21st Century Learning

First day of my networked educator workshop, and mind is spinning. By the end of today, I had added social bookmarks via diigo, set up my Google Reader and subscribed to feeds from news magazines to a blog called “Langwitches” and tweeted or twat my first tweet. New language, new brain learning. All good, I think.

I’m tired, and the humidity in the air hangs heavy. Inside our workshop today, everyone with their own laptop or i-pads and i-phones all simultaneously accessing the same site, multitasking as they chatted on Facebook, tweeted, bookmarked, checked out websites and attempted to listen to the facilitators. I managed all for about 1/2 day until after the delicious Thai green curry lunch and blob of white rice which made my thinking get slower and slower…

It’s a lot to keep up on in this world, and I’m definitely not an early adapter to this technology. I thought I was. Last year, when our guest speaker introduced us to Twitter, I tried to get it on my phone–to no avail–and gave up. Do I really need to know the little bleeps that the world is sending all the time? My thoughts last year. And just this week, I taught my kids how to drag an icon from their URL to their bookmark toolbar. Proud of myself because they said “wow.” Today, I learned how old school that really was. Alas.

I don’t think I’ll catch up, and I don’t think anyone will. I’ve been excited by Google Docs. since getting into it about a year ago. I’ve taken to them with reckless abandon and created over 1,000 documents. I was excited by the sharing capabilities and permanent storage of them–no need to store on a server or Flash drive that you could lose. They are still a good tool, but there’s more and more…

My students could be tweeting about various issues, using the bookmarks I’ve set for them and reading, highlighting and sticky noting articles online. We already have a blog rolling: http://blogs.yis.ac.jp/blumk/ We’ll try all these things this year. But in discussing and trying myself today, what I’ve realized is that my students are still young. I’m still young in this field of new Web 2.0 tools and networking, and it’s a lot to take in. If this is where we’re heading (and I guess we’re already there) then what my students really need are the skills of critical thinking, analysis, writing and reading. They need to be able to skim and digest information quickly. When they comment and share, they need to do it so others can understand what they’re saying. They need to know what they should read and what they shouldn’t and how to take it all in.

So, I don’t think I’m ready to just throw a bunch of tools at them and connect them. We’ll take it slowly. I want to make sure they’re grounded. I want them to have the skills to access and take advantage of this connected world we live in. Again, I’m realizing that content is not the all-important. It’s great if they know about the invention of the telephone and who made it a reality, but…in the big scheme of things, where will that lead them? Us?

I remember my high school teacher, a horrible woman really, who called us “sieve heads” and said she was scared to live in a future where we were the leaders. Lovely woman, really. I would never call my students “sieve heads” and I’m not scared for a future where my students will lead. However, thinking about where we’re heading with this connected global community with free and easy access to information, I am empowered to give my students the skills they will need so they can lead effectively. They need real thinking skills. As educators, we need to seriously assess what our students need and promote the changes in education that make teaching those skills a reality.

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