09 July 2009

21st Century Education: What Does it Look Like?

This week I've been thinking a lot about 21st Century education, what it means to be a good teacher in the 21st Century and what functional schools and educational organizations look like. The immediate reason is my participation in the California Geographic Alliance Leadership Institute where we are discussing reform, goals and benchmarks within our own organization.

We've been reading The Adaptive School by Garmston and Wellman in which there is lengthy discussion about driving school change. I particularly like the '7 Norms of Collaboration' that set clear guidelines for groups working together. They are not easy as we found out Tuesday as we were practicing something as simple as paraphrasing (turns out we've all been doing it wrong!). One of the interesting questions that came up Tuesday was about what to do if your faculty isn't interested in adopting these principles. It turns out that if just one or two people start using the techniques outlined others will adapt to the behavior. This isn't all mumbo-jumbo, touchy-feely stuff. It's more about consciously thinking about how we interact with others and making our interactions more responsive to others' views.

Yesterday morning, I read two of Ryan Bretag's blog posts "Beyond the Web 2.0 Hype Opening" and "A Potential Starting Point." In the first post, he suggests ways that we need to change our understanding of education to mesh with learning in the 'real world.' In the second, Bretag suggests where educational organizations need to begin their transformation. Both of these proposals will require much dialogue and discussion amongst school leaders and other stakeholders.

The long and the short of it is that with the readings, dialogues and discussions we've been having this week, it has become clear to me that if any change is going to take place in our schools it is going to take massive effort and a lot of courageous work by educators. Teachers and administrators are going to have to let go of their desire for control and do what is best for students and the educational process.