21st Century Learning

The strange thing about a 21st Century approach to teaching and learning is that it makes it easier for the teacher. You do about the same amount of work but it’s different work and a lot more fun and personal. Below is not the only way to do this and I’m developing and changing things every week.  There are also 1000s of tools that can be used but this is approach / pedagogy keeps things simple and puts the demand back on the students to think creatively, work collaboratively, while supported by the relevant material and encouraging the idea that a classroom / school is not always required to learn.

STEPS TO 21C LEARNING:

  1. BE SOCIAL : Ensure the students can socialise online within the context of your course. This means the class conversation can be added to by the individual student when it best suits them.
    In junior years this probably means a forum / wiki for each course to allow the students to dip in and out.
    In Senior years (16+), I find the students currently all switch to socialising on Facebook and if your system is separate to this then it only encourages the idea that learning is something you only do in School (or on a school system). With this in mind, I devised (with my students) a completely safe Facebook course setup that allows me to run the course, sending notifications to the students’ personal FB accounts without ‘Friending’ them and having to share personal info. FB group pages allow for video and file uploads, quizzing and peer-support. This has started 24/7 engagement for my senior classes.
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  2. STOP CLASS TEACHING! : Delivering any content or concept to a whole group of any age does not work!
    Even in a room of adults, never mind children, there’s the:
    one not listening;
    one who’s talking;
    one that wants to listen but is distracted by something else;
    one who’s absent and needs the lesson later;
    one who would understand if you’d just slow down a bit;
    one who would ask but is scared to do so;
    etc; etc; etc.

    One size fits all has never worked but until the internet (Broadband really) an alternative was more difficult.
    To make a start, using an iPad app like Explain Everything (see apps), anything you want the whole class to understand should be an online video to be digested by each individual at a pace that suits and available to repeat and pause when needed. I have students who sometimes watch them in the lesson itself but mostly at home or during lunch on their phone. At the beginning of my transition, I simply found myself ‘teaching’ / recording in my free lessons (and occasionally lunchtime) a few days ahead of when I would expect the students to be working on the material in the video. I then only have to discuss on request, a specific aspect that an individual might not quiet grasp. Teaching one-to-one is easy and much more enjoyable. I have had colleagues say they already do this by handing out masses of reading before a lesson, but demanding bulk reading exercises of all students also does not work and more so with the 21st Century generations. Those same teachers often continue to lecture to / discuss with the whole class in lesson time anyway.
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  3. PROVE YOU UNDERSTAND : Now that all the full-class teaching is removed from the classroom, you can offer the students far more ‘task’ time. This time should be centered on the learning objectives with the students working individually or in small groups to prove they understand the concepts or have the skills. From experience, I would have 4 or 5 options for how they provide their evidence. I have students making and editing 5 minute documentaries, producing interactive ebooks, using Mindcraft to build an interactive world all to demonstrate they understand the content. They can then share this varied material in the social LMS you use and receive feedback from their peers without loosing more class time to showcasing / presenting.
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  4. WATCH THE GRADES SOAR : Full engagement – No excuses! One of my students joked:
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    “How annoying it is to have no excuse to get the task done. you can’t say you missed the lesson or you didn’t understand or you were shy to ask in front of peers!”I have students working at watching videos at very strange times, including midnight. But I feel comfortable to allow them to work in their own way. My more gifted students love it as they can actually work on other subjects’ material in my class, knowing they can catch-up or get ahead accordingly. They love this freedom, especially when there’s a Chemistry test next period! Actually, that made me think. We have to acknowledge that if students know they have a particular subject test in period 4 then as far as focus is concerned, the lesson in period 3 doesn’t happen! But doing away with standardised tests is deservedly well covered on other blogs!
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    Whether I was a good or bad teacher before this, my students are happier and have full ownership of each piece they produce plus my grades are up 25%!
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