Shelly Black-Plock has his own blog, but his writing here at Ed. Change is excellent: I love the way he connects the dots of student empowerment, classroom technology, and 21c. preparation. In a piece called Disconnected, he discusses how wired our students are already, how natural it is for them to use digital tools, and how skillfully they can employ them for learning and actively doing in our classrooms:
I’ve watched students engage with their world in ways most of us teachers could never have imagined based upon our own experience as students. And whether it’s using Twitter hashtags to create shared cross-curricular reference bibliographies; or lobbying Web 2.0 developers to redesign parts of their apps to work better in the classroom; or using Skype, YouTube, and social bookmarking as a way to engage parents, mentors, and professionals to take part in the students’ learning, the kids these days demonstrate a day-to-day ease of use with and expectation of use of the immediate global connections the 21st century Web has to offer.
And yet at too many schools, these same kids, so wired everywhere else in their lives, are shut down, closed off, limited from the very tools which would most empower them. At some schools, email, social networks, and youtube are all blocked: either because of limited bandwidth, or because of censorship, lack of trust, and lack of understanding.
At our school, St. Gregory, we are working swiftly to improve the bandwidth to better provide kids the best breadth of contemporary digital tools. Why? Because, as Blake-Pollock explains:
The reality of today is that your kids are bringing more technological sophistication into the classroom in their pockets than your school has likely managed to accomplish over the last thirty years. The kids don’t expect to be taught ‘better’ because of technology; rather it’s a matter of mindset and authenticity. Schools [misunderstand] how technology and social media is so naturally integrated into all of the other aspects of our students’ lives.
Another piece by the same author here at Ed.Change argues “we need to prepare ourselves as teachers to to prepare students to live in their future and not our past.” 21st c. skills, in this writer’s view, are mushy, and his list is more daring, more “out there.’ It includes some of the following for us to keep our eye on: “Critical Media Network Skills,” Participatory and Networked Information and Communication Skills,” “Collaborative Social Meta-Thinking,” “Creative Network Confidence and Digital Community Stewardship,”” Digital Cunning,” and “Awareness of Digital History and Digital Divide.” Whew. This guy is serious. Myself, I think this is needlessly complex and abstracted, but the larger point is to think more expansively about how much the world is changing, and how much we need to change schooling for it.