Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Communique on Communication

This week's conversation is all about communication. A new voice has been added to the mix, so I invite you to follow along with the conversation by taking a look at each of the following blogs:

  • Debbie Axiak - @DebbieAxiak - http://debbieaxiak.blogspot.ca/ 
  • Matthew Oldridge - @matthewoldridge - http://matthewoldridge.blogspot.ca/ 
  • Tina Zita - @tina_zita - http://misszita.wordpress.com/ 
  • Magdelina Front - @techmagfront - http://upfrontandcentre.wordpress.com/

Here is what the team came up with this week (Again, I've left mine own until the end):

  • Debbie Axiak - Communication = Giving and/or receiving information
  • Matthew Oldridge - Communication = making your voice heard
  •  Tina Zita - Communication = clear message, deep toolbox, understanding audience
  • Magdelina Front - Communication = Conveying relevant messages that inspire others

And my thoughts regarding Communication

Communication, like each of the other 6 C’s, receives a lot of dialogue & discussion amongst academic professionals. We often hear in our staff rooms complaints regarding the delivery of messages by our students through their written and oral work. I find myself in these discussions quite a bit, and am constantly reminded at all the different ways messages are communicated.

These ways may have never been so numerous than they are now. And these messages conveyed in all sorts of different languages - and I’m not talking about foreign languages, but the modifications we’ve made to English/other native languages (U know? lol). I think this is a challenge for many teachers to accept and acknowledge that it’s not about the spelling, but about the message. That’s what communication is really about, is it not? Believe me, I’m not about to say that spelling & grammar does not matter; but does it matter as much as it once did?

In a world where we are bombarded by hundreds of messages each minute, it’s the message that stands out, which receives our attention. When we are in our classrooms, it’s the message that provokes thought, dialogue, discussion, critique, and our collective attention that is effective communication. Whether this is lengthy verbal conversation, or a brief 140 character message conveyed in a Twitter chat, it doesn’t really matter, so long as the results are what was originally intended.

In the 21st century, it is so important that we teach our students how to access the media necessary to convey their message. How to convey their message in a way that grabs others attention. And how to use the conventions of the chosen media to do this effectively.  We live in a world now where social media is King, and the communication that we receive revolves around this media. As Clay Shirky once said, “The Internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversation at the same time. The Internet gives us the many-to-many pattern. For the first time, media is natively good at supporting these kinds of conversations.”

Therefore, unlike definitions of the past, where communication is all about imparting or exchanging information between a few, 21st century communication is all about conveying your message in a way that captures the attention of hundreds (or thousands if you are Taylor Swift). Because if you want to stand out in today’s age, and have your voice heard, you are going to have to scream it from the top of the Twitter/Snapchat/YouTube/Facebook/Tumblr/etc.  mountain.

Communication = Capturing the Attention of the Masses

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Journey Continues - Critical Thinking

Attempting to define each of the 6 C's of 21st Century Learning has become quite the task. Each C brings with it new questions, insights, and opinions regarding definitions; and how differently we look at it sometimes. This week it was about defining Critical Thinking - a C that for me has become the very large C that fills my classroom everyday. The team has assembled, and the ideas sprung to paper (or computer screens actually).

Instead of providing each person's thoughts regarding the 6 C's, I ask you to take a second and read about theirs on each of their blogs:

  • Debbie Axiak - @DebbieAxiak - http://debbieaxiak.blogspot.ca/ 
  • Matthew Oldridge - @matthewoldridge - http://matthewoldridge.blogspot.ca/ 
  • Tina Zita - @tina_zita - http://misszita.wordpress.com/ 

However, as far as definitions go, I thought it best to use the following to illustrate each person's (I've left mine own until the end):

  •  Matthew Oldridge - Critical Thinking = Making sound judgements 
  •  Debbie Axiak - Critical Thinking = not accepting things at face value 
  •  Tina Zita - Critical Thinking = asking questions and responding. 

So here are my thoughts regarding Critical Thinking:

"I have only recently begun to consider what critical thinking really means, and have thus shifted my focus on trying to develop this in my students. Up until this point I never really gave it much scrutiny; as I focused on the Knowledge component of students’ learning. I wanted to ensure students ‘knew’ content and could tell me the terms, concepts, and theories. I wanted students to regurgitate studied information and demonstrate to me that they could remember key curriculum components. Why? Well this was what I was taught to be ‘learning’. Only to realize this to be a very erroneous assumption of learning.

I was always a curious child growing up - yes that annoying child who constantly asked the ‘Why’ about everything. I wanted to figure out how things work, tearing apart old radios and anything else that could be taken apart to understand the inner workings of things (I never figured it out, I just liked the destruction I think). As well, my elementary teachers couldn’t tell me to do things, without providing a reason first; and if I didn’t like their reasoning, I surely wasn’t about to do what they told me (which more often than not, provided me with a reason to visit the principals office on more than one occasion). However, I lost this somewhere. Somewhere along the way, I stopped asking those questions, and just did what I needed to get by. I believe this is an unfortunate part of our education system; or has traditionally been an unfortunate part. However, I believe the focus is now shifting dramatically away from a concentration on Knowledge, to a much greater focus on a true demonstration of learning.

Critical thinking is a much more accurate definition of learning really. The ability to describe ‘Why’ things happen, ‘How’ things happen, and the ‘Impacts’ of world happenings. In the ‘AG’ era (After Google), any student can search terms, concepts, and theories, and define them using their digital devices; but it’s much more difficult for a student to ‘Google’ the ‘How’, ‘Why’, and ‘Impacts’ of world happenings. This is why Critical Thinking is so crucially important.

When students are able to critically think, they are able to truly learn about issues, events, concepts, theories, and people from around the world. When students critically think about their own learning, they begin to realize why they perform such actions, create such assessments, and present in such ways. They begin to realize what THEY DO has an impact on the World around them. That to me, is true learning."

Critical Thinking = Why we Do What we Do