It’s Time To Step Up

“I plead guilty, your Honor.”

If I were unfortunate enough to find myself on trial in the Web 2.0 court for not practicing what I’ve preached, I would undoubtedly have to utter the words above.  In fact, in the spirit of full disclosure, I felt somewhat criminal as I knowingly wrote my November newsletter article proclaiming the merits of the read/write web and its interactive nature (especially for our young learners!) in a static newsletter format.  Let’s face it, a one-way document about the necessity of using two-way communication technologies may not earn one residence in Gitmo, but should at a minimum grant one entry into the Land of the Misfit Toys.

Coincidentally, I was recently reading a blogpost by Will Richardson entitled “Why Blogging is Hard…Still.”  In his post, Richardson describes the difficulty we adults have mustering the courage to put ourselves out there – to write something for an audience and welcome comments back.  As one who has written publicly for a while, it isn’t infrequent that folks will make mention that they read one of my articles.  Those who choose to do so are generally complimentary, a fact that likely has a lot more to do with human nature than any proclivity that I have to generate good will!  As I contemplate an interactive site, however, my mind jumps to fear of the unknown.  What might people say?!? 

It’s time for me to step up.  This article appears not only in the newsletter, it is also part of my blog (sconner007.edublogs.org) which will also be linked on the front page of our website, and I hope that the blog helps expand the conversation between home and the school. 

On a related note, during a recent staff discussion of the book Professional Communities at Work, we wondered aloud whether we truly tap the potential of our school community and make the ultimate use of the professional talents and knowledge base of our parents, and our conclusion was a resounding no.  That is not something that we want to shout from the highest mountaintop, but we do want to spread the word of our interest in changing this practice.

Not only would I like to encourage discourse about school issues as they appear in these articles, I would also like to start a conversation using a separate network between our parents – professionals in so many different areas – and our students, who are developing their interests and talents, and seeking professions in which to use them.  The human resources available in our town are astounding, and it is our goal to foster the relationship between these two entities.  By using technologies available to us today, we can establish long-term, interactive relationships without even changing work schedules, or making trips to school.  We can also find better ways to connect our instructional and learning activities to authentic applications and “real world” experiences.

Are you interested in adding your expertise to the ZMS experience?  Do you have a career about which students should know but probably don’t?  Are you willing to write or otherwise interact with us on a regular basis?  If you answered yes to these questions, then ZMS wants you.  If your spouse would answer yes to these questions if he/she were reading it, then ZMS wants him/her.  And if ZMS wants you or your spouse, please contact me (sconner@zcs.k12.in.us) so that we can discuss further details. 

Furthermore, if you have thoughts, comments, or opinions about this blog post or any of the others available below, please join the conversation.  We adults may not hang out on Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace, but there is much to be learned and gained from connecting with one another.  Are you guilty of being nervous, too?  Muster the courage.  If this defendant can do it, anyone can.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

A Shot Across the Bow

Jay Matthews of the Washington Post recently posted an article entitled “The Latest Doomed Pedagogical Fad: 21st Century Skills.” The good ship “21st Century Skills” has yet to be tested on open waters and already a shot across the bow! Somalia is not the only place with pirate problems.

Most disconcerting is the complete lack of understanding of what these skills are – and that they are not new! The Partnership for 21st Century Skills outlines these skills as: 1. Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes, 2. Learning and Innovation Skills (Creativity and Innovation Skills, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills, Communication and Collaboration Skills), 3. Information, Media and Technology Skills (Information Literacy, Media Literacy, ICT Literacy), and 4. Life and Career Skills (Flexibility & Adaptability, Initiative & Self-Direction, Social & Cross-Cultural Skills, Productivity & Accountability, Leadership & Responsibility). After dusting off my 20th Century second edition of Best Practice, I reminded myself that this work, despite being more than a decade old, is completely aligned with the Partnership’s skill list. The Best Practice Principles – a staid and respected collection – are: Student-Centered, Experiential, Holistic, Authentic, Expressive, Reflective, Social, Collaborative, Democratic, Cognitive, Developmental, Constructivist, Challenging. When I cross reference these lists, I am astounded at the similarity.

What, then, is the difference? Interesting question, I think. In terms of content, “the what,” I would argue that there is no difference. I don’t even believe that a valid argument could be made that the “how” has changed – writing for an audience hasn’t changed with the proliferation of technology, it’s simply a different tool to achieve the same “how.” In other words, the “how” and “what” are the same, it’s just the “with what” that changes.

Does that then tell us that this “21st Century Skill Stuff” is the same old, same old? Is there truth to Matthew’s argument that the 21st Century Skills are a doomed fad? Shiver me timbers. No! It means that there is substance in this Matthews proclaimed fad. It means these ideas weren’t created by a gaggle of people bent on bringing social networks and gadgets into the classroom. It means that, while some people weren’t watching, tools were created that happen to be perfect to use towards the ends that Zemelman promoted before we knew that we were only working with Web 1.0. It means that the goals of pedagogues do not differ from those of techies.

It means that we need to be prepared to defend the ship, so batten down the hatches.

The good news is that we won’t be fighting with fluff.