Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century

Recently, the Technology Committee at Hamden Hall watched and discussed the PBS special:  Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century. This committee is comprised of faculty, staff and admin from all divisions. It is a group of innovative, outstanding educators who continue to explore new ways to engage our students.

Here is some background information about this video. Here is a link to the full show.

We had an amazing conversation following the video and wished we had more time…. I am hoping that the committee shares additional thoughts on our newly started Professional Development Blog.

Here are a few things that resonated with me in this video “Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century”:

1) “How do we get people prepared to learn, in the future, the things that don’t even exist today?” The rapid pace of emerging technology is astounding. We are all well aware that the tools of today may look/ feel different in 5 years, or even in 2 years. So, why bother? This video really underlined for me that it’s not about the specific tools (the Voicethread, PowerPoint, Voki, Glogster, etc.). It’s really about teaching students (and modeling) how to be a lifelong learner. Critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and being a global citizen are the essentials that must be at the forefront of everything we do to prepare our students for the 21st century.

2) “Technology needs to be ubiquitous, necessary and invisible.” Invisible??? Yes… invisible! It needs to be part of everyday life. The increasing presence of smartphones, iPads and laptops on our network, as evidenced by the 100 additional web filter licenses we needed following the holiday break could lead us toward “invisibility”, if we just let it. If we embrace the technology the kids have in their hands, it could change everything.

3) All of the different learning environments spotlighted in the video had one common theme: the students OWNED their work. They were DOING something (producing videos, designing games, creating scavenger hunts, discovering viruses, re-discovering history etc.). It was amazing to watch how excited the students were! In our discussion following the video, we talked about skills…are these students still taught the skills they need? The spokesperson from “Quest to Learn”, a school with a curriculum based on gaming, says yes. “Quest to Learn” meets all state standards and takes all standardized tests… and then some!  Here is a link I found regarding this: http://insideschools.org/index12.php?fs=1945&all=y. Although the verdict is still out (according to this link), I would argue that a standardized test could not even begin to capture the learning that these students experience on a regular basis.

Overall, I loved watching this and got even more out of it the second time. Worth the 52 minutes for sure!

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Another NYC Adventure… TEDxNYed

Last Saturday, Sarah Ludwig (@sarah_ludwig) and I went on another professional development adventure to NYC– TEDxNYed.

We got off the subway and made our way to 7 World Trade, all the while talking about what we were doing and where we were on September 11, 2001. We stopped in front of the site- reflected, said a prayer and took a few pictures.

It was an exhausting (in a good way) day filled with many inspiring educators who told stories and shared innovative ideas about education.  While all of the speakers (and the musical group @morley) were amazing, I’d like to share a few of the ideas that continue to resonate with me over a week later.

Alan November, a favorite of mine since I heard him speak at the NYSAIS conference at Mohonk years ago,  started off the day with the idea that we should all be using technology to make the world a better place. “Are your students leaving a legacy?” Students need to be guided to live a life of purpose.  Students will actually ask for “more work” if they are making a contribution.

Next was Homa Tavangar, author of “Growing Up Global”, who talked about the fact that our schools are so narrowly focused on  being competitive- to score highest on the test, get into that college, win! She talked about how to be global citizens. Start with what you love. Take small steps. Find, follow, watch, give, listen!

Lucy Gray had a clear message of  “There’s no excuse for not going global!”  It’s not true that technology disconnects. For many of us it IS our global connection tool! Its time to connect your classrooms! This is the second time I’ve heard Lucy Gray speak and she was equally inspiring the second time. Visit her website http://globaleducation.ning.com/ for more information on global education.

Kiran Bir Sethi, a teacher in Ahmedabad working effectively for social change, shared this profound statement (via video): “When children are empowered, they do “good” AND do “well”. If we teach locally, collaborate globally, we can build community!

Brian Crosby gave a lot of great advice from his 30 years of teaching experience. “Don’t teach kids how to be taught, teach them how to learn”.  He showed many awesome examples of collaborative, hands-on projects.

Having participated in an online webinar with Heide Hayes Jacob this summer after reading her book “Curriculum 21”, I was so excited to hear her again.  She opened with the statement: “What year are you actually preparing your students for? Are we preparing students for 1991 (because we were happier then…?” How true! What I like most about Heide is that she doesn’t just  shout “reform”, she gives practical ways for teachers in the classroom, to change things TODAY.  Upgrade one  move at a time. New versions of structures: schedule, student & personnel grouping, and space. Silo-ing is dangerous. She ended with a powerful statement: Get time out of the way! Future schools now! Thank you @heidehayesjacob. You always inspire me!

Luyen Chou, former Associate Head of “The School at Columbia”, co-founder of Brooklyn Prospect Charter School Chief Product Officer at Schoolnet, Inc. shared that “the basic skills gap may be best closed by addressing 21st C skills. We can impact education with assessment by changing the assessments. ” The same old tests won’t work! I completely agree with this! Assessments and learning can, in fact, be one in the same thing.

I have known Steve Bergen for many years. He has given me great advice via the Independent School listserv and I appreciate it.  He was the last speaker of the day (for us) as we needed to catch the train.   He did his talk “in reverse” and kept us on the edge of our seat the entire time. He talked about the practicality of needing the basic skills to progress in this world. Skills and projects are not mutually exclusive. He made statements like: It’s not about hardware and software – it’s about humanware! Figure out ways to get kids out of their comfort zone. Need to work on students’ “plan B” skills! What to do when things go wrong. I think this is a skill we all need to work on. What a way to end the day! Steve was hilarious, inspiring and engaging!

Overall, what I got most out of the day is a definition of innovation that is acceptable to me. We have been discussing innovation for a while on the #isedchat on twitter…. this one sits “right” with me:  “Innovation is a willingness to question and change everything.” I wish I could credit the person who said it. I wrote it down and tweeted it, and retweeted it. Thanks for this!

TEDxNYed surpassed my expectations. Thanks to all the organizers! I look forward to re-watching and sharing some of the talks when the videos are posted online.