Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Assessing your 21st Century Educator-ness

I recently read Meris Stansbury's blog post on the Five Characteristics of an Effective 21st Century Educator. It got me thinking about where we are in Wayzata with regards to 21st Century-ness. After all, we are more than a decade into the 21st century. We ought to have arrived by now!

Here are the five characteristics that Stansbury discusses:

1. Anticipates the Future. I am disappointed that this one came first. I would have preferred to build up to it. I believe this is the area in which we are lacking the most. Don't get me wrong. We are changing. We are looking at best practices and brain research. Using data effectively. We are even embracing some new technologies. But are we looking forward at what the world will be like that our students will enter? Not really.

And I understand why. It is hard. Really hard. I don't know what the innovative breakthroughs of next year will look like, let alone 10 years from now. But there are trends that have been followed over the past 30 years that tell us that some changes are in store. We have to look really deeply at what we teach and whether it continues to effectively prepare students for the world they will enter.

2. Is a Lifelong Learner. I have to say for the most part, we are doing a pretty good job of this. Through our Summer Tech Institute, Academy courses, study groups, book groups, and after school classes, our teachers have more options than they know what to do with. But they also know that whenever they have availability, there are opportunities awaiting them. In addition, our Professional Learning Communities are providing ongoing time to look in depth at our teaching practices and their effectiveness.

With the speed of change and the busy-ness of our lives, it is important to find new efficient ways to be a lifelong learner. Building that personal network of people through online social networks can allow for many great ongoing learning opportunities. I find that I learn something new everyday from my colleagues on Twitter!

3. Fosters Peer Relationships. I stole a little of my own thunder above, but PLC's and personal networks are a great way to enhance peer relationships. In addition, we need to help students build these relationships. They need help learning to use their online social networks in educational ways, among themselves as well as beyond the classroom.

4. Can Teach and Assess All Levels of Learners. This has been a major focus for us in the past few years. Looking at ongoing common formative assessments, using PLC time to have data driven dialogue, responding to student needs. We have made huge strides in this area, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

5. Is Able to Discern Effective and Non-effective Technologies. It is easy to see that technology is overwhelming to keep up with. While we work hard to help teachers use the best tools for the job, there are always times when certain tools make more sense for certain classes or situations. Teachers need to constantly balance the power of learning a new tool with the filter of how does this tool help my students learn more effectively.

Sometimes those two concepts are seemingly at odds. If we only select technologies that help us meet our curriculum needs, we may not be addressing #1. Sometimes we need to give our students opportunities to explore and create in new ways.