“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
— Lewis Carroll
There is a tendency when beginning a new journey to simply want to get on with it. Pack up, head on out. I have certainly been guilty of this myself. In the frenetic pace of activity and competing demands, jumping into action is second nature for me. Yet, without a clear vision of where we are heading, we run the risk of following any road and ending up nowhere.
The many ways that the term “21st Century learning” has been applied — to various technology deployments, to flipped classrooms, to any number of digital tools — can blur our view of its meaning. At times, the discussions that swirl around these initiatives seem to place more emphasis on the device or tool, rather than on the larger purpose — what it is we want our kids to learn and be able to do as active, thinking, engaged citizens.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed to digital learning tools or their use in classrooms. I am firm believer in the potential of technology to transform learning by providing opportunities for students to explore, create, collaborate and communicate. And, I also understand that there is a need for caution in not mistaking the tools for the outcomes.
Two thoughtful educators have helped me along my journey in bringing my vision into focus. In his recent blog post, “Varied Visions of 21st Century Learning“, Daniel L. Frazier (@DanielLFrazier) points out, it is not just about applying new tools to outmoded instruction, but rather making a real difference in how students interact with others, make meaning and share their learning.
Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) takes this idea a bit further. Drawing upon the work of Robert Marzano, Richard and Rebecca DuFour and Richard Ainsworth, he argues that we need to focus our attention on the knowledge and skills that meet the “endurance-leverage-readiness test” — those that will have lasting impact, will have broad application and will prepare kids for the next level of learning. In short, he astutely concludes: “Wiki’s and Skype aren’t skills. Instead, they are tools that can make working with individual skills easier” (“Making Good Technology Choices“, accessed January 3, 2013). I couldn’t agree with him more.
If we want to make sure that we are on the road heading toward true transformation of our schools, then clarifying the outcomes our students will need to be fully prepared for their future is an essential first step.
I’d like to hear your thoughts and reactions. Please feel free to comment.