I’m attending the Every Child a Graduate conference in Madison, WI and just sat in on a presentation from Stephanie Reid, who is a middle school teacher in the Rivers Falls (WI) school district. You know how time flies when you are having fun? Well, time also flies when you are engaged and learning a lot, which was the case with Mrs. Reid’s presentation, “In with the new: Addressing the needs of the 21st century learner.” Stephanie is a very enthusiastic Brit who now teaches here in WI. I loved what she shared because of her passion for students, knowledge of technology, and creativity.
[Quick aside: As I type this I’m listening to the Black Keys Brothers album. It’s awesome. You need to listen/buy this.]
I think many people (especially educators) hear the term 21st century skills and think it means that we should give each 7th grader an iPad and a Twitter account and then the magic will happen, and we’ll all enter a world of technical and economic enlightenment. What I loved about Mrs. Reid’s presentation today was that it was not focused on technology, but rather on skills like collaboration and creativity. It’s about the thinking, not about the tech gadgets. The stuff enables thinking to produce different results and enables collaboration. I lift the following from her presentation handout, “For me, virtual learning cannot replace the critical and sometimes magical and even profound impact that a teacher can make upon the lives of students that pass through our classrooms.” She loves technology, but not at the sake of the relationship that happens between a teacher and student.
If you look through her school page (http://www2.rfsd.k12.wi.us/meyer/teachers/mrsreid6/Home.html) you’ll see many great examples of student-centered projects and activities that allows (expects) kids to be creative, resourceful, and lean on one another for help. In some brief snooping of the other teacher sites at Meyer MS, it looks like Mrs. Reid is not the only creative teacher there. Check out the fantastic blog from her fellow teacher Cory Klinge.
Some links/resources she shared/mentioned: Ken Robinson (she had me at Ken Robinson), Mark Prensky’s book Teaching Digital Natives, TED talks (from SKR, Sugato Mitra, and Diana Laufenberg), Disrupting Class from Clayton Christenson, Alan November, Susan Brookhart’s How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills.
Her question for pondering to us was, “What message are schools sending students when they ban the technologies that students most frequently use?” Great point. These tech tools are things that can be used for good or evil, so let’s teach kids how to use them appropriately. The benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Her closing thought to us was, ” Teachers and schools can continue to be a powerful presence in the lives of students. BUT, in order to play an important role in the education of young people in this country, we must adapt and change so that we, who live and teach in the 21st century, can address the needs of the 21st century learner. If we do not change, we run the risks of making ourselves redundant.”
Sometimes you go to a presentation and wish you would have sat closer to the door to slip out and get to the cookie table before the crowds arrive. But fortunately for me, I found myself in this session led by a dynamic and passionate teacher.