April 21, 2017 by readlisaread
I’ve had reason to think about this A LOT lately. Let me start with a simple definition.
These are “soft skills”, essential tools of the 21st Century– the 4 pillars of human development: Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration.
So, ok, when a leader in any given organization stands up and promotes the development of these “C’s”, it sounds great, heads nod, and there is consensus…that our learners MUST embrace, develop and nurture these skills.
But what about us? What about their role models and mentors? How has this buy-in to 21st Century skill bypassed those of us born in the 20th Century? Now, before you start sputtering in protest, gentle reader, let me give you some concrete examples. Here is one from a few years ago. I was helping someone log into a work email account. This person had never accessed work email before, was resistant to doing so, and felt that if there was something so important, someone would call and relay the information. That was right around the time that I stopped feeling empathy for “I don’t really do email…” If an employer provides an address and expects their messages to be read, and the hardware needed to do so is accessible, I can’t support the resistance to accessing email any more than I could a “Well, I don’t really believe in using a telephone” statement. We would, as a modern society, be irritated or at least perplexed by being told that.
All right, so let’s go a little deeper into the C of Communication now, especially as it relates to digital/electronic means. So, some more examples. Recently, I was facilitating a workshop, and a big portion of the information was gathered from a Twitter chat. The platform is irrelevant, it was the result of Communication and Collaboration that dozens of rich resources were made available to us. I cannot, honestly, think of a better, more timely and time-efficient way that could have been done. And yet, I hear the murmurings and snickerings in the audience “Oh, if I Tweet something, am I a Twit?”; “I’ll have to get a teenager to help me”; and “I don’t need something else to make me sit in front of a computer screen”. It’s not to say that everybody must be 100% on board with everything I think is a good idea, however, it isn’t that I reacted to, it was the close-mindedness. Now, I know that comes from a place of fear, and also the reality of being an over-whelmed professional– so much change is thrown at us, all the time. I do empathize on all counts.
But am I implying that we all, all we adults, have to jump on every new electronic, social media bandwagon? Do we need to install Tinder, even if we have no intention of swiping either direction? Must we start posting all of our holiday snaps on Instagram? AND using a Low-fi filter on our selfies? Have I lost you, dear reader? Here’s my point: I blog, email I generally use mostly for work, FaceBook is for IRL friends and relations, Twitter I almost exclusively use to follow other ed tech teachers and professionals, and for conference messaging, and I have an Instagram account so I can look at the photos of artists that I follow, likewise Pinterest. My YouTube channel is strictly work related, as is my LinkIn account. I don’t SnapChat, but I understand what it is and how it works, and the same could be said for YikYak, Tumblr (actually, I think I do have an account there… I can’t remember), Reddit, and a few others. If it sounds incredibly overwhelming to you, you need to understand that these are the spaces our learners are communicating and learning in. You don’t have to join them there, but you have to realize that just because these aren’t physical spaces you can enter, they are REAL places.
I offer this, as a metaphor (and bear with me, it might seem a strange metaphor). Let’s suppose when your children were small, they wanted to have coffee, like you. You, maybe, got them a mug and poured in a little coffee and a lot of milk, and probably sugar. As time went by, your child understood that your coffee was different, but you both still had coffee. And as they grew, they liked it less milky and sweet, and eventually they maybe started to buy their own coffee with their own money. Now, let’s give this metaphor some detail. You like your coffee made in one of these:
…and as far as you are concerned, that is the only/best way to prepare that magical elixir. Fast forward, and your child is now a 20-something Hipster-Barrista who works in a Vegan Fair Trade Coffee Shop and Goat Grooming centre, and is a renowned expert in Coconut Ristretto-Doppio double-shot Fusion low-foam fast-pour Power Lattes. And while you understand this means “coffee”, you have no desire to make it your new drink of choice, nor are you a regular at the shop that serves them. But you love your kid, and wish only the best success with this particular venture, and you only offer words of support and encouragement, never ridicule even though (and this is the REALLY IMPORTANT BIT) you don’t really understand the whole concept, and have a strong aversion to both goats and coconuts. The same is true of Social Media. If your peers are sharing projects or strategies that you are 100% on board with/invested in and you love opportunities to meet and talk shop, and are thrilled when an out-of-town speaker echoes your same thoughts and opinions, why would those conversations seem “less than” because they took place on a digital platform? Oh, and let’s not trot out that old chestnut of “Yeah, but you can’t be sure they are who they say they are!!” poor excuse to not engage, please. That is, as I say, an excuse.
We must role model for our learners. Insistence that they write cursive, learn long division the long way and put their mobile devices in “Cell Phone Jail” why you are Teaching is only going to serve one purpose– to leave you behind.
So… if your next project involves writing 3 paragraphs and adding pictures cut out of magazines, consider welcoming other ways to achieve that goal– you don’t have to be an expert in photoshop or videography to encourage your learners to create in those ways. Likewise, you don’t have to Tweet a dozen times a day to use Twitter, you just need to accept it as one other communication path. Want to talk about it some more? I’ll buy you coffee– any kind you like. No goats. 🙂
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