More 21st century talk

By default, it’s natural to scurry toward what’s familiar and comfortable. It’s in our nature to search for security, and once security is perceived, we set up shop and stay put for as long as possible.

The problem is security’s nothing more than an illusion. The industrial revolution did wonders for the American psyche in building the perception that security could be attained–if not now, then by future generation. It’s safe to say this canard was blown to bits. The economy is changing, moving away from factory-type jobs where you’re told what to do toward careers that demand you think on your feet and learn, unlearn, and relearn on a continual basis.

In no other field does that last sentence need to be reinforced more than education. It’s true there are trailblazers using data to inform instruction and implementing technology in classrooms through effective and creative means. It’s also true that many teachers are digging in their heels and clinging desperately to the familiar and comfortable strategies of the past. The problem is the world’s moving forward at an ever increasing rate, and teachers must stay up-to-date with as many changes as possible–continually increasing their skills and adding to their knowledge base. If not, both our students and teachers will fall behind and not be able to compete in the 21st century market.

Because remember, the key to being successful is bringing value to everyone, everywhere you find yourself. Value is something of worth that others find beneficial, and it’s a fact that people now find value in problem solving ability and technical competence more than rule (factory mindset) following.

So how does one cultivate these valuable skills?

  1. Read: Ideally a book a week.

  2. Write. For me, it’s a privilege to have a blog. What other time in history have people been able to share information around the world in a matter of seconds?

  3. Create: Whatever you’re good at, make it.

  4. Learn at least one new thing a day. It’ll add up quickly.

  5. Watch less TV.

There are a lot more ways to learn and grow, but I can’t think of five better ways to start. I especially like number 1; books have an unparalleled ability to change perception.

Walking and technology

As a toddler, developing the muscles and coordination to walk instead of crawl comes from a desire to get to a toy, ball, pet, or food more quickly.

When a child’s learning to walk, she isn’t seeking how to learn the mechanical components of moving one foot in front of the other. Instead, she’s motivated to achieve some goal (getting to the toy as fast as possible). Learning how to walk comes as a byproduct. The child wanted one thing and developed a skill along the way.

Teaching students how to use technology is very similar. Some believe that skills such as word processing, keyboarding, using a mouse, etc., should be taught in isolation. I’d argue that students learn computer skills better when there’s a goal that must be accomplished and the computer is used simply as a means to that end. For instance, a student must research about ancient Egypt and report her findings. As she navigates Google and makes a Prezi presentation showing her findings, she’s learning a lot all at once: The content (obviously) and all the little steps that are needed to navigate the Google and Prezi websites.

Adults in today’s workforce must learn organically everyday in environments that are multi-faceted and complicated. We should start teaching our students 21st century skills in the same way–just like when they learned how to walk.