What does it take to be in the 21st century and have obtained skills ready for it? As a teacher, I'm constantly asking myself that. As a coach, I'm wondering what skills I can share with my colleagues to help them too.
This week, I watched three videos of examples of 21st century skills. One was from six years ago, and although slightly dated (because like technology, teaching practices are always evolving) it is still relevent to today's teaching. In this particular video, kindergarten students demonstrate 21st Century skills for self-direction. Students are able to express their learning goals, make choices about their learning, articulate their plans for learning, and demonstrate the ability to self-direct during independent work time. All these things are neccessary to being a self-driven, responsible student and life-long learner.
The second video I watched was how an elementary school was using videography and voice & choice to teach content curriculum to upper grade students. The students were sharing "Scar Stories" through personal narrative writing strategies. Students created their own videos using a green screen, graphics, and even voiceover work. The teacher guided them through the use of the technology, and then turned them loose to create. The teacher also was there to act as a mentor to answer questions and help push students to write in detail.
The final video was from a high school. In the video, students learned U.S. economics, current events, and math during a "Shark Tank" project. In this project, students design and create a mock business. They create a business plan, track spending and income, and even pitch their company idea to members of the community who pretend to be investors from the show "Shark Tank." The teacher even wears a cute shark hat! This lesson allows the students to take charge of their own learning and relate it to real-world problems. It also introduces students to skills they may need after high school, such as tracking spending and earnings.
Overall, the three videos were fantastic. Knowing that from Kinder through high school, 21st century learning is happening, gives me hope for the future.
"How many more minutes until recess?"
When I first started teaching (15 years ago), I must've gotten that question fifty times in the first day alone when I taught first grade all day. It's a simple, yet complex question. Almost a trick question, really. If I say the time, they won't understand the meaning of that. If I say "soon", they'll still not understand and think it is happening right now. And if I say, "School started ten minutes ago, it's not for a long time," well....they'll cry.
How do I instill a sense of time to someone who says, "Tomorrow, I went to the park. It was so fun!"? Back then, first graders needed to know how to tell time by the hour and half hour. I would teach, they took a test, end of story. But did they actually learn it? Do they understand how an hour is different from a minute, is different from a second, is different from a day? Surprisingly, some did. Of course, I differentiated the instruction to match all needs, but was it enough?
Personalized learning is different from differentiation. Personalized learning shows its appearance in many different ways. It might be each student using a computer program to teach math ideas, but at each students' own pace, while the algorythm is constantly restructuring the student's needs based on correct answers given. Dreambox Learning, is an example of this type of software. And Personlized learning might even look like each student is doing something completely different while the teacher walks around to support each student on their learning journey. It should also allow students to own their learning at their own pace with their own interests, strenghts, and talents taken into consideration.
And all this takes time.
Currently, as we are all on staycations, I am using Zoom and Seesaw to run my lessons for my first grade readers. I have found that Seesaw is an excellent way to differentiate student learning for these students. I am able to upload specific skills for each student based on their reading level. I am able to listen to their reading while giving specific feedback. But giving them the autonomy via Zoom isn't time well spent at the moment. I have 20 minutes with them. That's it. Only a few magical moments to teach phonics and comprehension before sending them off on the rest of their day, and hoping the lesson sticks as they work on their Seesaw lessons.
I will be teaching fifth grade next year. I am hoping to create lessons that will support student autonomy, critical thinking, and leadership. Through Google Classroom, research websites, and visual and performing arts, students will be able to create their own pathways to learn and present.
And again, it all takes time.
Sarah Magallano teaches 5th grade. She also coaches teachers on integrating art & engineering into their lesson plans.