As I tried to figure out what to write for my final blog for Course 1 I found myself clicking on hyperlinks and doing searches and feeling as though I was wandering around, trying to make connections. I realized this is how I’ve been feeling a bit during Course 1.
I read through the first part of the Horizon Report and was drawn to the Key Trends and Critical Challenges. The Key Trend and the Critical Challenge that stood out to me were related to thinking skills and digital tools. The first Key Trend addresses the staggering amount of information available and that “…sense-making and the ability to assess the credibility of information are paramount.” Then in the Critical Challenges the report states, “..digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral.” Both of these statements address the need for us to focus on the critical thinking skills our students need to learn and practice and utilize. I think that I’ve been adjusting my own view of Technology for Learning to also focus on the skills and less on trying to learn a bunch of new programs and applications that may or may not be useful to my students. I was reminded of an illustration from one of the first articles I read for this course, “World Without Walls: Learning Well With Others” by Will Richardson on Edutopia.com. The article included this graphic “New Skills for a New Age: What students must master to succeed.” that is based on work by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. What I had noticed was that the majority of skills are not so much about using tools, but using critical thinking skills such as evaluating, problem solving, and communicating. The tools are only part of the equation. This then lead me to take a look at the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website. While looking through their Skills Framework, I was interested to see what they said about technology skills. Under Information, Media and Technology Skills, again, there was reference to the need for critical thinking skills.
“To be effective in the 21st century, citizens and workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media and technology.”
I then thought about something I thought I had seen on Andrew Churches’ website Educational Origami (highly recommended website!) about 21st century skills and wanted to compare that information to the Skills Framework from Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Once there I realized I was thinking of an assessment guide that he had produced with the 21st Century Fluency Project that we used at the Authentic Assessment and Digital Media in the Classroom workshop. So I clicked on the hyperlink and made my way to the 21st Century Fluency Project. They also refer to the importance of focusing on critical thinking skills.
“The 21st Century Fluencies are not about technical prowess, they are critical thinking skills, and they are essential to living in this multimedia world. We call them fluencies for a reason. To be literate means to have knowledge or competence. To be fluent is something a little more, it is to demonstrate mastery and to do so unconsciously and smoothly.”
I like this wording because I want my students to develop fluency in their critical thinking skills. They are dealing with huge amounts of information and have to make important decisions on what to use and how to use it. The technology is constantly evolving and we’ll never be done adapting and learning to use it. But, the critical thinking skills are what will help us manage it.
So then I wandered back to Educational Origami and noticed a section titled “21st Century Teacher” and was intrigued. I realized that I had really been focusing on my students’ needs…but what about my role in all this. Isn’t that what I need to figure out? Fortunately, I found some guidance here. According to Mr. Churches, the 21st century educator should have the following characteristics: Adaptor, Visionary, Collaborator, Risk Taker, Learner, Communicator, Model and Leader. As I read through the descriptions of each, I particularly connected with one. What I keep coming back to as I’ve worked through Course 1 is to better define my perspective on Technology for Learning and letting go of my insecurities about how to better serve my students. It is the Risk Taker. The description summed it up better than I ever could…
“How can you as an educator know all these things? How can you teach them how to use them… There are so many, so much to learn. You must take risks and sometimes surrender yourself to the students’ knowledge. Have a vision of what you want and what the technology can achieve, identify the goals and facilitate the learning. Use the strengths of the digital natives to understand and navigate new products, have the students teach each other. The learning pyramid shows that the highest retention of knowledge comes from teaching others. Trust your students.”
And after this little adventure through cyberspace I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from J.R.R. Tolkien. “Not all those who wander are lost.” I sure have done a far bit of wandering and wondering the last six weeks and I’m feeling a little more comfortable and at home with how I’m going to approach integrating more critical thinking into my classroom.