21st C. Learners- a new framework for my students & Classroom

This week I began the process of introducing my project to my PAA 8 students. This has been a nerve racking and exciting experience all in one! We literally are jumping right into this and going to learn as we go. It is a test or pilot project for me and them as I feel their school experiences have rarely been structured with open education and learning networks in mind. Although my goal is to shift my teaching to facilitate and develop a student-centered environment where learning is experienced through open education and learning networks, I quickly realized that this process does need to be structured to be successful. I need some clear objectives for the project to guide our learning and I must also explore with students what their understanding or literacy level is at regarding technology and 21st Century learning.

To get a baseline of my students’ experiences and literacy levels related to 21st Century learners, I surveyed my classes ask a series of questions that then generated some discussion. I asked basic questions to get the discussion going:

What technology do you use?     What social media do you use?     Why do you use it?

This helped to generate more questions and dialogue as students shared their understanding of technological tools and social media. What I learned is that many students are very tech savvy and use various technologies and social media with ease. This became very apparent when I introduced Symbaloo later in class and most of my students has an account created and were setting up and rearranging widgets before I could make one loop around the room. I had to watch a YouTube video to know what to do first!  Back to the survey/ discussion. What I learned was although my students had great literacy skills in being able to access the tools and use them, they were still illiterate in understanding the potential for learning. Much of their use centered around communication with friends and for entertainment or fun. Although several were able to give insightful examples of how to find quality information on the world wide web, they seemed to be largely unaware of how to maximize the learning network and what impact that will have on their lives as 21st Century learners.

So, the survey and introductory discussion led us to further discussion on what a 21st Century learner is, networked learning, open education resources, effective use of technology, and what learning environment changes and teaching/learning methods could improve the classroom to engage students, along with creating a positive digital footprint and finally how this all supports a new and complex definition of literacy (information literacy & digital/ social media/technological literacy are inter-connected).

Before I felt comfortable facilitating this discussion I did some research and found two videos that captured the essence of a 21st learning from a teaching perspective. For anyone that does not know much about this topic or is uneasy about introducing this to your students, I  found these are really helpful.

Then I found about ten more great videos that were geared to the student audience. I selected 5 that I could use with my students to help build our understanding of open education and networked learning (depending on the discussion, I would adjust which ones to use). I wanted students to fully understand that we are attempting to go beyond surfing the web for information, to engaging in  learning that will not only support the content of the PAA curriculum, but build their technological/ social media skills and ability to be a connected lifelong learner in the world of open education and networking.

      • How students are using tech in their lives today:
      • Students’ perspective- what needs to change in school:
      • Changing how we use tech in schools:
      • OER- Changing HOW we learn & WHO can learn:

After establishing an understanding of the shift I was proposing for our classroom learning environment, I shared some key outcomes with my students to affirm what we were doing:

The purpose of this project is to have students engage in a learning project that will:

  • Create authentic learning of PAA content
  • Provide experiential learning
  • Encourage development of a learning network (classmates & online- open education)
  • Teach students the importance of effective use of online technology and social media
  • Prepare students for future learning opportunities as 21st Century Learners
  • Develop technological and social media literacy- we are all learning together
  • provide a safe environment to network as a class and with other networks we connect to

Although I did not list involvement of parents or the school division as an outcome, the safe environment bullet above led us to a discussion about appropriate use and being sensitive to individual needs or concerns from parents. When shifting to open education and networked learning, teachers must be cognizant of who their students interact with, what they’re sharing online, and who might access that information. Teachers must also follow their school division’s policies related to social media & technology use, ensure that the correct paper work is completed, and that parents have consented to using such tools in the classroom. I have worked through that process to ensure that parents are informed and understand that my students will engage in a safe learning atmosphere that goes beyond social media and the digital world being one of negativity or fluff!

Stay tuned for my next post…I will tell you more about parental concerns, what I learned about mitigating that, along with setting up personal learning environments (PLE’s) with my students using Symbaloo as our organizational tool.

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