Creators, Not Consumers

I wonder how many times I have thought to myself, "My students just aren't learning that skill!  How many different ways can I explain it?"  The frustration continues from one math topic to the next.  Students seem to be able to perform the skill when we work together, but then on their own, they fall short of expectations.  Their learning doesn't seem to transfer from one setting to the next.  The situation seems even more dire when students need to use a skill they "learned" two months ago to complete the current math topic.  Will the frustration ever end?  Will students ever be able to transfer learning from one situation to the next?  Will I ever be able to move from one math topic to the next thinking, "Wow!  My students really know how to do that!"?  With the use of the 21st Century Skills, all this and more may be possible.

As I was researching and learning about the 21st Century Skills, what struck me the hardest was the fact that the learning activities are so incredibly relevant to the students.  They are asked to solve real-world problems and investigate situations occurring in their own lives and communities.  What's more, students are asked to and expected to work collaboratively to solve such problems or to create or build something to show learning.  Students with different abilities can help each other instead of keeping their work covered.  So what does this mean for my classroom?

For starters, I am going to start putting more of an emphasis on creating instead of consuming.  I greatly dislike standing at the copy machine.  This school year I already started producing less teacher-made papers and have had my students producing more student-created papers.  Less time copying is a bonus for me!  Now I plan to take that a step further and move toward more student-created projects.  If students can show me what they know through a project, I will have greater confidence that their learning will transfer to other topics as well.  I will also put more effort into planning real-world activities where my students can use learned skills to solve a problem or build something in order to show what they know.    I want my students to be creators, not consumers!  Arts integration fits perfectly into this style of teaching and learning.  Students who are motivated by the arts will have the opportunity to create a product that shows what they know while also using the arts.  Finally, I will offer more situations where my students are expected to work collaboratively with each other.  It is well understood that today's students will almost certainly need the skills to work productively with other people upon graduating from high school or college.  I am doing a disservice to my students if I do not offer them the opportunity to practice their communication skills in elementary school.

Learning about the 21st Century Skills has brought a new excitement to my thinking about teaching.  I am looking forward to my students' reactions to this different style of teaching and learning.  I am also looking forward to seeing if my students' learning transfers more successfully.  Finally, I am looking forward to spending less time in front of the copy machine!

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Cathy Rikkola's picture

Re: Creators, Not Consumers Cathy Rikkola

Submitted on

I know that I learn best when I actually DO something, rather than just read about it or watch someone else do it. I think most of our students want and need to be "moving and doing" rather than sitting quietly and reading about a subject. Working together and experiencing something is so much more effective! 

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