Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Information Revolution

The Information Revolution
At best, the current thinking about school reform gives only a token nod to the unprecedented access and connectedness that the Internet represents. Most educators are content to simply label this remarkable global portal as "technology" just another tool. Even those who call for teachers to integrate technology into their daily practice imagine such reforms as incremental rather than transformative.

All of this ignores the shift triggered by web 2.0 tools, a human revolution more profound than the shift from hunting to agriculture or the advent of printing and mass literacy. The emergence of a pervasive, collaborative, global virtual environment has changed forever what it means to be a good teacher, an effective school leader, or a well-educated 18-year-old.

There will be more information distributed in this year alone than there was in the last 5,000 years. Although some of it may be without much value, the pace of discovery and the volume of new information is mind-bending. When information was scarce, we went to school to gain access, and the locus of control for learning resided in those who possessed the knowledge, teachers and those who dictated the curriculum. Now information is abundant and easily accessed by anyone, anywhere with a web browser and Internet connection.

As educators, we need to realize that learning can now take place 24/7, with or without us, and that young people come to school knowing much more than we do in some areas. They have the potential to learn anything they want to learn at any time they want to learn it. Therefore, instead of focusing on the content, we really need to focus on what it means to be a learner and how to help students learn deeply and most effectively. We need to model metacognition and demonstrate the value of thinking about thinking. We need to lead them to think deeply and help them understand how to synthesize and analyze and to create, to  operate in Bloom's realm of higher-order skills.

The New 21st Century Curriculum
The new 21st century curriculum should be fluid, shaping and reshaping itself in response to students' self-direction and unpredictable events. It should be passion-driven, as teachers guide students in pursuit of what interests them most.
A 21st century curriculum should provide opportunities for students to build relationships, network, and act collectively. Students should be asked to synthesize information and demonstrate self-reliance. We also need to teach our students empathy for people from diverse backgrounds, because in the future, a great deal of their interactions will be carried out in online spaces, where they will be collaborating with people around the world.
In my work with global cohorts of teachers and administrators through the Powerful Learning Practice network, I advocate a three-pronged approach to learning in the 21st century, both for the young people we are guiding and for ourselves in our professional and personal lives.
  • We need to participate in face-to-face learning and build deep relationships with other people who we trust and with whom we can take learning risks and share and demonstrate what we know and care about.
  • We need to learn through global communities of inquiry. These are communities we find or create for ourselves that are populated by others who share our commitment to work and learn together over an extended period of time, mostly in virtual space. These diverse communities expand our understanding of both commonalities and differences. They are places where we test our ideas and challenge ourselves and others to question, reflect, and grow.
  • We need to build a personal learning network (PLN). A PLN is a resource for do-it-yourself learning, a revolving and evolving virtual web of not only human experts but also objects and resources that are all accessed through the power of web-based networking tools and mobile technologies.
  • We need to be visionary. We are not marching slowly into the future; we are speeding toward it in a whirlwind frenzy, mandated by the exponential rate of change. As educators, we must continuously ask ourselves, What do students need to learn to succeed in the world to come? A world we can't even imagine.
Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has been an educator for 20 years and has been a classroom teacher, technology coach, charter school principal, district administrator, university instructor, and digital learning consultant. She is a noted international keynote speaker and cofounder of Powerful Learning Practice. She blogs at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. I will be checking my comments every week.