Monday, November 18, 2013

Modern Learning

I had the opportunity about a week ago to spend some quality time with a few friends talking about the "future" of K12 Education. It was a wide ranging discussion but we kept returning in some shape or form to the idea of "modern learning" and "modern learners". I'm hopeful that some of what we talked about may lead to further discussions and perhaps some real, live, concrete action.

I then returned to my school where the following week I led a follow-up session to my "Do Better Things" conversation. Many folks in that original session wanted to continue that conversation, with the idea of actually changing that conversation into action at some point, so we met one day after school for about 90 minutes to try to figure out how to do that.

While I didn't repeat my presentation from the in-service day (many, but not all, of the people attending had attended the presentation on the in-service day), I did lead off with a short presentation to try to get them in a similar frame of mind at the end of a school day to hopefully get the discussion off on the right foot. After my short presentation we had a very good discussion and are moving forward with a few more meetings to try to solidify how we want to formally proceed.

For my presentation I decided to use the idea of Modern Learning/Learners as our jumping off point. I'm embedding the presentation below, even though it probably isn't that useful without the context of what I said.

But I did want to talk briefly about slide 15.
This year we expanded our Connected Learners program to all freshmen, meaning that all freshmen have a laptop of some kind. Next year it will be freshmen and sophomores, the following year it will be freshmen, sophomore and juniors, and then in August of 2016 our entire student body will have laptops.

This part of my presentation was focused on the question of "What changes?" when this happens. In August 2016 our incoming freshmen will be the class of 2020, which means they were born in 2002. So the slide above tries to put that in a bit of perspective.
  • These students are younger than Google and the iPod.
  • They pretty much haven't known a world without Facebook, Twitter and the iPhone.
  • The Inspired Writing reference is to a program in our district. Basically, it means that these students (at least the ones that have been in our district since then) have been on laptops in school since they were about 7 years old.)
  • You get the idea.
I also used some cultural references to try to drive the point home.
  • 9-11 has always been the twin towers and not how you call the police.
  • They’ve always had Homeland Security and the TSA.
  • They’ve always known what a “blog” and a “wiki” are.
  • “Like” has always been something you do on Facebook and not the way a valley girl talks.
  • The President has always been George W. Bush or Barack Obama. And a black man could always be president, and probably a 50% chance that a woman will be during their freshmen year. (And by the way, Clinton has always meant Hillary, not Bill.)
  • Amazon has always been a place to buy things and not a river.
  • You get the idea.
I think one of the challenges we face as educators (and parents, and citizens), is getting our heads around what "learning" looks like today, to put learning and schools in some kind of "modern" context that is drastically different than the schema we typically have in our heads. Obviously you could pick lots of different things to try to provide that context, but I think slides like this one - and the resulting conversation - might be one way to try to create that shared understanding of the modern learning/learner context.

What activities have you used to try to develop the modern learning/learner context? 

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