Friday, May 18, 2007

Learning in the 21st Century

I've been reading quite a bit about the type of skills that our kids are going to need to succeed in the 21st Century and I find myself particularly interested in one of them, self-directed learning. Steve over at Teach42 had a post the other day called Book Learning or DIY Education that got me thinking about it even more. In his post, he states :
Let’s face it, at the end of the day our current testing system tells us precious little about how ready students really are going to be for life beyond the school building. And there’s so much that students learn in schools that just doesn’t get tested. What grade did each of you get in “Ability to find new solutions to unexpected problems?” I don’t remember that being on my school’s report cards.
What I have realized lately is that my state test only assesses content knowledge. So that is the only thing that most teachers teach--content. What it does not assess is critical thinking skills, innovation and creativity, collaboration skills, and problem-solving ability. So, guess what, in most classrooms these skills don't get taught. This runs counter to the thoughts of corporate leaders, authors, and organizations focused on infusing 21st century skills into the classroom.

Unfortunately, preparing for the state test often leads to a traditional, teacher-centered approach. Kids learn that their teachers are the source of knowledge instead of becoming self-directed learners--learners who see themselves as active participants in the creation of their own knowledge.

In preparing for a presentation that I gave this past Tuesday, I reflected on the work my kids have done this year, researched the possibilities of Web 2.0, and found other examples of best practices with the Read/Write Web. What I discovered is how well a project-based approach centered around technology helps develop the skill of self-directed learning. In creating a multimedia blog entry or wiki page, students are forced to look for resources that best serve their needs. By linking to another page, they must make sure that the page has accurate information that, once again, supports their needs. All of this helps them develop critical skills that will stay with them long after they have forgotten the content.

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