Student: What is binary code?
Mr. Hong: I want you to find out for tomorrow and explain it to the class.
This student showed up the next day, explained what he learned to the class, and had completed his first homework assignment of the year in what else, but binary code. The assignment was to create his own name card for his desk.
Teaching and learning have evolved. As a teacher, my role is not to regurgitate my knowledge and expect students to comprehend or even remember it. My job, as a teacher of the 21st century, is to activate and facilitate the passions of my students and to provide them with the skills required to become proficient and independent learners.
The motto that my students live by is sprawled across the banner of our class website. It is based on the pillars of 21st Century Learning: Communication/Collaboration, Critical thinking and Creativity/Innovation.
Communication/Collaboration: Our blog-based site created a social network for students and amassed a hit count of just under 45,000 hits by the end of the 2012 school year. This large number of hits resulted from my students posting daily comments on our daily blog/planner, and also from the massive personal learning network (PLN) that is available to teachers via social media streams such as twitter and Facebook. In addition to their regular blog posts, each student in my class created their own ‘Learning Journeys/E-folio’ to showcase some of the work they were proud of. All of this built up their confidence, and by the end of the year, students were independently displaying their passions with minimal guidance (click here).
Students learned through clear learning intentions, student generated criteria, deep questioning, self and peer assessment/feedback and self-reflections. The assessment for learning practices allowed students to take ownership of their learning and ultimately enabled them to articulate what they had learned. Social media integration, such as blog sites, allow students to learn from one another at any time from any place on earth. Social media is a major component of modern literacy and the power of it needs to be harnessed by more educators.
By accessing the global collection of information that is the Internet, my students are able to broaden their horizons and expand their cultural knowledge, while at the same time experiencing just how small the world has become.
Many Hillcrest students recently participated in the Global Read Aloud and blogged with classes from across North America. This deepened their understanding of concepts discussed in the novel, as well, it also deepened their understanding of how easy it is to learn from and communicate with students from around the world.
Critical Thinking/Problem Solving: Technology has empowered my students to do what students before them were unable to do. My students often tell me their older siblings are unable to do what they have been doing. My students are able to find relevant and reliable research very quickly and easily through modern research methods. They can easily distinguish between what is important and what is irrelevant. In reference to Bloom’s Taxonomy, they are able to reach the higher levels of synthesis and analysis.
Creativity/Innovation: My students are able to create complex graphs through the use of spreadsheets and by inputting different formulas. They are able to create professional-looking and interactive presentations using various forms of media. Some examples include engaging movies, Prezi presentations, their own music through GarageBand, professional looking photographs using their mobile devices and graphic editing software such as Instagram and Pixlr to enhance their images. By the end of the year, the students were so creative and there was a great deal of cross-curricular learning taking place.
Students were using what they learned in art class , in other subjects such as science (see the desert tortoise and eco-systems. Some students drew all their images by hand, and then digitally enhanced their drawings by using graphic design sites such as Fotoflexer.com, Pixlr.net, and Sumo.fm.
Literacy and learning have taken on a whole new shape and form. It is not simply a matter of being able to read a book and being able to answer questions. Diving into inquiry and drawing connections between different concepts and worldly issues is a necessity in today’s society. Literacy, as it needs to be understood today, goes far beyond traditional modes of thinking, teaching, and learning.
This guest post was written by Ryan Hong (@RyanJHong), Grade 6/7 teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School in Surrey School District (#36). Author’s Note: I am lucky to be able to work with a great staff at Hillcrest Elementary. I have learned much from each and every teacher I work with. We work collaboratively and each of us brings our unique passions to the table. I teach a Grade 6/7 combined class and work with 4 other teachers who do the same. I am also very lucky to work with a progressive and supportive administrator who sees value in teaching students the skills that will enable students to own their learning! I have much respect for Yrsa Jensen, Anne-Marie Middleton, Linda Wilson, Alison VanWermeskerken, and Natasha Findlay. We model the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning and are dedicated professionals.