruction of my classroom full of digital citizens. My brain grew more this year, I would argue, than in any other year of my previous 30.
I have specialized in educational technology leadership wherein I studied vigorously and in-depth a variety of technologies and cannot wait to have the opportunity to actually put them into practice in the classroom.
I am now completing my second and final teaching block in a wonderful Grade 6 class in a portable with, hold on to your hats, 1 teacher computer hooked up to the school network with slow internet and iffy printer access across the blacktop, inside the school. Oh, and yes, no smartphones allowed.
Perhaps you can’t empathize with me because a) you don’t think tech is really that integral to great teaching and learning unless its of the Assistive variety or b) your school has no tech and you get by just fine or c) your school has no tech and you don’t let that stop you – you bring it in anyway. At the very least you can imagine what a wake up call it might have been to know and be trained to use, in a pedagogically-sound manner, these ground breaking technologies and then to walk in to a technology-free, bandwidth-short zone.
At first I wondered if my vision of the 21st century classroom might not be actualized within the 21st century. Especially if my vision was limited only to technology. Thankfully, 21st century fluencies are not solely based on access to the latest gadgets and one-to-one computing (at least not at school).
These past 2 weeks have allowed me to see that all of the 21st century fluencies can actually be used to help solve the tech shortage problem many schools face. Solution fluency = use what we have creatively (BYOD? more on that later). Collaboration fluency = share what we have or – based on the flipped classroom model – do what you need to do in class and use what your students already have, know and thrive on outside of school, on their time. Information Fluency = print the research you want your students to sift through on your prep or if you’re not into killing trees, have them bring it in bookmarked and read it on their e-reader (equity you say? more on that later too). Where there is a will there is a way. Free Web 2.0 tools CAN be accessed on the internet (when there is bandwidth), student iPods can be used with docking stations to play music, digital projectors and VGA adapters are relatively inexpensive for the EXTREME benefits they offer. Conferencing with students can be preserved in an audio file for detailed anecdotal records via Livescribe, etc…
What I believe 21st century teaching means is being flexible, open, letting go, allowing students some autonomy, choice, letting their interests guide your teaching and being able to Google “space junk” without having to walk through 4 meters of snow into the school, and wait for the Grade 2 class to be finished with the computer lab. What 21st century learning means is, taking ownership of one’s own learning, self-improvement, metacognition, design appreciation, team work and knowing that smartphones are powerful learning tools (and are not just for cyber-bullying, sexting or posting YouTube videos of your teacher standing on a chair to post an anchor chart).