Where Students Develop Their Skills

There’s nothing like waking up at home.

..Nothing like getting a full seven hours of sleep.

..Nothing like walking out into my own neighborhood and dropping into the mail box the one NetFlix I had time to watch nearly all of while working across Connecticut and Maine this week.

I wrote the above yesterday morning when I first started composing this entry.  It was an incredible week.  I have to admit, though, that the most amazing part was that my stamina held up until that final 43 minute drive from Stonington, CT to the Providence Airport on Thursday afternoon.  I hit the wall and could barely keep my brain working.

Student Panel

The last several weeks have had me mostly working K12 and college convocations and staff development institutes — several of them here in North Carolina.  But the most interesting was Thursday in Stonington.  We’d had several conversations prior to the event, as the district leadership was using the day to initiate a meta-processes model that had  been developed in-house several years ago.  I’ll not publish it here, as I’ve not gotten permission to do so.  But it is probably one of the best and most comprehensive 21st century skills documents I’ve seen.

What made the event so interesting was the leadership’s insisted on including students.  Two young men, both rising juniors (I believe), had interviewed over 200 area students about their learning and the future.  The two youngsters then compiled their findings into a 7 minute video that was both informative and funny.  The morning kicked off with the video.  Then I weighed in with my standard “it isn’t the technology, it’s the future, networked learners, and a new information landscape” pitch.

This was followed by a fairly uninspiring set of questions from me to the two young men and two young women who joined them on stage.  The most interesting thing to come out of that was that their answers to, “What are the most important things you’re learning in school?” and “What are the most important things you’re learning outside of school?” were essentially identical, — how to work and get along with other people.

Picture of Student Rankings of Skills Applications

I wanted to explore more deeply the differences between their classroom learning and their outside the classroom learning, and it occurred to me that we might use the district’s new meta-processes document as a pivot point.  So after my questions, I asked each student, using their laptops and a web app I’d made (and was still debugging in the Marriott breakfast room that morning) to rate (1-10) how much they used the individual skills in a typical school day or assignment.  Then they were asked to rate each skill based on their gaming and social network activities outside of the school.

Of course this was not nearly scientific, but as they were clicking up their numbers, the graph on the big screen updated every two seconds.  Admittedly, I was hoping it would be more riveting that it was, but it eventually grew into a realization that students’ outside-the-classroom information experiences were often more intellectually demanding than their typical classroom experiences.  This was obviously noticed by some teachers through the questions they asked the student panel at the end of the morning.

I’d have to say, though, that the most interesting question that came from one of the teachers was something like, “If I gave you an assignment to make a video, would it bother you that I don’t know how to make a video and can’t teach you how?”  The students glanced at each other and then shrugged in unison, each saying, “We’d just ask each other.”  One of the boys said, “I’d probably ask someone else anyway.”

The district’s superintendent, Michael McKee, has his own blog — and they’re looking for a new director of technology 😉

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