Yes it’s a cliche…but if the shoe fits? Sorry, it’s Friday afternoon and creative juices aren’t flowing as nicely as I would like.
When you have been in education as long as I have it’s easy to feel like an “old dog”, particularly when surrounded by young teachers. Last week I was invited to facilitate a workshop at our Canadian Pre-U campus for the 30+ teachers there. They are young pups (to keep the metaphor going), and have no shortage of energy. The group also included 3 teachers-in-training from Queen’s University in Ontario, thus lowering the average age of the group to ‘twenty-something’.
The topic of the workshop was left entirely up to me. Initially I thought it would be about relationship building and student voice, but when I sat down to actually create the workshop it seemed to take on a life of its own. I blame that on the Queen’s students. You see, when I observed some of their classes a few weeks ago I was impressed and inspired at the ways in which they engaged their students and provided exciting opportunities to discover new concepts and new tools. So my workshop ended up being about Change. Ch-Ch-Changes to be exact. I even played David Bowie’s , song Changes during the opening cooperative learning activity. Nobody noticed though. (Only old dogs listen to David Bowie I guess).
Change is what is necessary to be an educator in the 21st century. Even this young and energetic group of teachers who were raised on traditional teaching and learning approaches after all, will need to evolve somewhat. When I went to teacher’s college in 1980 I was convinced that the pedagogical skills I learned would be part of my teaching practice forever. But today’s teacher won’t be able to be so comfortable. They are no longer the authoritative voice in the classroom. They are no longer the expert in the room. The 21st century learner can connect with information and people all over the world. They have a world full of experts at their disposal. Today’s students want to be active learners engaged in their learning. The passive learner no longer exists.
Hopefully this workshop modelled the kinds of changes teachers would implement to engage the 21st century learner. We started with a Pair-Up; teachers wandered around the room exchanging hellos to others and then paired-up at the fifth exchange. Pairs then rallied 21st century learner characteristics back and forth. Later, they created questions or tasks that elicited higher order thinking (HOT) and then exchanged these tasks in a Quiz Quiz Trade cooperative learning activity. They reflected on their teaching practice: examining it first for 21st century friendly learning experiences; and then again to consider the amount of classroom time spent in HOT activities.
They created and contributed content slides to the interactive google presentation (an idea I stole from Queen’s student Justine when I observed her class). They also created an Exit Card in the form of Haiku to further reflect on their learning. Whew!
I certainly hope the teachers enjoyed the session as much as I did. They may be young pups, but they will continually need to learn new tricks to keep 21st century learning engaging and relevant.
As for me, I continue to get excited by all of the rich learning opportunities I have. Meeting the Queen’s students inspired some changes in my own practice. You see, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Change—Bring it On!