This past weekend, I attended the California League of Schools (CLS) Technology & RTI Conference. The opening speaker was Will Richardson. His inspiring message challenged all teachers to become students again. He referenced a rather fabulous quote by Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, relearn.”
Richardson opened with two stories, the first about his daughter’s history exam questions on the middle ages and the second, about a young man who had created a name for himself as a cinematographer. The latter was essentially self-taught, having learned all he needed to know about video editing through online communities. These people represent two kinds of learners – those learning what they are told to learn and those learning what they love to learn.
Which type do you inspire in your classroom? This is a wonderful question to pose to a room full of educators, and a difficult one to answer. I’m sure we would all appreciate having passionate learners in our classroom, and appreciate it even more if we were the source of inspiration. This is not always easy, though, when we’re beholden to state and federal expectations on what we should teach, and in some school districts, even how we teach these topics may be dictated.
It’s sobering to consider Richardson’s words that we’re educating students of the 21st century to be prepared for the 20th century. Fortunately, after his session, I proceeded to spend the rest of the weekend learning about different ways to introduce technology into the classroom in a meaningful way that enhances the standards. This was a mind-boggling experience in that I couldn’t believe all the free options that existed for me right now to integrate technology into lesson plans – and equally mind-boggling that most of this technology would probably be obsolete in another year.
This is why I ask all new teachers to decide now: are we going to keep up with technology or not, knowing that saying yes means we are agreeing to a lifetime of sitting in the learner’s seat. It could be the best decision we ever make.
One of the last questions Richardson posed was whether our students would be able to tell him how much their teachers know. If you asked my students if I am smart, how much I know, etc., they would (I hope) say, oh sure, Miss knows about multiplying and percents and reading. If you asked them how I learn, though, I doubt they’d have an answer.
That’s about to change. I am shedding my luddite ways and embracing new technology. More importantly, my students will move alongside me, learning as we go. If you truly want your students to excel as 21st century learners, then you are acknowledging that technology must be included. Educators often teach through modeling. It’s time to model learning.
P.S. This post is the first of several covering some of the sessions I attended at the CLS Conference. I’ll be doing the same for the CEC 2012 Convention & Expo to be held April 11-14 in Denver. If you haven’t registered yet, you don’t want to miss the educational and networking opportunities you’ll find there. Register by March 19 and save $50 off of onsite registration! In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @AllRileyedUp.