Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘21st Century Learners’

So…are we going to mention 21st Century LEARNers?

In Classroom Teaching, Technology on 12/03/2012 at 9:31 am

As soon as I finished up yesterday’s post on the human literacies we need to have as teachers and educators, I realised that I have not paid much attention to the kids and young adults that are at the sharp end of all our teacher literacies and fluencies.

I got up super-early this morning to draft a post or two on 21st Century LEARNers themselves. This was hard going – and after several cups of “kahve”, I still did not have much. I almost gave up!

Tweet-tweet –  @AnaCristinaPrts to the rescue!

Ana Cristina suggested that I drop by a site run by Sarah Elaine EatonLiteracy, Language and Leadership (three of my favourite “L’s”)…

Sarah is based in Canada and she had done an amazing list of characteristics of the 21st Century LEARNer – and where I had only managed to come up with 10 or so (even when I was on intravenous Nescafé and filtered Java), she had turned out 21!

So, I dropped her a line and asked if I could re-post the list – here it is (and Sarah, you are a “star)!

  1. Want to have a say in their education. They’ll respond better when their voices are heard.
  2. Often have higher levels of digital literacy than their parents or teachers. They don’t know a world without computers.
  3. Expect transparency in their parents, teachers and mentors. They’ll see right through you. (Makes it really hard to plan a surprise birthday party for them!)
  4. Want you to tell them when you have messed up, apologize for it, and move on. Everyone messes up. No big deal. Just don’t try to hide it. If you do, they are likely to post it on Facebook.
  5. Don’t care as much about having a job as they do about making a difference. The very concept of a “job” has changed so much in the past decade, the future is about making a difference.
  6. Demand the freedom to show their wild creativity. 21st century learners balk at rote learning and memorizing. They’ll do it if you make them, but be prepared to let them loose to be creative, too.
  7. Want to connect with others in real time on their own terms.They want their social media, their phones and their mobile technology. They want to be connected. All the time. In a way that makes sense to them (not necessarily to you).
  8. Collaborate amazingly well. They love teamwork and figuring things out with their friends.
  9. Really can multi-task. To do other wise is… yawn! Bo-ring!
  10. Appreciate a “trial and error” approach to learning new skills. Thank you, video-game industry.
  11. Learn by doing. Just try making them sit down and learn from you by watching. See what happens.
  12. Have a “can do” attitude. Of course, they can do it, silly! There is nothing to be afraid of.
  13. Thrive in an atmosphere of controlled challenge. They must be challenged or they zone out, but they need structure, too.
  14. Have multicultural awareness and appreciation. This generation is more aware of a variety cultures, countries and ways of life than any generation before them.
  15. Open to change. Really, what’s the big deal?
  16. Are equal parts “consumer” and “creator”. Today’s learners download their own songs and apps from iTunes… and then they create their own stuff and upload it to share with others.
  17. Increasingly aware of the world around them. From the environment to politics, today’s learners are asking questions and demanding answers.
  18. Know where to go to find information. Google was first incorporated in 1998. 21st century learners have never known a world without Google.
  19. Are better educated than any generation before them. (See #17.) 21st century learners really do know more than their parents (but that doesn’t necessarily make them wiser!)
  20. Expect inter-disciplinarity. It is we, the older generation, who organize topics into “subjects”. The 21st century learner understands that subjects are inherently interconnected. Like, duh!
  21. Know that they are the future. They look at their parents and their peers and understand that the world’s future rests in their hands. (Wouldn’t it make you just a little bit cocky, too?)


 

What I liked about Sarah’s list (apart from the fact that it saved me a “pile” of work) was the way it brought together not only skills and abilities – but also many of the values and beliefs that our 21C Kids seem to haveIt got me wondering whether the characteristics we had been looking at (for the “21C Teacher”) were similiar – they were!

However, and Greg picked up on this, too (Cheers Greg), Sarah had developed her set of 21 characteristics in Canada – based on her work with schools and universities there. 

I wondered:

  • How do our 21st Century LEARNers (here in Turkey) stack up against these characteristics?
  • What are the similarities and difference (if any)? And…are these similarities / differences “only” linked to technology and the digital landscape we have today?
  • How do we know this?
  • And…what the heck are we doing to help TEACHers get ready for these kids?

What is LEARNing?

In Learning & Parenting, The Paradigm Debate on 30/10/2011 at 12:20 pm

The translation is in the “comments” section!

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A friend of mine is getting ready to deliver a presentation to a group of parents on how they can best help their kids with school and homework. We’ve been brainstorming ideas on the types of things she can do and I’ve been suggesting that she get them active, involved and questioning – you know with activities, games and reflective discussions (rather than the typical “edumercial lectures” parents get at things like this – when they do actually happen).

Makes sense, yes? – Getting them to “live” LEARNing – rather than telling them about it.

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This morning I stumbled on a post that almost made me re-think the advice I had been giving my friend. The post was written by Phil Cullen (a guiding light on the AustralianTreehorn Express initiative) and in it he relates a conversation that he had with a parent:

I asked a parent how learners learn at school. He thought about it quite seriously and then remarked. “The teacher teaches them something, maybe from the black-board.  She then questions them and might set a test or the kids write something down.”

I wondered how many other parents (and remember that a parent is, essentially, a child’s fırst and most influential TEACHer) would agree with this kind of conceptualisation…we haven’t got a bloody chance, have we?

Unless we help parents LEARN more first!

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The central challenge here is that it is not really this parent’s understanding of “what LEARNing is” that is the real problem – it is what he (or she) does with this understanding that needs to really concern us. If children are “taught” that this what LEARNing is all about (before we even get our hands on them), they are being put on the road to LEARNing illiteracy before getting to the really “good stuff”…

For years I have been working with teachers and lecturers (especially those who have not had much formal training in LEARNing and TEACHing) to help them gain the type of LEARNing perspectives that make a real difference to the lives of their students – maybe I have been barking up the wrong tree

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A few years back Chris Watkins did a brilliant paper for those lovely chaps at ATL and in it he outlined what he considered to be the three main “ways” of thinking about LEARNing:

What is LEARNing (Watkins taxonomy 2003)

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Clearly, the parent Phil chatted with is operating with the first of these – LEARNing is all about the TEACHing! In a way, this view is wholly understandable – we’ve all had great teachers who LEARNed us really well.

But, we all know there is a great deal of TEACHing that takes place in classrooms all over the world – with very little LEARNing!

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And, this is exactly because:

TEACHing is not LEARNing

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The critical issue is, however, what happens if some primary TEACHers also work with this conceptualisation? Hang on, what happens if our kids then get to meet high school TEACHers who think the same way? And, what the hell do we do if the higher LEARNing of little Durmuş and little Kezban is also topped off by lecturers who think in the same vein?

As I said before…our kids haven’t got a bloody chance, have they?

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Time to GET REAL…

Life is not orderly, neat and easy! 

The world is a complex place….getting “complexer” with every keystroke and blog post.

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Little Durmuş and Little Kezban need to develop “habits of mind” that mirror this complexity. They ain’t gonna get these if our starting point is a view of LEARNing that is grounded on what a teacher “presents” and the quality of “tests” that teacher uses.

This is why so many of our education systems have become little more that “bureaucratic EXAMocracies” (and the ADHOCocrats that run them) that do more to switch our kids off LEARNing – and ensure they are poorly-equipped for the brave new world they will have to enter…………

TRUE…the notion of LEARNing as “individual sense-making” is a huge improvement…but this too is also not sufficient (unless, of course you fancy yourself as a 21st Century Robinson Crusoe).

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For example, if we take a closer look at the so-called habits of mind we say kids need to develop (or rather the “ability set” or “talents” they need to LEARN) – we see a whole new “emerging curriculum”:

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Kids are not going to LEARN these by being “told” about them – they are not going to LEARN how to do something with what they LEARN “about” these things from a blackboard (even a technologically-enabled version). They have to LEARN by “doing” them….and have these things reinforced by seeing grown-ups “walking-their-talk”!

This starts with parents

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Or, does it?

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In one of my very first posts…I talked about the idea of the “LEARNing parent” and challenged mummy and daddy to reflect on whether they were, in fact, being good role-models for their kids. The problem was, and a couple of people reminded me of this, parents have been LEARNed by TEACHersand by their own experiences of education and the schools they went to.

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When I work with TEACHers and lecturers on their understandings of LEARNing, I often begin by asking them:

What business are WE in

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This freaks a lot of people out (teachers do not like “drafting in ideas” from the world of allthingsbusiness) – but I find this approach to be far superior to starting the conversation with a question like “What’s school all about?“…especially, when we ask a few more questions:

  • Are we in the MONEY-MAKING business?
  • Are we in the TESTING business?
  • Are we in the TEACHing business?
  • Are we in the LEARNing business?

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EDUcators “hate” the first one – after all most of us wear those famous t-shirts (Will TEACH for FOOD) at the weekend!

They just “know” the second is “wrong” (even though we are increasingly being asked to buy into the “examocracy mentality”). They also get that we cannot justify placing the “means” before the “ends” when answering the last two questions

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What freqently bakes their noodle is when we move onto a fifth question:

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I do not care what “subject” a TEACHer teaches…what “discipline” they owe their loyalty to…all TEACHers and EDUcators recognise the moral imperative of putting put the cart before the horseINTELLECTUALLY.

The problem is that many of us do not walk-our-talk…we, too, have been “socialised” in the same school systems that have created the parents that operate the “foundation feeder programmes” of our schools…and frequently feel powerless and unable to “fight the machine“.

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Many of us have also been brought up in the “cultures of blame” that hold us back from being the TEACHers we all know we can bewe often choose the wrong questions to ask:

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What Phil Cullen’s conversation with his parent has got me thunking is whether I need to be doing more work with parents…whether all of us in EDUcation need to be doing more with parentsand not just marketing our schools by telling half-truths about the number of exam passes we can manage in an academic year!

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So, here’s an idea – why don’t we seriously set up real partnerships with our parentsLEARN them what we know is rightand take back our schools, colleges and universities...together!

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Politicians might be able to resist TEACHers’ calls for change

– but can they really resist the same calls from LEARNing parents?