Last week I went to the iNACOL conference in Orlando on online and blended learning. It was a great experience and gave me a lot to think about. There were a lot of great discussions on personalizing learning and competency based learning. There was also much emphasis on the need to go deeper and not focus so much on just trying to cover "all the content." I find I often get side-tracked by all the material I feel needs to be covered. It is always good to be reminded that I need to keep the bigger picture in mind. At iNACOL, I heard a lot of talk around college and career readiness and 21st century skills. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, these skills focus on collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. As I reflect on the activities and assessments my students complete, I want to keep these skills in mind. One of the speakers at the conference talked about how the answer to making changes in education isn't about using more technology, it is about what we do with the technology. It is also so easy to get focused on finishing all the units, getting ready for a test, or just surviving the year.
The people who succeed in the work world do not succeed because they are the smartest or contain the most knowledge. They succeed because they know how to adapt, think outside the box, collaborate with others, come up with novel solutions to problems, manage their time, evaluate what is working and what is not, etc. It is not about the covering all the content. It is about creating a generation of students who can think critically, creatively, and capitalize on finding the best tools to answer questions and solve problems. I want to give my students more opportunities for authentic assessment that enriches their learning experience and leads to greater self-awareness, growth, and sense of ownership.
Motivation is often a teacher's best friend and greatest enemy. You can plan engaging units and even project based learning opportunities and have students still only put the minimum effort into the process. Many students do not want to think or be challenged. I think before spending too much time planning elaborate units, I need to step back and give more thought to helping my students understand what motivates them. Students need to feel a sense of ownership, accountability, and choice in what they do.
I am getting ready this week to go to the NAGC conference about gifted education. I came away from iNACOL really thinking about how I can facilitate opportunities for my students to really reflect on who they are as learners. I think a big part of those 21st century skills is going to be recognizing one's strengths and weaknesses, knowing how to best work with both in different contexts, and knowing how to set and evaluate goals. Throughout the month of November, I am hoping to do some lessons and activities on goal-setting, learning styles, and a lot of self-reflection.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to share some meaningful posts with you as I mentally work through how I can best help my students become 21st century learners. How do you encourage self-awareness and understanding of learning styles in your classroom?