The Royal Wedding

harryandmeghan.jpgWhether you were interested or not in the royal wedding is of no consequence. What is important is that in terms of connectivity and the internet it was a ground breaking event which demonstrated just how much we want to connect and how powerful that is. There were 3.4 million tweets sent during the ceremony. It is how we interact with each other these days which has been highlighted. On Friday morning there was enough traffic to break the BBC site and so the interest in the event was beyond the capacity of one of the world’s biggest broadcasters and that site would be used to dealing with large numbers in terms of traffic. There were 2.7 million mentions of the royal wedding on social media in 24 hours. The statistics are still being collated and collected but there are powerful numbers there to show how much we can achieve in 2018 in terms of connecting with each other. The BBC has compiled some interesting statistics for the royal wedding. There is some discussion about the number of global viewers and then comparisons with Kate and William’s wedding and Charles and Diana’s wedding. During that time frame we have had more and better access to tablets and smartphones and that needs to be taken into account.  The statistics will be updated in about a week’s time because it is important to know what we can achieve globally.

Firstly, we need to understand what pulls people into that passionate need to connect. Secondly we need to know if we have the capacity to deal with it in terms of hardware and software. We need to know if we can do it better and we need to look at the benefits and the pitfalls. That kind of capacity to involve and connect is powerful in terms of education,  engagement and problem solving for the planet. Our plastic problem would disappear if we could all engage and involve ourselves like we did for the royal wedding. Do we have a way of looking at the impact? Do we have data which would show us whether our powerful capacity to connect is of good value to us? Can we think it forward and use it to solve some of the world’s biggest issues?

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is not just a buzz phrase. It is a mind set and way of life. Life is change and change is action. That cannot occur without neuroplasticity and critical thinking. Lifelong learning is vital for the development of communities, societies and individuals:

“Every person, at every stage of their life should have lifelong learning opportunities to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to fulfil their aspirations and contribute to their societies. “

World Education Forum 2015

Lifelong learning can occur easily these days across time and space because we have access to technology and connectivity. No one need ever be left in the dark and everyone can be learning enabled at any time of the day or night. We can learn what we want , when we want and how we want because we are connected and sharing our knowledge.

informED discusses 25 practices which foster lifelong learning:

“Lifelong learning is now recognized by educators, governing bodies, accreditation organizations, certification boards, employers, third-party payers, and the general public as one of the most important competencies a person can possess. But even if we all agree on its value, and harbor the best intentions of possessing it ourselves, it can easily escape our grasp if we approach it the wrong way.”

You have to be confident as a learner to participate in lifelong learning. You have to know that because you are not very good at something it does not mean that you cannot be good at it. Information, application and facilitation are the keys. You have to be able to identify your goals and then you have to be able to find the resources and opportunities for facilitating your capabilities. Being in a group helps you identify with others who know what you want to know or who want to know what you want to know. The group helps you to learn. It calibrates you and gives you feedback. You still have to have faith in your capacity to learn. Then there is the internet. There is so much information which people are sharing so that you can learn and develop your knowledge and skills or so that you can raise the issues and problems and work collaboratively to resolve them.

Lifelong learning is about:

1. Repackaging the skills and thinking you already have
2. Learning new skills and ways of thinking
3. Information and application
4. Questioning and reflecting
5. Celebrating the successes and good changes along the way

It’s about putting yourself out there and daring to be different with no fear of failure.

21st century skills

Some consider 21st century skills to be the 4 Cs as opposed to the industrial revolution’s 3 Rs:

Creativity
Critical Thinking
Collaboration
Communication

I should have thought these skills belonged to any society at any time. How did we get the Sistine Chapel? The Pyramids? Chaucer’s Tales, Beowolf, Cicero’s poetry? How did we invent ovens, farm machinery, windmills, ships, telescopes? You know what I mean. These skills belong to us as human groups working together day by day through the ages and they give us the dazzling brilliance of art and performing arts and the spectacular breakthroughs in cancer treatments, penicillin, bridges, space shuttles. We think, create, communicate and collaborate and always have done. Why would these be considered 21st century skills? The piece which is missing is now it is all quite different. We can broadcast across the world. We can make a YouTube clip which gets 3 million views. We can put our work and research on the internet and get thousands of followers, hundreds of likes, tweets, retweets, comments. We can create and share like in no other way in history and we can collaborate and create across the planet in a way we have never been able to do. We can crowd source. We have the power of one and an internet connection. I am certain when you think about it, you will see other ways in which these foundation skills are so different now.

The NSW Department of Education and Communities put out a paper in 2012 about 21st century skills for Australian students. It is worth reading and one of the highlighted quotes is:

“To cope with the demands
of the 21st century, people
need to know more than core
subjects. They need to know
how to use their knowledge
and skills by thinking critically,
applying knowledge to
new situations, analyzing
information, comprehending
new ideas, communicating,
collaborating, solving
problems, making decisions.”

– Partnership for 21st Century Skills

In 2009 there was a research a paper put out by Katerina Ananiadou and Magdalean Claro on 21st Century Skills and Competencies for New Millennium Learners in OECD Countries discussing issues related to the teaching and assessment of 21st century skills and competencies in OECD countries drawing on the findings of a questionnaire study and other relevant background material such as white papers or curriculum documents. It takes time to read but the study is very interesting and the paper looks at 21st century skills this way:

In this section we present a framework for conceptualising the competences discussed in this study;
they can be thought of in terms of three dimensions: information, communication and ethics and social
impact.

p8

The paper asks some good questions at the end and these questions are the ones we need to focus on all the time. Assessment practices and teacher training and development always need to be considered because technology changes and the capacity to engage with technology changes. Teachers need to always be aware of the impact and possibilities.

We are finishing this discussion section with some open questions that will hopefully encourage
reflection and discussion on this important policy topic:

 What are the key success factors for 21st century skills policies?21st
1. High-quality and relevant teacher training?
2. Curriculum integration?
3. Clear and rigorous assessment?
 Should 21st century skills be integrated into subject-based curricula?
 Are ICT skills different from the others and should they accordingly have a different treatment in
policy terms?
 How can we involve teachers in the overall debate and in the design of teacher training
programmes in particular?
 What types of assessment are appropriate for the monitoring and evaluation of 21st century skills
and competencies? How can they be developed?
We are aware that there are no easy answers to these questions, but we hope that an open and
informed debate on them will be the first step towards designing high quality education policies for the
citizens and workers of the 21st century.

p17

Technology is intimidating

Technology is only intimidating if you are under pressure to use it and perform. It is a horrid experience to not know what you are doing and to stand before a lump of plastic with connections and feel spectacularly inadequate. I have  never had a fear of technology and if I am confronted with something I don’t understand I just press, tap, click , look…I especially look, until I see what happens and understand it. I was lucky in my formative years as a teacher I was in a school which enthusiastically embraced technology. So, in the mid seventies, we had visits from the Scotch company who showed us what would have been the first CDs and DVDs. Shiny disks which went into a machine and showed blurry video pictures. It was exciting and an eye opener. To be able to take on technology in an educational context you need the play time. You need the experts . You need an approach where you are encouraged to improve your competencies without feeling threatened. More than that you need discovery and talk time. We had OHPs to play with, pneumatic (:S) video players which quickly became VHS machines. We had film projectors which we had to get a licence to run and machines which projected images onto the wall. I remember getting students to enlarge German Snoopy cartoons with these and we had a wall of great  cartoon images which practised our German and involved us in active learning. Technology is functional but when you have time to explore it you do discover all the creative things it can do and the other options for functionality. The sales will come of themselves if people are allowed to discover what is available by way of gadgets and can spend time in an environment where experts are enthusiastic about what technological devices can do. Again it is about collaborating and sharing. Teachers need this opportunity too because as they look and learn they will also be thinking up a million ways to employ that tool.

Benefits of technology

benefits of technologyKristina Hollis has a blog which specifically looks at teaching and technology. She has just written a post about the benefits of technology in a classroom because she has been studying it. I’ll let you read it for yourself:

Educational Technology – Affordances

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