Monday, August 22, 2016

21st Century Learners

As educators, we're always trying to prepare our students for their future. Some attend college, some university, and some go straight to the workplace. Technology is ever evolving, which has a dramatic impact on what types of jobs will be available to students in the next 5, 10, 15 + years. We have to do all we can to prepare them for a workplace where computer skills are a given, and where more specific types of computer skills -- like coding -- will give them a leg up. 


Obviously, a teacher's technical expertise can be an impediment to teaching those more specific types of computer skills. However, all teachers can emphasize the development of practical skills, such as teamwork, communication, creativity, problem solving and critical thinking. Let's focus on critical thinking. When employing critical thinking tasks in the classroom, it's best if the teacher explains why a certain topic is being examined, and why the processes being used are important ones. This will hopefully lead to more students 'buying-in."

Indeed, critical thinking is such an important real-life skill. We have more knowledge at our fingertips than ever before. But what will distinguish students is those who can apply that knowledge in different ways and in different experiences. One strategy I’ve used to encourage critical thinking is open-ended ‘what if’ questions, such as, “What if the Allies had lost WWII?” Students will then consider what they already know about the relationships between countries (Germany and France, for example) and try to come up with hypothetical terms of a new treaty. In a regular classroom, these types of questions could be used as a 15 minute hook to engage students at the start of the lesson; in an eLearning environment, they could lead to a multiple-day collaborative negotiation amongst enemy countries. Regardless of how the critical thinking questions are utilized, such questions stimulate creativity and collaboration, among other skills, all of which are valuable skills that will help students as they move forward in their careers. 

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