Saturday, December 8, 2007

Why we need to teach students 21st century skills

Today's comic from xkcd reminded me of how it is the 21st century and times have changed. It is not like I am super old or anything but a lot of changes have occurred in regards to technology, government, teaching, life and I started thinking about the ongoing challenge of convincing great teachers that it is important to teach or expose students to the tools available for them on the world wide web.

And then I read this quote from my Good Earth tea bag:

"We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future." - Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)

On Friday, one teacher became very passionate about why he does not want to let go of the techniques he uses to teach his students. He talked about how he wants to "perpetuate" some of the skills from his past. (The day before, the head librarian, made a comment, which I am not even sure was about and he claimed that I said it. He was really adamant about wanting to perpetuate the way he was taught and teaches. He commented about how that comment made it sound like "the past" was detrimental. Then he was all up in my space and in my face and I just ignored him.) However, I think he missed the point of our conversation. No one said anything about not teaching "old" skills, like close readings or face-to-face discussions about books or labs, we were just discussing how there are new tools out there that students need to be aware of and where they can practice these same skills only in a different environment, an online one.

My cohort, Ambookgeek, is one of the individuals in charge of our Moodle site and is also on the edtech committee, and is presenting to our fellow teachers about why we need to prepare our students for the future. As a blogger and user of various web 2.0 tools, I understand what he will be discussing but I feel as if he will be presenting to a hostile group. There still seems to be 2 camps - (1) willing to use these tools, who see their value and (2) those who do not see the point of them. At times, I notice the eye-rolls, the comments made in the hallways, the loud sighs, "oh oh..web 2.0 again." However, I think feeling that way will be detrimental to our students. Students are not prepared for the type of thinking, collaboration and other skills that using these tools helps develop. These are skills that they practice in an enclosed classroom environment but with the read/write web, they can take it outside of the classroom to a wider and more diverse audience.

During the course of the discussion on Friday, that teacher commented that he saw more value in face-to-face conversations and why do you need to have a forum when students can do it when they are in the hallways walking to class. We kept mentioning that we were not devaluing that interaction but now there are other ways to interact that students are already using. Instructors/teachers/librarians also need to ask the question, "how are we preparing students for the future?" Yes, they are learning these core subjects but what about utilizing these new tools and exposing them to how to be better citizens offline and online?

I think, it will be an interesting meeting because (1) some of the teachers feel that it will only add to their work load and (2) they do not see the point and in talking to some of them, do not even seem willing to try these things out.

Not all the teachers are like this so there is hope. I was showing my friend "Clipmarks" and he was thinking it would be a great tool to use for his science classes. I will have to show him an example from LibGuides: Next Generation Research Tools page.

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