My Conference Highlights #emints

While back in the office reflecting on this past week, I must admit I was sad to see the eMINTS National Conference come to an end. All of the presentations I attended were really excellent and truly inspiring.  If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year, I highly encourage you make it next year. Conferences always tend to re-spark my love of education – I leave with so many fresh ideas and tools, it would be impossible to share them all in one blog post. We promise to share these great ideas, tools and more with you in this blog over the next few months but, for now, here are my top four moments from the conference:

 

  • PictureThursday Keynote Speaker, Ken Shelton: Ken spoke about “Generation Now”, focusing on three themes: Information Literacy, Digital Citizenship, and Publication and Collaboration. Not only was his presentation informative, his slides were beautifully designed and well thought out. A hot topic of the conference came from this session when Ken brought up “selfies”, sharing a video spoof on Instagram to remind students that, once you post a photo online, it’s out there and there is no going back.  For those who don’t know, a “selfie” is a picture taken of yourself that is usually intended to be uploaded to a social networking site.
  • Friday Keynote Speaker, Howie DiBlasi: Dr. Howie went over the habits of highly effective 21st century classrooms, at one point posing the question of whether we were ready for the next generation of students. His presentation was fast-paced and fun, sharing many inspirational videos and current tools to help us prepare students for the changing world we live in. His presentation inspired some great ideas for future blog posts on building 21st century skills, so keep checking back for this in the next couple weeks.
  •  Falling Falling, Falling (A Model Lesson): This session was discussed in the last post, so I won’t go into too much detail at this time — but this was one of my favorite sessions of the conference. Doug Caldwell and Glen Westbroek presented a model eMINTS lesson with the session attendees as the students. We got to set up tracks of dominos and record how fast they fell, based on various factors. It was super neat to see, from the student perspective, how current online tools can be used in a hands-on lesson that promotes real-world thinking and uses the eMINTS instructional model. A big bonus of this session is that they provided everything you need to implement this lesson in your own classroom via a LiveBinder, which you can access here.
  • QR codes and the Four C’s: One of the last sessions on Friday, I ‘d consider this to be one of the more energetic sessions I attended. Shelly Tarter gave us an interactive presentation on QR codes and how they can be used with the 4 C’s of education:  Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. We got hands-on experience using QR codes, learned the difference between static and dynamic QR codes, and brainstormed possible uses in groups — all while having fun. You could tell this presentation was a favorite by how the conversation continued long after it ended.  Shelly put together a great Weebly site for this presentation, which you can view here.


These were only a few of my favorite moments of the conference, but every attendee had a different schedule with a different experience. Question: What were some the highlights of your own 2013 eMINTS Conference experience?

[This post was provided by Zoe Hyatt, an instructional developer for the eMINTS National Center and eLearning for Educators.]

Working in the Future

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One of the goals of K-12 education is to prepare our students to enter the workforce when their studies are done. However, in the 21st century, no one really knows what those jobs will look like. So, this preparation is a bit of a mystery.

It’s time we gear our instruction to match this uncertainty. The time to move from low-level content knowledge to complex processes and strategies that are applicable in many situations has arrived. No longer should we depend on 19th century teaching methods to prepare our students for the jobs of the 21st century.

There are standards and guiding principles out there to help us accomplish this feat. One list to pay close attention to are the ISTE/NETS standards for students. This list of standards provides a blueprint for the kinds of skills students will need to develop for “an increasingly global and digital world.” For what it’s worth, eMINTS is one of only five programs to receive certification of alignment with these standards.

Another guiding framework is that provided by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Like the NETS standards, this framework lists skills that should be developed for students to be successful in future endeavors. Additionally, instead of listing teaching standards separately, the framework attempts to combine the two components to guide facilitation.

Together, these guiding materials should help teachers shape their lessons to prepare students for a future that’s hard to predict. Instead of focusing on content, these frameworks provide the tools students need to be able to apply to all content areas and, more importantly, careers that may not even exist yet.

Besides utilizing frameworks that address 21st century skills to shape one’s instruction, we can facilitate other activities that prepare students for their future careers. Wired posted a piece last week that suggests how to apply for jobs that don’t exist yet. Try having students create resumes and write cover letters for these jobs with an eye toward future studies and accomplishments that will allow them to reach their goals.

Planning for students’ future careers with an eye on 21st century skills is the best way to prepare students for working in the future. Sometimes, we have to take a step back from state standards and tests to make sure that we are helping students succeed beyond their time in school. Since we don’t really know what that future holds, we have to facilitate learning that is applicable in a variety of ways. Concentrating on 21st century skills and getting past the current limitations of career opportunities available better equips students for their futures.

How are you preparing students for careers that haven’t been created yet? How do you incorporate 21st century skills in your lessons? What are the best ways to include career education in your content area?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Friday 4ALL: 19th Century Methods, 21st Century Learners

It seems education and schooling are at a crossroads. There is still a prevalence of 19th century teaching methods used in a vain attempt to reach children of the 21st century. Videos like the one below demonstrate this point well. (There are many more just like it all over YouTube.) Why do we insist on maintaining the status quo with outdated methodology?

Well, there are some reasons for our hesitancy to adopt new strategies and technologies. For one, this is how we learned and it worked fine for us as well as previous generations. However, we lived in a time that while incredibly different from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, was probably more like theirs than the world today’s students occupy. The advancement in technologies over the last two decades alone necessitates a new approach to schooling, not to mention the global society in which those technologies have made possible.

Traditional forms of instruction also provide a sense of control that more progressive methods don’t always offer. This is true in a lot of ways, but we have to ask ourselves what our purpose as educators actually is. Our purpose is to insure that our students are learning and not simply to control their behavior for six hours a day. Besides, that sense of control is not limited to traditional classrooms. Classrooms using cooperative learning and project-based lessons can offer as much if not more structure as the traditional classroom. Still, a certain amount of control needs to be given up by the teacher so that students are free to explore, be actively engaged, and not simply taught.

It’s easy to see how different the world is in which our students exist compared to the world in which teacher-directed, content-centered methods were developed. So, why do we so often defer to those methods?

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for direct-instruction or other traditional approaches. We just have to recognize that the students we teach today are not from the same time period as the traditional methods by which they are being taught. It’s time to make that shift to new pedagogy and methodology (if you haven’t done so already).

How are you addressing the needs of a 21st century learner? What 19th century methods could you alter to make more effective with today’s students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

4ALL: Social Media for 21st Century Learners

My wife, who is an English and Women’s Studies professor at the University of Missouri, shared a story with me this morning. She often has former students come back and speak with her class, usually via Skype. The insights they reveal are often helpful for her students to see the context for the information and processes they are learning in her course.

The other day, one of my wife’s star students spoke to the class. This particular student was best remembered for earning the honor of introducing then-candidate Barack Obama at a large rally just days before the 2008 election. She then moved on to intern for the first lady and now works for a reputable non-profit in D.C.

Here message to the students was realizing how important using social media would be in her future endeavors after college. While working for Ms. Obama, the student received one of her first assignments to create a video to post online. Luckily, she learned to do this in my wife’s class and the skills transferred over. In her current position, she has to coordinate messages to lobbyists and legislative staff. She utilizes Twitter to do most of this communication, citing the importance of an effective message in 140 characters.

With the word that Mubarak is stepping down due to a protest originally organized on Twitter, it is easy to see the power that these tools possess. Sure, lots of people use social media in pretty mundane ways, but that’s where we as educators come in. We can demonstrate this power and how effective communication can lead to change.

As Social Media Week winds down, think about how you can prepare our students for a future where social media is the effective and powerful tool we see all around us.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.