Teaching Students How to learn What is the purpose of education? Some might say the purpose is to give students knowledgeabout science, English, history, or math. Others might say the purpose is to build character. While theseare all valuable, at the heart of education, is teaching students how to learn. From the time of birth, aperson begins learning- they learn how to talk, how to walk, and eventually how to maintain a careerand become a successful member of society. At some point, whether it is in college or when they enterthe “real world,” learning will be taken into their own hands, and the student must have thegroundwork to know how to learn without instruction. 21 st century learning builds this foundation andencompasses relevant skills, including collaboration, critical thinking, and digital literacy. As the saying goes, “two heads are better than one,” and one of the best ways to learn is fromanother person. In Alan November’s Digital Learning Farm Model, students work together by taking ondifferent class roles such as scribes, tutorial designers, researchers, or coordinators (November, 2012).November explains that this type of collaboration “creates a culture of learning in which students feelautonomous, masterful, and purposeful” (November, 2012, p. 383). This type of model is evident inlearning experiences and assessments that require students to share ideas, give feedback, and becomecontributors. Effective practices include shared notes, jigsaws, think-pair-shares, or virtual discussionforums. The ability to think outside of the box, solve problems, and analyze information is prized, andthese are the skills that have lead to many of the world’s greatest discoveries. Often times, educatorsget into the habit of lecturing, choosing the learning activities, and instructing students througheverything that happens in the classroom. However, to develop critical thinking skills, the educatormust leave learning open-ended and let the students think for themselves. With as many digitalresources as there are today, evaluating, analyzing and creating have never been so easy; however, a
student can’t think critically with these tools if they don’t know how to use them. With the growingprevalence and accessibility of smart phones, computers, and other technologies, educators need togive students opportunities to practice using these resources for empowerment. Ferriter and Garryclaim that “Today’s students can be inspired by technology to ponder, imagine, reflect, analyze,memorize, recite, and create-but only after we build a bridge between what they know about new toolsand what we know about good teaching” (Ferriter and Garry, 2010, p.6). Heidi Jacobs in her book,Curriculum 21, claims “We should aggressively go out of our way to find better ways to help our learnersdemonstrate learning with the types of products and performances that match our time” (Jacobs, 2010,p.422). Tasks such as tutorial designing, making graphic organizers and game-based learning canpromote digital literacy and critical thinking simultaneously. “Moving learning forward begins by introducing teachers to ways in which digital tools can beused to encourage higher-order thinking and innovative instruction across the curriculum” (Ferriter andGarry, 2010, p.6). To accomplish this, it is important to start small, making sure that each learningexperience is authentic, meaningful, and relevant. One strategy might be to focus each lesson on one21st century theme. Another strategy might be to integrate one new technology tool into each lesson sothat by the end of the year, students are dexterous with a variety of resources. By starting small, itmakes the process gradual for students while also giving the not-so-digitally-literate educator time tolearn along with them. The following 21 st century resources support innovative instruction and are freeand easy to use:Collaboration• Google Documents• Corkboard• Voicethread• My Big Campus• Stixy• Poll Everywhere• TwitterCritical Thinking and Digital Literacy• Screencast-O-Matic• Bubble Us• Glogster• Xtranormal• Mentor Mob• Prezi• BloggerWhile innovation takes change, and change is not always easy for students or educators, it is this changethat will drive learning forward, build lifelong learners, and give students the best chance at successlater in life.
CitationsFerriter, W. M., & Garry, A. (2010).Teaching the igeneration: 5 easy ways to introduce essential skillswith web 2.0 tools. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.Jacobs, H. H. (2010). Curriculum 21 essential education for a changing world. Alexandria, Va.: Association forSupervision and Curriculum Development. Kindle Edition.November, A. C. (2012). Who owns the learning?: preparing students for success in the digital age. Bloomington,IN: Solution Tree Press. Kindle Edition.