Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What is a 21st Century Learner?

I have been reading with interest lately, a variety of definitions about "What is a 21st Century Learner?"

One blog that I like to visit on occasion is called Teach Paperless. In June, Shelly wrote an interesting mission statement and personal mission statement about 21st Century Skills that all teachers should check out. Along with their mission statement, the writer also included a great list of 21st Century Skills that students require to become lifelong learners ready to take on an ever changing world as future workers. Here's the list:

• Critical Media Network Skills: the ability in a networked environment to recognize when you are being taken advantage of via special interests and the ability to argue within the dominant paradigm of a global network with acuity and accuracy based upon the application of historical, philosophical, creative, and intellectual skills grounded in the history of human thought and applied to the spontaneity and immediate global impact of 21st century networked communications.

• Participatory and Networked Information and Communication Skills: the ability to take part in one’s global society on equal footing with any other human via the immediacy and power of digital networks. Long-term, this may mean sharing any variety of networked consciousnesses.

• Collaborative Social Meta-Thinking: the ability to learn from and give back to both local community-based and global-based digital social networks. This may extend in future environments to nanotechnology merging with on-demand personalized virtual reality.

• Creative Network Confidence and Digital Community Stewardship: the ability to use the global network for both the purposes of creative problem solving and for the benefit of peaceful co-existence between peoples, animals, ecologies, and environments.

• Digital Cunning: students will learn that merely ‘using technology’ does not mean that you are either educated in or are a contributing member to the global network. Drawing on a strong Liberal Arts background merged with Digital Age critical thinking skills, students will be able to distinguish between participatory media and authoritarian media even when the latter cloaks itself as the former.

• Awareness of Digital History and Digital Divide: the ability to understand historical analog modalities and to recognize the value of pre-digital and non-digital media as well as the temporary nature of specific technologies within historical evolution; the ability to understand and through social action compensate for and help to eliminate digital distinctions based on economics, politics, geography, and race.

Another blog that I like to read is David Warlick's. On August 24th, Warlick wrote about a definition for What is 21st Century Learning? I found his definition interesting because he juxtaposes it with what skills a pre-digital learner required (listening, watching and remembering) compared to what skills a 21st Century learner needs now. Here's his definition:
In the digital age, where information is abundant (overwhelming) and the future is always a BIG question, I think that learning expands out of listening, watching, and remembering to include:
  • questioning your learning experience,
  • engaging your information environment,
  • proving (and disproving) what you find,
  • Constructing (inventing) new learning and knowledge [added later]
  • teaching others what you have learned
  • being respected for the power of your learning, and
  • being responsible for your learning and its outcomes

I also found Warlick's point about the term "engagement" interesting. Instead of making it the responsibility of the teacher to engage the students, he makes it the responsibility of the learner. "...attach the verb to the students. The students will engage with their information environment (textbook, whiteboard, Internet) to learn through questioning, experimentation, discovery, and construction)."

Since this is exactly what I'm trying to do this year while working within my new school structure, I think Warlick's post came at just the right time to help me to reflect and to reafirm what I'm trying to do in my classroom. More to come this weekend when I have the chance to reflect on the first 10 days of the school year under a new structure.