Monday, March 28, 2011

My Top 5

It seems like you can't turn a blog page or roll over a twitter tweet these days without coming across a "top five 21st century skills" page. As the saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So, here goes. After my two years in the U of C MT program, this is my top five list:

1. Critical Thinking and Analysing skills
As has been stated over and over in books, articles, and anywhere you look for current ideas on education, teachers are no longer gateways to information. We're in an information age where ideas and...well, information, bombard us from every angle. Our students have instant access to this through technology. Our jobs as teachers need to shift accordingly to provide students with ways to approach all this knowledge and information with a critical, analytical eye. It's about learning the stuff worth learning rather than just the stuff. It's also about agreeing to disagree and gaining perspective -a life skill in a global world.

2. Technological Savvy
Technology is today and it is the future. It changes so rapidly that sometimes it's overwhelming. I don't see this as meaning that, as a teacher, you have to keep up with the latest, greatest tools. That's what ed researchers and grad students are for! However, students will need these skills in the future so we need to incorporate as much *useful* technology into their learning as possible and be open to their ideas about using technology. I wonder what students could come up with on the learning benefits and curricular ties of some video games? Furthermore, technology often cuts down on rudimentary tasks and provides openings for diverse representations of learning.

3. Growth Mindset
Boy, Carol Dweck is never going to live this one down...not that she would want to. After reading Dweck's book last year I haven't been able to get her ideas out of my head. It's one of those things where you go around assessing people in the grocery store; you suddenly think you have all this perspective. Instead of just focusing on confidence building, which can often be misconstrued as simply overpraising children, teachers can focus on developing students' growth mindsets. This is tied into being a 21st century skill because of how rapidly our world is changing, both with technology and the environment. Students with growth mindsets have been shown to be more resilient in the face of change.

4. Collaborative skills
This is kind of a no-brainer and is probably on everyone else's top five. Two minds are better than one...better yet, 5 minds are better than one. Great minds don't think alike and they do amazing things together. Technology has broken cultural, linguistic, and geographical barriers, leading to globalization. What an exciting time to be a student...and teacher!

5. Ecological Awareness
For some reason, I've spent a very long time with the assumption that environment is not heavily related to formal education. It seems ridiculous now that I'm writing it (and actually I'm kind of embarrassed). I am a huge recycler, use chemical free cleaners in my house, drive a fuel efficient car when needed, and walk to university everyday. Heck, I even compost. Yet, somehow I didn't make a very strong connection between the environment and teaching. Well I am tearing down this barrier like a Berlin wall! I'm ready to move beyond recycling. 21st century learners are too! It's about being proactive, not reactive. Reactive measures still have a place but they can no longer suffice as the sole objective of ecological education. Composting, naturalization projects, and lobbying, oh my!

Well, that's that. What do you think? What's in your top five?

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