Tag Archives: 21st century teaching

Round Table Reflections

Last week, I had the honour of attending a round table discussion on the topic of 21st Century Teaching and Learning in a Digital World, along with approximately 30 others,  as arranged by the Ministry of Education. I wanted to share a personal reflection on the day.

Setting the stage: After a brief welcome and overview of the day, participants were invited to briefly introduce themselves and share a significant insight or practice they have on the topic of 21st Century Teaching and Learning in a Digital World.

When my turn came, I spoke to the following points regarding insights and/or best practices:

1.    Technology use must be embedded into the learning process and aligned with high yield teaching strategies  (examples: graphic organizers, anchor charts, open ended critical questions, non fiction writing, exemplars)

2.   Link digital citizenship to the character development programs, and distinguish between appropriate use tools and poor choices of behaviour

3.    Embrace the strengths of social media tools  to support student learning where appropriate

4.   The importance of having a student voice in the planning process

5.    Enable and empower learners and the teaching process

6.    Invest in infrastructure, and support use of using personally owned mobile devices

7.    Expectations regarding the effective use of technology needs to be set at the provincial level, reflected in strategic plans. School success plans  should also specify appropriate use of technology to support learning.

Alignment: The next part of the discussion required us to look at how 21st Century Teaching and Learning in a Digital World related to the three key goals: improving student achievement, closing the gap and increasing public confidence of education.

Throughout the discussion, I thought a number of good points were made by the group including:

a) We need progressive and aggressive change at the systemic level to alter the culture and address the gap in effective technology use

b) Building capacity in school administrators

c) Teacher training needs to change, and include the strategy of gradual release of responsibility

d) Model effective use of technology, and make use of mentors

e) Assessment practices are inherently paper based

Recap: At the end of our session, 8 emerging themes were identified as follows:

1. infrastructure

2. access, equity and use of personal devices

3. privacy, rules of use, digital citizenship

4. teacher practice and preparation

5. development of, and use of digital content

6. effective sharing of resources

7. change assessment practices

8. continued focus on the business of learning – continued improvement

Next Steps: The notes of the day will be formally documented, and a plan will be determined to share the findings and announce next steps.  I found this to be a great experience. I would be delighted to have continued involvement in this planning process should the opportunity come about.

~ Mark


21st century teaching

What is 21st century learning? Many of you have thought about this, read about this, engaged in dialog both face to face and online, and maybe blogged about this. Me too.

We had a meeting yesterday where we were looking at, and discussing that ‘age old’ question. There is no real need to rehash this again here. Besides, we are a decade into this century already! I did want to share a couple of interesting points from our discussion tonight.

Relative to times in the past, say 10 or more years ago, it was much easier to predict what a few years out looked like. Today, given the rate change in technology, job markets, communication tools etc. it is impossible to think what things will be like in 6 months or a year out, let alone 5 or 10 years out. I think the challenge of trying to articulate that future vision with clarity gives us a sense of being stalled in the journey to address the answer to ‘What is 21st century learning?’

However, maybe we are asking the wrong question. Maybe the question is: What does 21st century teaching look like? Imagine you have a class of students in front of you equipped with mobile learning devices – students with different devices. Some might have iPhones or Blackberrys. Perhaps others have netbooks or notebooks. Oh yes, some have iPod Touches, and throw in a couple of tablet PCs to round out the class. Now, that you have your class in with 1:1 web enabled devices in front of you, let’s think about these questions.

  • How does this change my teaching strategies?
  • How does this change my planning strategies? (lessons, units, short term, long term)
  • How do I facilitate learning in this environment where information is abundant and instantly accessible?
  • How do I manage students who will essentially be able to do many more learning activities in an environment where the learning can easily be personalized?

We discussed three key areas in thinking about this question: enablers, core tools, optional tools and innovation.

Enablers are required to provide access – wireless networking, network access control (Board/company owned and guest access coexisting), sufficient equipment, sufficient bandwidth. Core tools – perhaps the identification of a smaller set of web 2.0 tools that are used and integrated in a more systemic way. Innovation – the use of other technologies and strategies beyond the selected core tools for effective learning.

In some ways, we are perhaps back at the sand box stage. We don’t really know the right mix of technologies and instructional strategies to achieve the greatest success in the learning arena. To my way of thinking, investing energy into exploring the ‘what does 21st century teaching look like?’ question is a key aspect of really moving things forward in a planned and sustainable way. Of course, professional development and sharing of best practice are also critical ingredients. This must be looked at in a holistic manner. Success, at least in the meaningful systemic way, will not be achieved by addressing limited aspects of this agenda.

Food for thought and more thinking to go.

~ Mark