Wednesday, July 18, 2007

21stC learners ( Mark Prensky)

Mark Prensky 21stC educator

I have just read a great summary of an address Mark Prensky gave to the recent NZPPF April 2007 Leading Edge Conference. You can read the full account in the Education Today Magazine (Issue 3 Term 2 2007)

Mark asks three questions: Who are our students? How do we engage them? How do we continue to engage them?

And he means engaging them not by doing things for them but engaging them in real conversations about what they need to learn and how they will do this. Our students, he says, are not the ones our system was designed for. They are digital 'natives' - unlike most of their teachers who are digital 'immigrants'.

Too many students, they have told him, are bored. They feel teachers don't listen to them, and they don't respect them what they can do. And too often bored kids get labelled ADD.Prensky believes that attention deficit is a natural reaction to irrelevant teaching.

Students want to live in the 21st C not to adapt to the past - they want to be taught in 21stC ways. They like, he writes, 'group work, and the projects and the case studies and the activities and the discussions. What they don't want is lectures.'

We have to involve our students in everything we do
and this is in conflict with the traditional top down ( teachers know best) ways our schools have been designed. Education just can't be dropped on kids - they have to want to learn.

Young people have recently transformed the music industry. Education is next as students can learn what they want on line. We just can't hand students the content, we have to help them invent it - 'bottom up' learning. This approach develops capabilities from the ground up as students search out, and expand on, ideas using their technology.

Engaging students is an issue in schools word wide
. We will have to recognise their 'voice', their concerns, their talents and their technology.

Prensky divides students into three groups.The first come to school wanting to learn. We need to engage them more. Then there are 'play school' students who need to get credentials but only do the minimum to get them. We need to engage them more. Finally there are the ever growing disengaged turned off learners.

Teachers are too focused on 'delivering' their past curriculums and not focused enough on their students future. Things have changed but not schools. Once students came to school to have their experiences broadened - to 'see the light' - now it is the teachers who are 'in the dark'.

Our students are connected to the world but they're still kids. The still need adults to to help them make sense of it all ; to help them interpret what they find.

If we want to keep the 'light of learning' on at school we need to involve our students in everything we do. Schools now have serious rivals for learning! We all want students to become independent highly motivated learners. Outside of school this already is happening as kids work with their peers, using their technology, to find out what they want to know or to be able to do.

Currently schools exist to give students credentials -almost all about the past. Prensky states that possibly no more than 20% is relevant to the students future. It is inescapable and all too often boring; for many students real learning begins after school.

Students learn, or are engaged, according to Prensky, through game play, accessing the Internet and by having their learning personalised for them by going on line to study courses that attract them.

The answer is to involve students in their own learning at school. Teachers need to appreciate the use of technology that their students use . Students need to use such tools to search and research ideas. Research skills still need teaching. Students can make broadcasts, videos, take photos and interview people with their phones and share and publish their work based around topics that excite them. Teachers need to do what they have aways done - help students develop appropriate contexts, evaluate their work and help their students develop a sense of personal quality. Students need to be seen as 'seekers, users and creators' as expressed in the NZCF.

The big issue ,according to Prensky, is respect.Respect for students technology and ideas. Our students, he says, recognise technology as the new literacy and see most of their teachers as illiterate.

Mark finished his presentation talking about change. In comparison to our own lives change is going to escalate, led by technological innovations. Mark talks about many of us preferring to walk backwards into the future rather than to face the future. All our students know is change and, for them, it is empowering. A quote he used was, 'fear change and it will destroy you, embrace it and it will reward you.'

The key is to understand our students, not as we want them to be but as they really are, and as they are going to be. We need to generate engagement by conversing with them and to help them identify and do their own learning and to make use of their tools wisely. Students love giving advice and want to be listened to.

It won't be easy but it will be worth it. And the students will thank us when we succeed.


Anonymous said...

I have heard Marc Prensky and others speak and agree with what they say. It would be equally great to hear real life experiences of schools being transformed into foward facing enquiry communities - all 'wired up' and ready to go. And how they managed to survive all the compliance, curriculum and assessment requirements placed on them, let alone 'converting' reluctant staff and conservative parents. That would be something. It is the old adage that 'actions speak louder than words' - or 'easier said than done'

Bruce said...

I think there are a few Secondary Schools that are well on the way but, in most cases, these are new specially built schools, or independent schools. Changing a traditional secondary school, now that would be hard. You would need a courageous principal and some dedicated teachers to achieve this.

Anonymous said...

It is great that it is the ICT people who are in the forefront of innovative pedagogy ( a recently revived word) and in developing new approaches and structures for learning. The other subject teachers are well behind, busy protecting their turf.