Sunday, 15 November 2015

Feeding Our Young

Week 2 - Digital and collaborative learning in Context: 21st Century Skills
Photographer - Percita

How do 20th century and 21st century skills differ? 

Do we need both?

When I was a student and later when I was teaching at school from the mid 1980s, I knew that the aim was to fill a student's head up with stuff.  Students had to be able to memorise it and regurgitate it.  

If I was a good teacher, I got them to think about how Shakespeare’s themes were timeless, and made the classes more engaging by using drama or cool projects like a making magazine that Ophelia might want to read.  They had good notes to refer to that covered the syllabus and had been prepared with exam answers that might come up.

Sadly, thirty years later, I listened while my daughter regurgitated her essay on social welfare in New Zealand in the 1930s, as we walked through the forest one weekend.  It would be the third opportunity she’d had to perform that particular regurgitation.

Now she has moved on to "higher learning."  University still requires some regurgitation but with added skills.  Unlike me at the same age, my daughters submit all their assignments online.  Now we use cloud drives and submit to online portals, where plagiarism software checks that we have not copied or downloaded a past student’s work. We don’t have to have a physical presence in lectures (well not always) and can discuss in online forums or listen to video lectures.

I’ve asked it before...if my daughter at 22 completed much of her nursing degree online (yes, there was a huge practical component too) and had study groups online, how am I preparing the 12 year olds at my intermediate for what they might need to do in another decade?  It’s a good question, because I think there are a number of teachers who are preparing students for learning and work environments that no longer exist.

What skills will they need? Handwriting is one of those things that gets a lot of debate.  Read my blogpost on this.  Handwriting would not be at the top of the list of skills I would advocate as important for a time when “the internet goes down.”

I’m hoping like anything that by then regurgitation will not be top of the list either. Knowledge is not something we want to lose and is handy when used as a context for other learning.  There are lessons from history, as we know.

So, while we know that our confused kids need the skills to “play the game of school,” there are some other more important skills I want our young’uns to have so that they not only run the world like I want to see it when I’m sitting in the nursing home, but also to keep it going, and improve it for their own children and grandchildren.

They “need to be the change they wish to see in the world,” (with thanks to Mahatma Ghandi).  That means stepping forward and having a go.  Taking a risk.  Taking a lead.  Being in a team. Collaborating and participating.  Communicating effectively in all forums, face to face and digital. They need to be able to operate in a number of literacies, written, mathematical, online and in different languages.  Across cultures. across time zones.  Any place, any time, any how.

They need to be able to persevere.  They need resilience.  They need to be able to ideate and be entrepreneurial.  

Are we creating learning opportunities which will grow these skills and create long term learning connections? Or are we doing the flip-top head stuff that they can spit out in a one off exam?

We talk about the skills our children need in our Week 2 session.  The Innovative Teaching and Learning group (ITL Research) have robust rubrics which have been co-created to allow these skills in most learning activities.  We have to do what teachers these days should be equipped with: the ability to create video learning opportunities.  Our group of four has two hours to design and create a three act structure video.  (There’s the knowledge in context.)  Like our students, we have a time limit and a problem to solve.  None of us have used iMovie (well, I did briefly last week) and we have to upload our video to Google+.  The video must illustrate real world problems.  We decide to take the mickey and illustrate a first world problem: cellphone power supply.

Teamwork is paramount. So is having a go. Nobody is allowed to hitch hike.  There is a lot of collaboration and communication and probably quite a bit of compromise.  No time to look for a manual. Ingenuity is important; we network with other groups to gain skill knowledge and take risks. We use Youtube help videos too.  

The plot is quickly sketched out - and we use paper because it’s quicker.  A number of props are found in the toy basket proffered which give us a direction: a small doll, a doll sized sofa and two large plastic dinosaur toys.

No time to waste.  There’s a lot of laughter.  This quickly turns to frustration as the nuts and bolts of editing on iMovie frustrate us.  But we have tenacity. And use ingenuity.  We film our titles and credits when we have a problem working out where this setting is.

Now uploading. More frustration.  Wish we hadn’t listened to the instruction from David to upload direct to Google+.  Failed attempts and we try Youtube first.  Success. And sweat.  But we made it before the end of the session.  A lot of tenacity! My group reeks of it!

Okay, so the video isn’t the masterpiece we thought we were making but it is a great learning experience with skills learned and practised that are relevant in other areas.  

And that, people, is what it’s all about.