21st Century Skills Vs. Core Knowledge

Alan November just blew my mind. Often I debate with myself whether or not technology brings us (humanity) closer or whether it isolates us from reality; more and more, I think the latter is true. What resonated with me the most in watching Alan November’s piece is that we use the Internet to seek out our own versions of the truth. I am guilty of this, certainly. When I use the Internet, I visit the sites that pertain to me and my interests and my opinion of the world; in fact, most often, I just check my email and Facebook and then dilute my stress with funny videos. Does the Internet allow us to avoid reality?

Or has the Internet created an alternate reality? Follow me on this one. Consider the Digital Immigrants and the Digital Natives—here we have two sects of people that exist internationally and that are bound not by nationalism, but by the type of “reality” they exist in. In this way, although I do not speak Japanese and have never even visited Japan, I equally understand and “exist” in the same digital reality as a 24 year old that lives in Tokyo. Digital Immigrants feel like immigrants regardless of what country they’re in or where they originally from, so in this way they are related in a shared sense of isolation. However, I would argue that it is the Digital Natives who are actually isolated—those who do not confront reality.

November argues that modern Digital Natives have been robbed of the opportunity to contribute to the larger community, and he is right. Although I’m not suggesting we send 10 year olds out on oceanic ships, 18th century style, I am suggesting that our kids need more interaction with reality and real people. The Internet can be used to make real connections; we just need to make the choice to use it as such. I recall having an international pen-pal in the third grade, why not use email and Skype to allow students to connect internationally to other students? And I absolutely loved November’s idea of having students search for and create their own assignment for the content area. Why not? We have the tools at our fingertips.

The teacher is not “the boss,” this is an Industrial-period student-teacher relationship and, guess what, it’s not 1820 anymore. Perhaps the Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants need not to exist in different realms. By having students work collaboratively with each other and with adults, we can bridge that gap. When students learn how to effectively use technology to actually create something, then they can enter into adult society as a fruitful contributor; in this way, the adult “Immigrants” will view the “Natives” valuable assets. Learning how to use technology is easy, but using it to make real and meaningful connections is hard; I hope I learn how to do that in this course. (tall order).

And so, last but not least, I will finally answer the question posed to me: should our modern schools do some “21st century spring cleaning” and eliminate antiquated materials and instructional practices? Yes. Should we deprive our children of classic literature? Absolutely not. It is very possible to use 21st century skills to bring our students to a greater understanding of such texts. It is also possible for us to create a new, modernized “core curriculum;” we can create a curriculum that prepares our students for the global marketplace, for collaboration, and for advancement (of technology and society). I see no reason why “The Old” and “The New” cannot work together.

References

November, Alan. (producer). (2011). The Myths and Opportunities of Technology in the Classroom. The Learning Institute. Video retrieved from http://vimeo.com/12642950

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