The essentials of 21st century teaching
Several weeks ago my colleague Steve Goldberg shared a post on his blog that was not about teacher quality, but instead focused on Interdisciplinary Reading. I couldn’t help but be impressed as I read through Steve’s depiction of how he would lead students in an interdisciplinary exploration of current events, by engaging them first with two paragraphs of online content from The New Yorker, questioning and probing with eventual references made to other sources such as the Mega Penny Project and Science Daily, then learning about the life of Wangari Maathai, using web-based conversion tools to find the number of acres in Germany, and finishing with a literary discussion surrounding Red Scarf Girl.
Wow. All of that could emerge by reading just two paragraphs of content? It could. But my immediate push-back question to Steve was: How many teachers could support this journey? How many possess the necessary pedagogical and intellectual skill sets to do as you’ve described here, particularly with the fluid reference of online resources? As a result of some of our discussions in PLP, Steve began this Google doc brainstorming essential qualities of a “21st century educator.” Which of these skills do we see in our teachers today? In new teachers? Which are most desired, and why? (Feel free to add your thoughts to this document.)
Also consider the perspective of Mary Ann Reilly in her post Unpacking Common Core Standards. She sets the stage for her work with this introduction:
In order to better understand the middle school ELA Common Core State Standards, deconstructing the actions taken when engaging with a literary text can helpful. In this post, a series of performance and analysis tasks are explored and this is followed by examining the CCSS in order to see which of the standards were attended to. One of the ‘model’ texts included in the Common Core is William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Song of Wandering Aengus.”
Visit Reilly’s post to see evidence of this task with supporting media, instructional strategies, technology integration, and details of student engagement. I am not a middle school administrator, so I do not know if what she describes is typical instruction at this level, but it seems to me that due to her vast content knowledge and ability to pull from a well-developed pedagogical base, she can skillfully embed technology to enhance learning, while ensuring the focus is on the learner and the desired outcomes.
Being able to plan for instruction in the manner that Reilly describes, and guiding students through a learning journey such as Steve depicts, are not skills that an average teacher will simply “pick up on” if, all of a sudden, we ask them to “learn about technology” in the traditional sense. Professional development where we bring in a Smartboard trainer or we teach faculty about specific tools will not lead to enduring understandings about teaching and learning.
Developing familiarity with the technology can be a great first step, yes. But a realization of how technology impacts student learning is a much larger issue than just deciding which web 2.0 tool is appropriate for use with a lesson. Do our teachers know what types of technology will enrich — or potentially detract from — content or the learning process, and why?