We’re always being challenged to find new ways of engaging and teaching today’s learner. I don’t think we can do that successfully unless we begin to understand the spaces they inhabit both physical and virtual.
A colleague was recounting a conversation she had with a young teacher who told her how grateful he was that his teenage students had invited him ‘into their world’. He never presumed he was a part of it or that as a teacher, he deserved right of entry.
Perhaps we all need to be examining schooling from a new perspective: as co-learners. The futurist Alvin Toffler said:
The illerate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.
I was interested in the creative approach the University of Rochester (US) took in upgrading its library facilities. Rather than consulting the ‘experts’, they asked students. A group were asked to identify their favourite place to study, what they carry to class and something they see as high tech. The administration team was surprised by the results. They found for example the library hours were ‘out of synch with student needs’.
In July, I had the pleasure of meeting some Year 9 students who are really engaged with their learning and with Web 2.0 tools. They’ve actually begun working with their teachers to create podcasts of lessons which are then accessed by the school community. I asked them about their perceptions of learning and teaching in today’s world…..
As leaders and educators, we need to be willing to include students in the collaborative process of making schooling relevant. Perhaps we need to be following in the footsteps of the University of Rochester by asking students first – imagine the possibilities if we harnessed the wisdom of both generations!