Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century

ImageTruer words were never spoken.This insightful quote was made by John Dewey at age 85…8 years before his death in 1952.  Not only that, in 1915 Dewey was calling conventional public schools to task accusing them of structuring the system “to make things easy for the teacher who wishes quick and tangible results.” (John Dewey, Schools of Tomorrow, New York:  Dutton, 1915, p. 18)  Nearly 100 years ago, Dewey recognized the need for schools to prepare students for the future and to emphasize freedom and individuality.

PBS’ presentation of Digital Media*New Learners of the 21st Century examines five programs across the United States that have embraced technology, integrating it and sometimes replacing traditional curriculum with it in schools. I was particularly interested in New York’s Quest to Learn elementary school.  In this segment, John Seely Brown says that the 21st century and maybe even in the 20th century has overlooked the power and importance of play in learning.  This concept resonated with me from my preschool teaching days.  Our  philosophy at VBCC was that children learn through play…compromising, negotiating, critical thinking, problem solving etc.  Mr. Brown extends this concept to the students of today.  He states that the most important thing is for children to have curiosity and a questioning spirit. With this, students can take an idea and “play” with it, tinker with it, make the idea personal and relevant, and ultimately own it. Then, the student will indwell in the idea and the idea in the student. Long lasting learning takes place here that can be applied to future situations.

I loved the way the students in the program talked about the way they learn at Quest to Learn school. Their interest and enthusiasm are evident and contagious.  I had to keep pausing the video because my mind would start wandering to ways I could implement technology tools into my teaching.

All the segments in the PBS broadcast were interesting to me and I highly recommend you set aside 52 minutes to watch the program. Some of the quotable quotes I captured follow.

 “Assessments and testing drives current school systems.  We are not going to change the paradigm of schooling and get deeper learning and learning for problem solving and innovation unless we change the test and change the assessment.” James Gee, Professor, Arizona State University

“Why do we assume that kids’ socializing and play is not a site of learning?” Mimi Ito, cultural anthropologist , University of California, Irvine

“Is someone literate if they cannot critique media, take media in, if they’re only taking in traditional text – so if a 6th grader today, by the time they graduate from college is not fluent if you will, in some of these other forms of media, I would venture to say that they won’t necessarily be considered as being literate. Nichole Pinkard, Founder, Digital Youth Network

“If we know that learning outside of school matters a great deal to kids’ ability to learn well in school, we have to pay attention to that. Katie Salen, Founder, Institute of Play

Addendum: My favorite resources from the Digital Media page are:

Howard Rheingold – packed website and blogs but especially like the virtual classroom

Edutopia – cool website and blogs on tons of topics

Stay tuned…

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2 thoughts on “Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century

  1. Wonderful post…you are a gifted blogger. The quotes you shared hinted to new literacies needed to qualify as literate in today’s world and learning via “play”. What barriers exist that prevent this to happen in classrooms today?
    May I share this post via Twitter?

    • Teachers who are more “traditionally-minded” see play more as a disruption to learning than as a method of learning. How many times have we heard a teacher say, “Stop playing around and get busy?” Well, maybe that play is getting busy and getting down to learning. Also, traditional thinking says successful classrooms are quiet with all students compliant and doing the same thing. That is no longer a valid assumption. Different students learn in different ways so a successful classroom should have these different learners engaged in different types of experiences and activities. To me that seems obvious but easier said than done!

      Sure, you can share this on Twitter….I don’t tweet but I guess I’ll have to learn!

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