I have to be honest, when we at the TCDSB were first working through the ITL research, the one that gave me the most problems was Knowledge Construction. I just could not get my head around the idea of this one. I could clearly articulate in my mind how I could explain this concept to another educator. I think this fact alone speaks volumes to what is needed in education. I was an unqualified success of the traditional form of education as I was usually the teacher’s favourite and the one that usually had his hand up. I was able to interpret what the teacher wanted in a lesson or assignment and was then able to deliver. This was my key to success but I see now that it was a skill that is of less and less worth in the world. I had a hard time with the concept of Knowledge Construction because I had never been asked to do it.
This brings me to an ongoing conversation I have been having with my wife as I strive to show her some usable tech tools to help in her classroom. We took our three kids to the zoo on the holiday Monday and so we started talking about her own class’ upcoming trip to the zoo. She decided that she wants the kids to do some basic research on an animal ahead of time so that they can talk about it when they get to see the real thing. This is great but she wanted to add to the experience as she is doing the trip with a few other teachers in the school as well as her sister-in-law who is a teacher in another board. I suggested using GOOGLE DOCS to create real collaborative notes and research findings. I created 10 different docs (under a new GOOGLE Account created for her), and carefully looked at the map of the park and picked animals from each area so that there would be something to talk about at each stop. I even went so far to look up a few good sites that the kids could use for research and made sure that all the animals were represented. I was really on a roll.
Then this morning I was in a ministry review meeting, listening to a teacher talk about how inquiry based learning has transformed her class and it all depended on her giving up control of the lesson and letting the students’ voice and interest guide things. It hit me and so I had to text my wife right away saying that she had to let the kids pick the animals that they wanted to study instead of guiding them. Her response was of course and was going to do that anyway and that my files were going to be changed based on their interests! Again, she saw what I could not because she understands Knowledge Construction and the true essence of it: Students will be engaged with and think deeply about topics that are of interest to them. A teacher cannot create this; they cannot lesson plan for passion. They can only create an environment in which students feel free and encouraged to explore their passions and make it a part of their daily learning.
I still need to consciously think this way and I know that if I was in a classroom I would need to make sure that I was reminding myself of this all the time. I think this is what Project neXt is all about: bringing the skills of the 21st Century to the forefront so that teachers can consciously and purposefully insert them into their practice.