Friday, March 29, 2013

21st Century Learning?

A 21st century learning mindset is different from learning in the past, and this mindset holds tremendous potential for learners young and old throughout the world.

In the past we were mostly concerned with teaching discrete areas of knowledge rather than empowering all learners with the mindset, strategies, actions and resources with which to learn.

Today, as we teach essential skills, concepts and knowledge, we are able to couple that education with lessons about how one can utilize his/her strengths, tools and comrades to build the knowledge both in school and outside of school.

This learning transcends not only to students, but to the entire learning community.  The more we actively learn, share, debate and create together, the more the entire community will grow to serve  each other in ways that effect a positive education for all students.

What does this 21st century learning look like?

Successful learning strategies, tools and knowledge are readily shared in streamlined ways with the goal of enriching the entire learning community.  For example no useful knowledge or "good news" is hidden, and all positive knowledge, strategies and tools are ready to use via websites, person-to-person shares, supply closets, newsletters and social media.  Learning is valued, and is a source of shared focus and intent. Community members are not only judged by their unique learning/teaching efforts and results, but they are also judged by their commitment and collaboration with the learning community by way of shared knowledge, growth and innovation.

Knowledge sharing is a two-way, responsive process.  Rather than letting the curriculum or content lead classroom endeavor or professional development, this work is led by the learner whether it be students in the classrooms or educators at an after school meeting.  Regular assessment, conversation and discussion identifies the learners' needs with regard to content, process and structure, and educators and leaders respond to those needs in timely, thoughtful ways that invigorate learning and investment.

There are structures in place for collaboration. Those in the learning community collaborate regularly with both formal structures such as PLCs and team meetings and informal, spontaneous collaboration in person and online.

Everyone's voice matters. Organizations value everyone's voice in the learning community and recognize that the strength of a community comes from working as a team with a common vision and mission. In education that mission simply stated is a positive, responsive education for every child, and unlike "factory models" of the past, new schools distribute the power of time and voice to all in the organization in an effort to optimize learning practice and thought.

Protocols lead the way. Rather than tight rules, the learning community is led by "loose-tight" protocols that are commonly known and shared as well as regularly revised to meet changing needs. These shared protocols help everyone to understand the learning community's values and action related to working together and teaching children well.

Debate and discussion are welcome: No one knows it all in any organization. The strength of the learning community comes from dynamic conversation of diverse voices, and that dialogue is welcome.

Timely. 21st century learning communities are responsive and communicate regularly.  Change doesn't happen on a monthly basis, instead change happens routinely and responsively dependent on the needs of students.  Hence regular, daily communication is a vital currency of a the 21st century learning community--a currency that is better used than stored away for selected times.

21st century learning communities are inclusive communities focused on the mission and vision of a successful education for all children.  Individuals in these communities work together to learn and teach with the best tools, strategies and processes.  These communities make adequate time for communication, streamline systems, and embrace apt protocols so that most of the time is spent in direct service to students by working with students or planning, researching and responding to student efforts.

In what ways does your learning community embrace 21st century practices, tools and strategies? What does your community need to continue their growth in this regard?  Personally, I continue to think about collaboration, idea share and time for response, planning and research--all areas that I personally need to work at and advocate for to optimize the work I do each day.  This is a time of great promise and potential in education.  The thoughtful dedication, collaboration and communication of all those interested in uplifting our education system for the benefit of students will help us to reach that promise and potential.