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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Learning to be a 21 century teacher

TeacherImage by tim ellis via FlickrMany of our teachers and parents are wondering what it means to be a 21 century teacher, and how do they go about starting?  It is hard to even conjure up a place,  or space in our brains to know where to begin.  The beauty of it all is that our students often know where to begin.  Why? Because they know the online sources, tools and resources more than we do. 

So as a flipped home school parent or teacher how do I start a project/research essay with my student?  How do I guide them to incorporate excellent resources, while using Godly discernment.

Here are some ideas which I think fit beautifully into creating the most perfect setting for 21 century learning, and may help you to fulfill learning outcomes:

The first thing I do is let my son start the research.  I give him ideas where to find his materials, using all the amazing databases, and search engines that are on our learning commons website.  I check them over to see if he has understood the validity, reliability and authority of his sources.  This may take a week or two as he delves into reading and researching.

As he reads he starts to formulate questions in his mind.  We start tackling the essential questions,  and Christian worldview starts to percolate, along with a possible thesis statement.  We have used An Elegant Essay to establish a good starting place for formulating the written structure of an essay. 

Matthew is using virtual worlds this year with his teacher Gord Holden to critique his Grade 10 history period by writing, building and connecting with other students.  He is  loving the whole project based learning approach, and can't wait to dive creatively into history.

He explores Discovery Streaming for images, videos on the Metis, along with Ebscohost for secondary resources and the amazing DVD series Canada A People's History.   History is now multi-sensory and learning is exciting.  Along the way he might decide to add some of his own resources, change the thesis statement and start again.  But he is motivated, and inspired!

As an English teacher I need to make sure that Matthew is covering the 5 essential parts of the curriculum, reading, writing, viewing & representing, listening and speaking.  He also needs to incorporate critical thinking into all his work. 

The first thing Matt does as he starts to take notes is open his  Symbaloo account (site that houses all his favourite tools), or Folder in Ebscohost where he can save all his URL's and find the correct MLA citations, ready to be copied and pasted for his bibliography.  He then goes to his blog or Google Docs where he starts his writing process. 

My role is to sit and listen, and help him make decisions and guide him with lots of where, why, how and when questions to see God in the story. His teacher Gord directs him in his building and collaborates, shares, marks and encourages.   Thank you Gord!!  You are an amazing 21 century teacher.

During this term Matt has learned the  Physics of how to make a train move, the physical geography of Canada and the history of  Confederation.  He has had to study the cultural period of that time, including the architecture, clothes, crimes, and artifacts found in the Library Archives of Canada. 

In my book club we are using Collaborize Classroom as a closed social networking system to bring our novels to life.  I find a movie trailer to start our discussions on the books, get the students hooked on reading and then they continue with their own amazing topics for discussion.  In our recent Blackboard discussion all students prepared their own questions and led the event.  My role is to moderate, listen and guide.  They are deconstructing the novels in their own way, and they love the leadership opportunities.

In our new Ning I can foresee an amazing social and educational learning space transforming students and families,  as we share what is happening in our own communities in a fenced environment.  Teachers start to form their own groups based on book clubs, computer or sports groups.  Students start to communicate and share their images, or videos in their particular niche.  Some of our teen geek squad may share their own videos and teach us how to be computer savvy.  As we share our ideas and collaborate we are giving rise to our students' voice and emotional well being.  They are being heard,  and prayerfully God is involved in this transformation. 

As Matt builds in his virtual world,  other students might make videos and share their learning. I am hoping that some of my book club students might make  movie trailers to share their book reviews  for their next novel.   Common Craft have some easy to use ideas for students making simple videos, or IMovie has generic trailers to authenticate, along with  Animoto

So if you have a student who is stuck in textbook land and traditional style classrooms, ask them if there is another way they might enjoy learning?  If you are unsure how to go about doing this ask your Support Teacher for ideas.  Let us take our students to the next level of learning so that they can become leaders in the 21 century and teach us to be listeners, encouragers, coaches, and facilitators as we dance in this new era of learning.  Let us help our students become digital writers using Google Docs, blogs, and social networks.  We can guide and point them in the right direction to learn how to navigate the web wisely and with discernment.  

I welcome your thoughts:)


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  1. Love it Pippa. Especially the "Surprise me!" part. When we are prescriptive, we should not be surprised to get "the usual" results. But when we create a vacuum for the student's imagination, anything becomes possible. Well supported and resourced, students have seldom disappointed me. Each one is endowed with a unique genius that few (if any) text books were designed to inspire and release.

    Matt's project for this term is brilliant. It will illuminate the relationship between resources, politics, economies, and communities within a Canadian context following Confederation. But it will also demonstrate in a visible way the universality of the fallen nature of mankind, and how it has a similar negative impact across all time and space.

    Makes me glad to be a teacher in the 21st century. :)

  2. Thanks Gord. Yes prescriptive is something I am trying to move away from. Still like some of my rubrics but guess that comes with the territory:) I need to trust more! Blessings Pippa

  3. Ah yes, the rubrics. I actually like them too, but only if the goals stimulate creativity, insight, and innovative thinking arising from their research rather than making the research itself the goal. I’ve always tried to have the PLOs met, but in ways that meets the students’ own personal curiosity and interest. I just recently discovered that there is a name for this pedagogy. Here is a website detailing it and some very progressive steps (in my opinion) by School District 43 (Coquitlam).


    SD43 has also embraced Quest Atlantis and the use of virtual immersive environments for learning. I like to think the training and experience they’ve gotten in these areas has played a role in their progress. I’ve heard there may be more exciting and significant news shortly from this district as well. They are clearly embracing the challenge of trying to bring education into the 21st century.

  4. HI Gord,
    Yes I had read that article about the school in School District 43 and I totally support you in believing that innovation, critical thinking and creativity is at the heart of every good project. Research should be a natural and insightful process that comes from motivation and a desire to learn. When it is derived from a teacher's prescribed set of outcomes that is not reflective of the student's ability, or focus I think the desired outcome will be boring and staged. However a good teacher can teach and encourage new skills all the while giving freedom. Working alongside students and figuring out what makes them tick like you do in project based learning in virtual worlds, allows you to take time to decipher a child's bent. From there it requires some structure to formulate a thesis and also a presentation mode whether that be in virtual worlds, research essay, trailer, video or Glog. Bringing our students into the 21 century but still retaining the boundaries ah there lies the rub. I still like to challenge Matt to think about Christian worldview and help him brainstorm for analytical questions. Not many students know how to do this? Because most of our students are spoon fed from textbooks and have got used to closed questioning. To move onto Bloom's taxonomy questions, and Christian worldview takes time, and evaluation and a lot of work. It sounds like our ministry is really trying to move from the mold set and make a difference! Hallelujah!


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