So the new buzz phrase is the 21st Century Learner. Everyone is talking about the skills needed by the 21st century learners. Well, if there is this need for 21st century learners, how do we become 21st century teachers?
I recently read Shelly Wright’s blog post The Nuts and Bolts of 21st Century Teaching. In her blog Shelly talks about a recent experience she had with project based learning (PBL) as her class was studying the Holocaust. In this project the class was to create their own Holocaust museum. The class outlined three areas of study, researched them and began to come up with ideas, but then they got stuck.
When students are stuck is the hardest for teachers. I also find it the hardest as a parent. How exactly do you help kids figure something out on their own? If you tell them or do it for them, you rob them of figuring it out and learning it themselves. If you don’t, then you worry about frustration, shutdown, not caring, self-esteem. I agree with Shelly when she said, “Its difficult to know how much to let them flail.”
Then she, as a 21st century teacher, did what I (a semester ago) would have never thought of – she turned to her blog!?!? She shared her struggles and received a post that helped her. This is something I think many “20th century teachers” would never think to do, but wow was it helpful! The video that was sent to her in a comment I found inspirational and eye opening. Chris Lehmann spoke about the changes in education for both learners and teachers. He opened with “high school stinks”. A bold statement that he followed with why it stinks and what we as educators can do about it.
At first I wasn’t sure how applicable the video would be to me. It was focused on high school and I’m an elementary teacher. Sure I thought it was eye opening and inspiring, but I was sure it wouldn’t make a difference in my classroom. Then I heard “School was built on a model of information scarcity, and now we are in a world of information overload. … Now our job is to make sure kids can make sense of the world.” This flipped around the entire idea of teaching in my mind. Teachers are no longer the ones to impart knowledge (teach) but will become more facilitators of knowledge. Sure there will be things we teach, but the students may be as much of a “teacher” as we are… So what will the role of teachers become? I think we will become less about the person teaching the information or imparting our wisdom and more about an educational guide to help our students figure it out.
For the 21st century learner will we still be teachers or will we become educational guides? I think I want to be an educational guide…. Now, I’m off to see if I can figure out how to do that. I’m taking the first step. I have turned to my blog 😉