Ok, I am feeling trapped in a 19th century system while trying to allow 21st century learning to happen. Is it because students don’t know how to “do” 21st century learning? Is it because they are so ingrained in a system that is outdated and they just go through the motions? I see glimpses of learning – like today when we were analyzing the European Union. Students had researched information about whether the candidate countries meet the criteria the EU has set and I had “researchers” ready for questions that would come up. Students were debating ideas like GDP, economic stability based on what they were reading, and as we needed more information the researcher would look up facts like literacy rate, etc. I really felt like students were informed, interested, and were able to enjoy the debate. Technology was not used just so students could use the internet but rather they were integrating the technology into their learning – as naturally as they text, IM, etc. It was a great day and I felt as if it was truly student learning taking place. I was the facilitator, they were learning from each other. It is not like this every day and I am continually asking why. And as the bell was ringing and students were grabbing their books and turning computers off, I wondered how to fit this type of learning into my 48 minute schedule? Why can’t the educational system focus on meeting student needs in the 21st century instead of focusing on standards of learning and testing? I know we need standards but do we need to teach to a test that a group of people who are not in classrooms have developed into a multiple choice test? When do we use multiple choice tests in life? I realize these are pretty random thoughts but I don’t think our system is working and as we look to work out the budget problems I hope we don’t lose focus on our progress. We must move forward – we cannot afford two steps back.
Walking into my classroom of 8th graders having them excitedly tell me about their holiday activities – Guitar Hero, playing videos, posting You Tube videos, and how many texts were flashed around the vacation world, I am struck that these kids now have to “power down” to get back to the traditional school day. Oh, I am one of the lucky ones who can provide laptops to my students and I provide a project driven class, but it within the context of 45 minute classes that are rotated around 8 periods a day. It is not the fault of the school – I am also fortunate to work at a supportive and collaborative building. But how do we get to the point where students are excited about education and don’t have to “power down” in order to get back to the traditional classroom? Listening to Daniel Pink, Alan November, Tony Wagner speak about the need for educational transformation and what our kids will need for future success, I am determined to join others in trying to be a force of change. But I also see 8th graders going through the motions of school. In my annual unit of Holocaust/Anne Frank/Europe students are usually excited about finding the right picture, quote, and music to portray their own unique digital story. They love the process including choice, voice, and being able to share their stories. This year I have not seen the same excitement. It is what Tara was experiencing and I think part of it is that this unit is not enough anymore. I need to reflect and ask critical questions about how I can get this unit even more student centered than it already is. I won’t give up. I am passionate about the need for all of us to “get it.” Our kids depend on us “getting it” – that we need to transform education into 21st Century learning. I will begin to be bold.