Thursday, March 26, 2009

21st Century Done Wrong

My previous post brought up the debate of core knowledge versus 21st Century skills. In this post I want to address why I think 21st Century skills emphasis sometimes goes wrong. Much of what takes place in the name of technology integration or 21C skills is actually a mere digitalization of what we already do. Instead of using a white board or overhead projector, we use PowerPoint to present the same notes. Instead of going to library to do research, we check out the laptop carts and let the kids search on the internet. Because we want to be sensitive to the fact that not all students have internet access at home, we "settle" for more shallow results. In the end when students have not reached the milestones we hear 21C is supposed to guarantee, we blame the methods.

As educators, we are constantly bombarded with news reports, university studies, etc. that say we are failing America's students. We are not able to compete in a global economy because we are not keeping pace with other countries in math, science, and technology. We are introduced to all kinds of gadgets and software. After a few hours of an afternoon inservice, we take our best shot at using them in the classroom.

This post is not a criticism of the teachers who give it their best or the administrators who push for implementation. The error occurs when the focus becomes the methodology instead of the content. One of the reasons we fall short in our implementation is we are not doing something that comes naturally. We are digital immigrants and not digital natives. We try to utilize software that we never use personally. When we do not know how something really works, we are not really able to utilize it.
I believe the first step in integrating these resources is to use them personally first. Many (Most)?) of us are not part of the digital generation. We don't think like they do. We try to speak a language we know nothing about. Once you become familiar with a tool, we won't have to try to had to find a way to use it. It will become more natural. We will then be able to focus more on the content (core knowledge) and skills (21st Century) because methodology will take care of itself.
What do you think? Any stories you'd like to share?

1 comment:

  1. Matt, I agree completely. When we as educators try to teach things that we have only seen we are failing the system. What ever happened to trial and error? It was good for us as students. Why is it not any good for us as adults? I can say that I currently use a number of different programs, and I am trying daily to figure out a way to use it with my students, even in WEIGHT TRAINING! So don't tell me that some of you out there can't use it in science, math, social studies, or english. I don't want to hear the excuses. I have a motto with my football team that goes like this..."No Excuses, No Exceptions!"