It was the turn of the century. After schools thankfully survived Y2K, many of us turned to visioning 21st century instruction. And the class of 2020, was considered to be a monumental milestone on the 21st century edu timeline.
Fast forward to last Friday, April 24, 2014.
Friday was a good day. Wait, Friday was a GREAT day! Matt Weyers (blog, twitter) and I had the opportunity to go and present Divergent Teaching: 21st century strategies for education to teacher candidates at Winona State University. We also brought 5 co-presenters from Mr Weyer’s 6th grade class …which happens to be the class of 2020.
This was a great experience to co present with students. Each student shared how, within Mr. Weyers classroom, they had created their own online TV series via YouTube, created a survival guide for the city of Byron in the event of a zombie apocalypse, (Mr Weyers shared that the majority of his students self chose to turn in 10+ page plans and it was some of the best writing he had ever seen) and published their very own book on Amazon.com. (See student explain the project below)
In our small group discussions, students also shared how they had frequent skypes to Argentina, created roller coasters out of paper, and are currently collaborating with their art teacher to create works of art that will be on display in various businesses in Byron. (works of art will also be based on businesses and the goods/service they supply)
Its was very obvious that learning in Mr. Weyers classroom is fun but more importantly relevant and memorable. Kids shared how they loved to write and create.
As I reflect on this class of 2020, these are exactly the type of experiences that I would hope they would have. In these learning environments, kids do not question their teacher “why do we have to learn this?” because their work is authentic. Their audience – authentic.
I decided to ask a few of the teacher candidates, “Are you being prepared to develop learning experiences like this?” They shared that they have their devices (each is issued a laptop and an iPad) and they have a breakout technology class in which they are learning how to use SMART boards and other technologies. But they had not heard of back channels, Google forms, Google Communities, hangouts, and twitter chats. All of the teachers at my table knew what flipped learning was and how it worked, but did not know how to design or apply those types of experiences.
I also understood that an invitation went out to almost 200 candidates as well as their professors. We had 8 or 9 teacher candidates attend. These were an awesome group of individuals and shared with them that THEY were the teachers we were looking for. They are not waiting to learn in a “required” 3 hour workshop or class. We need teachers who have a growth mindset, who learn from failures to improve their practice. We are looking for teachers who challenge the status quo. One great way for teachers to learn how to do this is to develop their personal learning network (Sample from Kathy Shrock) and observe and collaborate with teacher leaders across the state/nation!
Here are 2 blog posts, I stumbled on tonight, by educators who have found value in developing their PLN.
If these soon to be teachers are not learning how to develop these learning environments in college – what about student teaching? Again, each had varying experiences (most did not have any) in designing and applying 21st century instruction due to the differences in the schools they were selected to serve.
And finally, I reflected on our own induction of new teachers into the Byron school system. If new teachers are not prepared for 1:1 iPads, Flipped/hybrid learning, Google Apps for Education, Project-Based Learning, and our new 21st century strategic plan – how will we do a better job in preparing them to create authentic learning opportunities with these technologies? It must be incredibly overwhelming for a new teachers to enter into our school system if they have not had formal training in 21st century learning design. This has really got me thinking and I think there are opportunities…but that will be for a later post.
All in all, I could not express how proud I was of these 6th grade students and of course their teacher – Mr Weyers. They absolutely loved their experience in this workshop and the overall experience at WSU. The learning opportunity was fantastic – again – writing and speaking in front of an authentic audience. (College cafeteria food was also a big hit!) They were very proud of themselves and could not wait to share with their families and friends what happened that day. It would be great to connect with these students and I have to wonder, 6 years from now, when they are preparing to graduate from Byron if the paths they have chosen were at all shaped by experiences they had in this 6th grade classroom.
We had a few minutes to spare so I asked the students what they learned that day. They all had varying responses and are going to create a reflective video for me about their experience. But one student comment really resonated when he responded, “I learned that teaching was a hard job”. Yes it is. Yes it is!