If educational success is going to be based on in-depth thinking, producing quality work and having an impact on one’s career opportunities, we need to focus on students’ passions. Passion is somewhat innate, as well as sometimes hard to identify or apply to all educational environments. But that’s why we need to make it a focus. If we read about, write about, speak about and interact with information and experiences related to our passion(s), there is great likelihood for individual buy-in, ownership and engagement. It’s not as important what we read, write and speak about, but rather that we do it at high levels and see skill-based impact. Our students’ long-term success and self-actualization will be directly based on how we challenge them and facilitate for them the opportunities to tap into their passions and then apply them to their working lives. There are the educational critics who are saying that passion is being over-emphasized. However, our inner desire to pursuit our life’s work is something that all students and adults alike will have to continue to tap into and re-discover their entire lives in order to guide their daily direction. We’re not training for jobs, but for professional lives right?
Most educational and career experts agree that collaboration is a skill that is more important than ever in the 21st century professional environments. But in addition to partnering with one’s peers, students need to experience partnerships at all levels. All students need school-based and community-based mentors. All students need experience working on things that have larger implications and impact beyond their school environments. This personalized and necessary experiences will come from their collaboration and partnering with non-profit organizations, local businesses, corporations and government agencies. We have known for years that students benefit greatly from being on teams, performance groups and student organizations. This is good, but we need to take it to the next level for all students. All students need community-based experiences related to their interests and skill areas where they can see true collaboration come to life with mentors and leaders in a variety of professional arenas. Partners and partnerships need to include all: peers, teachers, administrators, professionals, community leaders and any PLN partners.
We are hearing this word a lot and for many good reasons. Truly high levels of learning and mastery come from personal investment and relevance. These come from ownership. And ownership comes from passion and purpose. The more we can provide students voice and choice – personalization if you will – the more they will reach true mastery. Educators can build choice and options into every educational endeavor and we need to do so. Additionally, we need to expand our definitions of what is ‘academic’ or ‘educational’. There is not a question, topic or individual interest area that cannot be investigated, researched, developed, pursued and expanded upon – but we need to let go our teacher-driven interests and embrace those of our students. This will take time, as our students have not been trained this way. They will need to learn that their own areas of interest are the most relevant.
There may not be a performance task for real world assessment more important for our students to master than that of the presentation. Most interviews are now essentially presentations. The ability to synthesize information, prepare it in a visual manner and then deliver effectively to audience will be something that all young professionals benefit from regardless of any industry or career sector. If they can sell their ideas along with themselves, they will always have professional opportunities. This is the 21st century version of public speaking. Professional Presentation Skills, or lack thereof, may be one of the most common professional gaps or divisions for many years to come. Presenting is teaching and teaching is the highest form of demonstrating learning. All of our students need to extend themselves in becoming experts of select content and ideas and then deliver that publicly and effectively to various audiences. Schools will have to watch a lot of TED videos among others.
This is not just for math class, but math will be a great place to start. This is not the traditional version of solving problems. Rather, this is about students having more open-ended projects, challenges and tasks that require them to go through several iterations in order to see improvement. Like many have written before, there will be opportunities to practice, fail and improve. We can’t give them the answers to complex situations that require their critical thinking. We can provide the time, the trust, the support, the technology, the networks and much more. But they need to go through the process of experimenting and taking risks in order to advance through a process. This is one of the most foundational life and professional skills that they will need. And they have to practice this skill repeatedly.
If we want our students to produce high-level work, we need to create professional learning environments for all of them. This includes everything from their classrooms, equipment, resources and collaborators. Everything our students pursue going forward needs to have a professional connection to the real world. If tools and resources are used in industry to produce similar or related work, then we need to do the same in school. No longer can we have watered-down education versions. Whatever course or activity we offer to students, we need to make sure we are teaching them with the most current technology and resources. Think media, science, writing, designing, constructing, coding and so much more. Then think about having our students having the same access as the pros do. Additionally, this applies to the collaborators. Our students need to connect to mentors and practitioners in their professional interest areas. This is whom they need to present to, get feedback from, network with and be mentored by to say the least. Finally, our school facilities need to look like 21st century workspaces vs. 20th century one-room schoolhouses. Costs and efforts here can be considerable. But it’s what has to be done.
This is something that is now paramount in the pedagogy of the 21st century. Since school began, we primarily did our work individually and most importantly for the teacher alone. Sure, there were exceptions such as performing arts, sports and a few others. But our academic work was done in isolation and our product was delivered to the teacher. The tide has turned and student work now needs to be public. When students collaborate digitally and otherwise with peers, mentors, public partners, etc, there work, even before the final product, is public. When they present their final products or projects to peers, staff, parents and community members, it is public. When they publish on-line, share on social media, enter a contest or partner with community-based entities, there work is public. They get feedback from minute one, have an audience throughout and see a larger purpose in all that they do. By the way, this goes for teachers now as well as students. Call it transparent or what you want. Things that are public have legs and meaning. Embrace it and optimize it.
I think we can all agree that writing, and writing effectively, is paramount in our academic and professional worlds. Writing has always been important and is as important as ever. What’s changed in the last few years is that publishing is not something reserved for a ‘blessed’ few. Publishing is now something available to all on-line and is often how our young professionals will forge a professional identity. Writing now without publishing is like singing without a concert or show, or playing sports without a game. Whether it’s through social media, YouTube, ITunes, blogging, their own websites our countless other digital vehicles, publishing is now available to all. What use to be reserved for the elite (authors, university professors and academicians) is now available to all. We need to challenge all of our students to have a web presence in order to share their digital portfolios on an on going and focused basis. The old adage of “publish or perish” may now extend beyond professors and be more relevant than ever.
Passion, Partnerships, Personal, Present, Problem Solving, Professional, Public & Publish
(images courtesy of Foter)