Sunday, February 22, 2009

Create the Future: 21st Century Learning in Practice

Do you ever get the feeling that you want to change the world? Change it now? Those educators who some to the 21st Century Learners group meetings at Qatar Academy do, and yesterday decided to take action to try and share ideas, stories and solutions via video to try and encourage others to re-think their educational practice, take risks, change mindset and tool-set and foster creative student choices. They did this while meeting for breakfast, yesterday, on the first morning of our weekend, with Kim Cofino as mentor to share her journey into 21st century learning with us.

Here is the resulting video, modeled on the 'talking heads' idea found in "Learn to change, Change to learn"

We have been very fortunate to have Kim Cofino, 21st Century Literacy Specialist from International School Bangkok, with us here in Qatar for a few days, running "Create the Future" professional development workshops in the Qatar Academy Senior School.
Presentations Kim shared with us:
Kim has a clear vision and a passion for what learning should look like in today's classroom and beyond. I admire her tenacity and energy in conveying this vision and share her frustration when the message is misunderstood or worse, ignored as not having value. In a school as large as Qatar Academy the 70+ senior teachers are a microcosm of educators in a typical international school. Or are they? Over the 2 days of presentations, workshops and a final 2-hour department-based activity there was a gamut of reactions and comments from participants. The road to 21st century learning, where 1:1 computing and online learning modes are readily accepted and where fear of change is replaced with a shared passion knowing this is the way to go, was a bumpy ride. This is hard work!

One result, I feel, of our carefully crafted plans for the immersion into 21st century learning for teachers in the senior school at QA, was that we still have not managed to change the mindset. Yes, new ideas have been explored, new tools introduced, everyone now has a better idea of what they need to plan and prepare for when all students in Grade 7 and 8 arrive with laptops next year. However, true 21st century learning is more than that. It requires fundamental but complete change in the way we access, store, share and refer to information. It requires complete re-thinking in the way we connect, communicate, collaborate and create. These are not just words, these are realities. ALL participants in the learning process today must take this concept on board and CHANGE, one step at a time, one idea at a time, one tool at a time, one approach at a time. This means teachers when they prepare learning environments; this means students when they construct knowledge; this means parents when they interact with the learners and are learners themselves; this means administrators when they structure timetables and calendars and access to physical and virtual resources; this means IT support when they provide infrastructure (hardware and software) for learning.

Then again, how do you change a mindset? How do you effect change so that everyone feels non-threatened? I believe it is possible by providing carefully chosen resources and steps to take, while supporting these baby-steps with technology facilitators and progressive curriculum designers. I also believe that all schools globally are grappling with this issue. Colleague, Judy O'Connell from Hey Jude fame, shares her recent presentation, via blog post Connect and Inspire...oh Yeah! with the presentation 'Finding the Path to 21C Learning' available on Slideshare. Judy states, "Some of the ‘push’ of the conference was ICT, PD, and the horrors of cyberbullying. For those coming new to new media, they needed to hear about the power of personal learning networks - but I’m afraid I might have been the only one to mention this."

Connectivism, personal learning networks, sociability of learning, flattened digital learning environments...these are all so important! Judy goes on to say, "This is not a new outcome at conferences - we are starting to see a digital divide emerging in that some people believe they can talk about and research digital learning environments and social networking without actually being active participants in that world! I like to see keynote speakers who can share their online digital identities with us, and prove to me that they really do understand the architecture of participation that is learning in our new century."

Where do you stand on professional development and 21st century learning? How do we really effect a change in education, we all know we need one....don't we?

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Anonymous said...

That is very informative, thanks for the video.

Kim Cofino said...

Wow! The video turned out really well! Thank you for editing everything together so seamlessly!

Thanks for your support and reflective comments about the PD sessions. I think change is scary and hard for everyone. It's not easy to find that perfect blend of approachability and challenge to current practice for large groups of people. Getting the conversation started is the beginning - hopefully we'll all see some development from there.

It's so interesting to me that so many schools are all in the same place. Just to make it even more difficult, the gap between those who understand and practice networked learning and those who do not continues to widen. It's almost like we're speaking a different language now.

I definitely don't have the answers, but I enjoy starting the conversations.

Anonymous said...

A timely summation,our staff will definately be watching this soon, thanks to all who contributed.

Julie Lindsay said...

Thank you all for your comments. Kim, I agree that many schools are searching and putting together best-practice approaches. It is when we start to see real curriculum reform that includes digital learning modes that we can begin to feel successful. When I continue to get comments like, "we don't want them to touch the laptops until after they have researched in books' that I cringe and despair!

The EfS Team said...

It is interesting and exciting to come across educators across the world searching for more appropriate learning opportunities for our young students. I look forward to participating in this great community.
Thank you.