Above & Beyond is a story about what is possible when communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity transform learning opportunities.
I still remember the structure and environment of my classroom when I was in Grade 6. There were about roughly 25 other students in the class and we had an array-like desk arrangement of 6 by 5, all 30 facing the chalkboard. Once every few months, our desks were rearranged in order for us to “engage” in different group settings, and/or to move away from those individuals that we were known to work “well” with.
Technology was not so huge. During Math periods, if we had finished any assigned questions earlier than expected, we were allowed to go on the computer to exercise our skills on Math Circus.
During my 15+ years of education, I was not prepared for the types of jobs and technology that exist in today’s time. That is where the challenge and flexibility exists in today’s classrooms. We are constantly driven to prepare our students for jobs and technologies that do not exist yet by taking them through the process of solving problems that may be tomorrow’s novel solution. So this is where teachers have to step back and ask themselves: “What are the critical 21st century skills every student needs to survive and succeed in a world that’s changing and developing as rapidly as ours?”
21st century learning is about getting our students to solve problems that really matter. Those that are real-life, authentic and they see potential for. It is about helping them reveal a purpose to the education that they are getting. Also, providing them with a wide range of opportunities to demonstrate their learning through different ways. As that of the Reggio philosophy, it is about students taking control of their learning and taking it a step deeper everyday by asking questions and being creative.
Our students are increasingly diverse and complex compared to that of 15 years ago. Likewise the resources that are used in the classroom have broadened from that of the simple set of textbooks to web resources and different means of digital technology that are merely at the tip of our fingers.
Many graduates are not as well-prepared as they hope to be once they graduate and leave for the real world. As educators that are on this moving walkway with the children, we need to be able to encourage our students to develop and embrace these skills for the future. Yes, students have been acquiring those key skills, such as:
- Knowing a trade
- Following directions
- Cooperating with one another
- Working hard
- Maintain professionalism
But to conform with that of society today, it is about:
- Thinking deeply about real issues
- Being able to solve problems creatively
- Working in a team environment
- Communicating clearly in various media
- Learning about new forms of technology
- Finding ways to take in the constant flow of information
- Taking initiative and leading when necessary
Embracing the 21st century learning environment, does not mean we are steering away from the 3 R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic. We are enriching the process of learning by moving away from one sided teaching to learning for all. For students to take part in today’s global community, they are encourage to master the 4 C’s – collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking – during the process of learning.
During our project development in FLL, students have to come to the full understanding that anything and everything can be easily found online. So in the end it is not about getting the children to think of things to research, but to think about them. We come up with a new set of questions every day during our IR sessions and the students have moved from their stance of “New questions? Again?!” to “Okay, we have more questions, this is good.”
“I believe in order for students to be successful in and out of the classroom today we need to create learning environments that give students the permission to construct knowledge, not receive it.” – Joseph Machado