Wednesday, January 23, 2008

clear and present conjecture

In Children of the Corn, kids murder people to satisfy their leader, "He Who Walks Behind the Rows". But HWWBtR is offended by their most recent offerings, so one boy, Isaac, decides to lower the age of sacrifice from nineteen to eighteen.

And "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" is a happy fella. And at some level, we're happy, too. Because once you put aside their murderous ways, you find yourself applaudingthese nefarious rug-rats for developing a pin-point, concrete age for sacrifice.

If only we could get, like Isaac provides, a 21st Century Learner to cite the year of their inception. I've read from a colleague that 1994 might be the exact date, although I'm curious to know the month.

But I'm not quite ready to grab that rock over there and chisel in a 21st Century Learner inception date. Additionally, I'd advise that we focus our efforts more on what's in front of us rather than playing the equivalent of the guess- how- many- jellybeans- are- in- the-plexiglass game.

Guessing the date is good ole' PETE&C fun, but it sure won't provide any of us with a forward direction that can help with creating professional development or solid instructional design.

Interest in when they arrived can't survive as an air-borne issue, but grappling with what it means to be a learner is of far greater import. We label our students and our own children as 21st Century Learners, but we're tossing the term 'learner' around their cherubic necks when they're still a nascent lot.

No overt journalisitic moment of discovery is needed to report that our students are heavily entrenched in the read-write, share and share alike web. Most come to our schools and don't need us to teach them a 'how-to'. They are adroit navigators on their own.

But are they learning from the use of these sites? Are they honing their analytical skills? Are they refining their ability to synthesize? Are they considering audience or are they just preening for one?

Remember your bedroom when you were in high school? Those posters of Farrah Fawcett or Marky Mark scotch-taped to your walls? Or over there, over your desk, the cork board replete with ticket stubs from concerts and movies and sporting events you attended...remember those?

Your room swathed in adolescent artifacts.

It was your space. You knew it as 'my space'.

Welcome to MySpace.

We're all still learning.

Say 'no' to born on dates.


Ian said...

The two key concepts to fostering 21st century learning are readiness and capacity of both students and teachers. Prensky wisely makes the statement that 21st century learners know how to make technology do what they need. That doesn't necessarily mean that they have all the skills necessary to create and evaluate using that technology. That's where teachers need to become the guide on the side. Use the skills that students already have to supplement your practice.

My vote (per my blog) is that many high school students are ready, but the middle grades are where you really see a genuine readiness and capacity in the majority of students. Our high school students are in some ways digital immigrants being brought to the 21st century thanks to CFF. The first place that I have seen the digital native concept (at SCA at least) is in this year's 8th grade who will continue to benefit greatly from CFF once they reach the high school.

ken said...

Thanks for the in-depth comment. While I would agree with Prensky's assertion that 21st Century Learners know how to make technology do what they need, there's a satirical rogue nested in me that would argue that getting the copier to double-side and staple better fall under Prensky's umbrella term for technology.

In truth, my son, a LeapFrog ClickStart and VTech something or other owning 'learner', is well on his way to getting technology to do his own dance, at the rhythm and meter of his choosing.

He's good at this already because he's had three years of careful manipulation of his parents!!!

The question of when these 21st Century Learners emerged is interesting, but as I'm sure you know from doing the same job like me, getting those born well before 1994 is really what matters most.

For if we stock our classrooms with all the latest and greatest gadgets, then shouldn't the educators in those rooms be, at some level, 'the latest and greatest'?

Again, thanks for the comment. Thanks for getting me to think!