Deprogramming Students for 21CL

“Just give me the answers.”

“Why won’t you help me? You’re the teacher.”

“This project is going to take FOR…EVER. Ugh.”

“You mean I actually have to think on this assignment?!?”

Ever heard one these grumblings from one of your students? Believe it or not, it’s a good thing. It means your learning environment is transitioning. Our students are programmed to succeed in the traditional educational system. They want to continue to use BASIC while the world now requires them to know Objective C.

FACT: The recent shift to 21st century learning – promotion of skills like creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, curation, and innovation – is just as difficult for students to embrace as it is for teachers. Shocked?

Our kids are accustomed to the age-old game of content acquisition (passive learning) and testing (regurgitation). And many have gotten downright amazing at it. You know them. They’re typically your honor students. The ones who breeze through the homework and ace all your tests. They average a 98% or better in your class. And they’ve found a nice, warm, cozy niche in your educational environment. The problem is that information, once scarce, is now abundant and instantly available in today’s world.

So now, you’re challenging them to move. You’re asking them to take knowledge  and do something with it (other than just spew it back to you). You’re asking them to design. Create. Innovate. Share. Debate. Present. Choose. Imply. Ask questions. Manipulate the content – and do so in a team with others.

It’s not going to be an easy adjustment for some of them. And, as teachers, we must understand the challenge involved in figuring out the rules of this new game – 21CL. So, what can we do to help our students then?

Have you encountered student resistance to 21CL activities in your classroom? How have you handled it? Found anything that works? Share your experiences with the E21 blog community. Comment on this post.

We have to “deprogram” our students by increasing the 21CL opportunities. We have to talk with them about the fact that the game is changing. Discuss the new “rules” when you implement a PBL unit. Explain that it may seem at times like you’re not teaching them, but that’s because you want them to learn. The active process is now theirs, not yours. It’s because you want them to take ownership of their own learning. Assure them that you are not abandoning them – and they can call on you for help and guidance as they explore. Expect mistakes along the way…and encourage your students to learn from failure. You are their 21st Century Tour Guide.

Failure is okay. Some of the world’s most successful people failed miserably while learning to succeed. Remind your students that they fail time and time again playing video games.

And yet, in the end, they always save the world.

Posted on 5 April 2012, in Collaboration Fluency, Creative Fluency, Solution Fluency and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. integratedintention

    Yes!!!!! My first year teaching I was very unpopular. I worked in a public school with senior physics students. These 12 year veterans of the “system” are true experts at the game of school. Like you said, they have almost mathematically minimized effort while simultaneously maximizing grades. Since I was using “modeling” methods, my class had different rules. Students hated it.

    Students found modeling to be so strange, that they didn’t even realize that it was working- they were learning. They did well on objective assessments. However, they felt like since I wasn’t “teaching,” they couldn’t possibly be “learning.” Back then, I thought reality would trump perception. Foolish, I know.

    At the time, I’d completed about 60 hours of training/practice with veteran physics teachers in “modeling” instruction. I’d read overwhelming research showing how modeling physics outpaces traditional. Perhaps most importantly, I’d successfully student-taught using modeling and saw it in action. Despite frustrated students & parents, I pressed on.

    Probably one of the most common mistakes that leaders with positional power make is believing that they can force their vision on unwilling subordinates. I didn’t look at teaching as leading then, but I do now. That year, my students ended up constructing at least an average understanding of physics. However, it was at a high cost. In most other ways my classes failed.

    I learned a lot from the whole experience. Now I introduce modeling gradually. I take great effort to make sure my class is a positive experience as often as possible by making it interesting. I emphasize successes and make sure communication is proactive. Above all, I build trust and respect with students before I ask them to play by different rules. Where forcing modeling made everyone miserable and ultimately failed, building buy-in works!

    I still sometimes get “you’re not teaching.” Overall though, students & parents are generally content. More importantly, my students are getting it. Just the week before spring break, several of my freshmen stated that they were “seeing physics all over the place.” I couldn’t be happier.

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