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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Patterns of Thought and Action: Tools for Lifelong Learning.

What is education in the 21st Century? What's important to the ways we run educational systems, schools, classrooms, and learning groups?  How do we facilitate facile, flexible learners?

I've been thinking a lot about this as I read and respond to blog posts, tweets, videos, podcasts, Google+ stream (what do we call these comments?), conference notes, books and articles.

Essentially we want to facilitate students' stream of learning -- their lifelong ability to develop essential skills, access knowledge, exchange information and ideas, and utilize relationships, skill and knowledge to create meaningful endeavor (and a better world?).

What does this mean for your curriculum program and/or educational efforts?  For me, it means strengthening my teaching of Patterns of Thought and Action -- the processes that foster lifelong learning facility and depth.  What patterns of learning are essential to the groups you serve and/or work with?

The patterns of learning and action that I've identified for my class so far include the following.

  1. Collaboration/Cooperation: Working Together
    • What is collaboration?  What is cooperation?  
    • What do we think about when we collaborate and/or cooperate?
    • What actions help us to become successful collaborators?
    • What collaboration/cooperation processes work best?
  2. Effective Effort:  Working Smart
    • What is effort?
    • How do successful people employ effort?
    • What does effort look like?
    • Why is effort important?
  3. Problem Solving
    • What is a problem?  
    • How do we identify a problem when it occurs?
    • What are successful actions related to problem solving?
  4. Essential Skills
    • What skills and knowledge do you think are essential?
    • What does essential mean?
    • What's the best way to develop or "grow" essential skills?
    • What tools are available to help you develop essential skills?  How can you access these tools?
  5. Self Concept - Passion:  Know Thyself as a Learner
    • Discuss "Learners that know themselves well are more successful learners."
    • Discuss "Happiness, in part, occurs when people engage in activities and endeavors that interest them."
    • Engage in initial learning style/profile assessments, discussions, and share that help students continue self discovery, self knowledge.
  6. School System Organization/Learning Systems/Culture
    • What is our school culture?  Beliefs?  
    • How is our school, classroom organized?
    • How can you access this organization to develop skills, knowledge and concepts in a positive, enjoyable, fruitful way?
    • How can you foster change in your learning environment when needed?  
    • What communication systems are available?
Underlying all of the thinking patterns/actions above is the premise that students are in the "driver's seat" of their education.  Schools and educators are there to facilitate their development and growth -- we are their coaches, mentors and personal trainers.  We have their best interests in mind.  We are there for them, and it's their job to utilize both educators and schools to best develop their repertoire of academic skills, concepts, knowledge and behaviors.

From day one, I'll let students know the important role they play in their own education.  I'll introduce myself as mentor, trainer and facilitator.  During the first few weeks of school, we'll discuss each thinking pattern/action above, and create guiding anchor charts which will be posted on the walls of our classroom and social network (our cloud classroom).  We'll revisit the charts and discussions throughout the year as we embark on specific projects, activities and efforts to develop individual and collective growth in the areas of essential skills, knowledge and 21st C learning actions: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication (also, community).

This is a rough start to a new start for a successful school year.  Let me know what you think?  What would you add and/or take away?  Am I missing a critical category?  How will this look in different grades, schools, subjects?  Thanks for listening.  I look forward to your thoughts.