Right now you probably hear as many people talk about how annoyed they are with the term “21st Century Learning” as you will hear people talking about the importance of it. I will have to admit, I am in the “annoyed” camp.
We often talk about these ideals of what “21st Century Learning” will look like but I think we can start with something much simpler. We should start asking, “How do we ourselves best engage in our own learning?”
I was reminded of this the other day while at a conference and the presenter started the session by saying, “I would like to start by asking everyone to put away their mobile devices.” The room was split down the middle with those who were offended by his statement, and those that knew he was joking. Educators as learners would often be offended if we were told the tools or way that we are allowed to learn at any point, yet often many do not flinch at asking their kids to do the same.
How many educators could sit through 4-6 hours of lectures daily, with worksheets, for 180-200 days of the year? I know I can barely sit down for an hour so I am amazed at what I see some kids can do throughout the day. They are bored doing it, yet they will still comply.
The more I go to conferences, I often see many people skipping sessions to talk and connect the material. Could you imagine if kids walked out of class to do the same? Would this be acceptable behaviour in a classroom or school? I have learned that some of my best learning from conferences have not been from the sessions, but through the conversations I have with my colleagues outside in the hallways. In fact, at Connected Canada this month, we are encouraging educators to take in the sessions but providing substantial time for participants to connect and engage with one another in between sessions. The time for conversation and reflections are important to learning.
Now I really do not believe that you can just switch schools to this more “adult” way of learning overnight. People are creatures of habit and many students that are put into these different environments almost crave the conformity and strict rule over their learning that has been the norm. However, maybe it is important for faculties to get together and talk about the way that they like to learn, discuss those goals as a school, how it can connect to the curriculum, and then work together to build a culture that has this more realistic and relevant form of learning. We can talk about the ‘C’s’ of 21st Century Learning, or what organizations need, etc. until we are blue in the face. Let’s start the conversation with some much easier questions.
How do we like to learn? How can we differentiate this in the classroom for our students? How do we make this the norm together?