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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.

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Wi-Fi Graffiti!

Wiffiti-logoblue-head

Spanish 1 students weigh in whether our story's main character should take his dad's 1956 T-Bird without permission on Wiffiti.

Have you ever been to a concert or sports event where you were invited to text or Tweet messages to a public screen?

Wiffiti is a company out of Boston whose technology allows anyone, from corporate sponsors to teachers to the average Joe Internet User, to create a public wall for the purpose of gathering text and Tweet “graffiti”.

How is this useful in a classroom setting?

My level 1 Spanish students have been reading a book in which the main character has to make a choice between following his parents’ rules or doing what he wants while they are away.  I wanted the kids to discuss the pros and cons and take a side, in Spanish.

Without technology, this is just a discussion and some kids might tune it out, but when I instructed kids to take out their phones (which most of them had and were thrilled to be asked to use them in class) and had them text their advice to the character, they were on board immediately.  And on the board – literally – immediately!   In seconds, their messages started popping up on the SmartBoard for all to see.

It was fun to see what they wrote, and to see the auto-namer assign them all such funny names, like CinnamonToucan, and SteelSeahorse.

Most of them stuck to the assignment but a few did get carried away with the excitement of being able to communicate something and have everyone see it… without teacher clearance.

Which is EXACTLY why I welcome this type of activity, because it provides an opportunity for teachers to get involved with how students represent themselves online.  Their digital expression of themselves is often private, but when they do this in the classroom, the teacher can moderate the discussion.  Which I did.

“Perdón, who is MintParrot8?”  A boy grins smugly from the back of the room.  I use his post as a negative example, and he quickly sends a new message which follows the assignment.

We’ll continue to build on that success with other projects.  I’ll send an update next time we use it.  Check it out!