Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our Students' Future

Why should teachers include 21st century skills in their day to day curriculum? If the way they teach works, why should they change their teaching methods? It’s very natural for a person to draw from the past experiences in their life to make present day decisions. The only problem with this is that our job is to prepare the students for their future and their future is not based on our past. When I was in class the teacher stood in front of the room and taught us things using chalk and a blackboard that we had to memorize, analyze and later regurgitate on a test by the end of the week. We quietly sat in our straight rows and took our, in my case, messy notes on everything the teacher said. Oddly enough this worked. We were prepared for the world that we entered as a newbie ready to work employee. The future, although not completely known, of course was thought to be 20, 30 or 40 years away. As a newbie employee in the world of work, we did not have to compete in a global economy. The internet was not even created yet so we had to memorize information. Computers were just starting to surface but they were too large to fit on a desk. Yes, I’m that old.
That was then, this is now. Today’s students don’t have to memorize facts, they just have to know how to find the information or better yet, have the information come to them. Many of the jobs that they would have competed for, had they been born in our time are now farmed out to countries that I have never even been to. Today when we think of the future, it’s not decades away, it is more like 5 years away or less. Students will need to possess 21st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, written and oral communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation skills to be able to compete in this global economy. They will also need to acquire some of the same skills or qualities that we did before we walked down that diploma runway such as leadership, integrity, ethics, accountability, adaptability, work ethics, people skills, self-direction and personal and social responsibility. These skills are not new but are essential to making one stand out in a crowd of thousands of applicants.
So for example, instead of assigning a research paper that students type and hand in, have them do the research, write a rough draft and create a podcast, a digital recording, of their findings. The students can add pictures to their podcast or record themselves with a video camera to create a vodcast. Teachers can use Google Docs to have their students collaborate on a classroom assignment. Google Earth could be used to create trips anywhere in the world so that students can see the places referenced in lessons. There are so many free tools that can be used to let students express their creativity such as wiki’s, blogs, glogster, vuvox and other online multimedia presentation programs. There are hundreds of other ways to allow students to express their creativity and new found knowledge. Teachers could use wireless tablets, Smart Boards and ActivBoards as a method of involving their students in their classroom lessons. This list could go on for pages.
I think we can all agree that change is happening at a very fast pace. Since some people have not changed their teaching methods. Wouldn’t this then mean that the gap between past teaching methods and present day technology is expanding at an alarming rate as well? What will these teachers do to close this ever expanding gap and when will they start? Education is not about us. It is about the students we teach and the future they will face! Please make that change. You have our support. We will be here to help you every step of the way. That is what we are here for.

1 comment:

Angie Wallace said...

Brian, This was a great blog. As you wrote, I could imagine myself in the classroom setting straight and taking notes. We do have to prepare our kids for the future...nice job.