21st Century Learners: Videos

I am doing a presentation about 21st century learners to a group of museum professionals. They likely will not have had much exposure to the concept, so we’re starting at a very basic level.

I will, of course, include interactive elements in the session, including digital tools like Poll Everywhere, and plain old group conversations.

I’m also looking for some short videos that illustrate some of the concepts of the 21st century learner. Since I’m always looking for good videos about this, I thought I’d make a post linking to them.

This is just a quick start. I know there are more. I would love suggestions!

1. A Vision of K-12 Students Today
I think this is one of the first ones I saw. It’s getting a little dated (it’s only 5 years old!) but does clarify some of the basic concepts.

2. Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner – The MacArthur Foundation

This is a trailer for a 60-minute documentary about 21st Century Learners from PBS.

Quote: “Part of the opportunity here is learning the content, which is very much the 20th century idea of education. In the 21st century it’s learning the tools and the skills of remaking that content and becoming the creator and the producer.”

Thought: Museums can be part of the informal learning to link to the formal learning.

Getting Disruptive Technology Ready

We’re at the cabin for one last relaxing weekend before school starts. (We’ll be here Labor Day weekend, but as that is closing weekend, it’s hardly relaxing.)  My son brought his new iPad with him. We’ve had many conversations about how to handle it. Here are some rules we agreed on:

  • No Netflix app on the iPad. While this wasn’t his choice, he understood and agreed that it is too much of a temptation. That is exactly part of why kids need exposure to these devices – they need to learn how to focus even with the distractions.
  • Games are limited to those I approve. While I think games can be a great learning tool (just watch my 6-year old nephew figure out Angry Birds) I know his teachers aren’t at that place yet. We agreed that he will not play the games at school.
  • Handling with friends: as he will be probably the only one with an iPad, he needs to know how to handle this. We agreed that he can’t show off with it. It’s just a tool, like a notebook. He decided that my rule is that he can’t allow others to use it. This gives him an out when kids ask to use it.
  • Theft: We are still discussing how to keep the device secure when he’s at gym or lunch or recess. (Yes, they still get recess in 7th grade!)
  • Charging: he will be responsible for bringing the iPad home every night and charging it.He knows he won’t be able to do that at school.


The big question everyone has is APPS. What apps do you use? (OK, no one has asked us, but I know that’s what we’ll get asked and I see this question all the time in other places.) Here’s what we’re starting with:

  • Evernote: I’ll show him how to take advantage of Evernote. We’re still having an issue because technically he can’t have an account because he’s not 13. I emailed Evernote, but haven’t heard back. We’ll add some other Evernote functions, such as Skitch and Penultimate.
  • iMovie: $4.99 well spent. It’s a powerful video editing tool and can be used for many purposes.
  • Explain Everything: whiteboard recording app for math, mostly
  • Garage Band: for a kid who loves to compose and play music, this is a must.
  • Free Graphing Calculator: $100 less than what I’ll have to spend on the free standing graphing calculator that I won’t buy.
  • Keynote: easy-to-use on the iPad
  • Voicethread: especially useful for Spanish, but also other assignments.
  • WordPress: app that allows him to compose on the Kidblog.org blog I set up for him. Kidblog will have its own app soon.
  • Office HD or other suite: haven’t decided on this yet. Need to do more research about these tools.
  • Planner app: He found a homework planner app. He’ll also try using Google calendar.

There will be more. You’ll notice that there are really no subject specific apps. These are all productivity tools. We’ll add subject apps as needed, but for the most part, this is what he’ll use.

He’s already spent a few hours learning Garage Band and iMovie. As a matter of fact, he just went on a walk to our farm to take pictures to turn into an iMovie. I think I’ll suggest he compose some music for it, too!

Students prefer Print?

Great post by Technology in Music Education today about a study that shows that college students prefer print books to e-textbooks. I attended a session at the MN e-Learning Summit in July presented by the folks at the U of M that shared the same impressions – that students didn’t use the interactive features, they preferred print, etc.

I have two main comments:

  1. What was not shared in the Chronicle article (and another summary article I saw about this but can’t find at the moment) is that the folks at the U has similar thoughts to what Chris expressed in his post: students and professors haven’t been exposed to these tools, and need to learn how to use them. I was happy to hear the U folks saying this, because it’s SO totally true.
  2. The U of M folks also expressed that the e-textbooks they used were not, perhaps, quite ready for primetime. There were some issues with the reader and it sounded like the e-texts were pretty much pdfs online, with minimal interactivity.


As Chris said, students and professors tend to stay with the familiar. These college students were trained in school to learn with certain tools. They know these tools, that’s their comfort zone. I saw this in an experience I had with an undergrad class last year. In a group of about 40 students, not a single student used a device to take notes. They actively expressed skepticism about e-texts — until they did more research and watched 6th grade students using our iPad app!

I also see this with my kids and their friends – both the 7th grader and the 10th grader. Kids stick with what they know and how they’ve been taught. I’ve asked high school kids if they want digital curriculum, and they have all the same reasons we hear that they don’t: not everyone has a device, they prefer print, etc. We can’t always rely on the students to lead. Sometimes, they need to be taught – shown – different ways of learning. In my cynical state, it’s just a sign of how they are trained in our current educational system.


I totally concur that the e-text industry isn’t ready for prime time. I’ve done a great deal of looking at digital textbooks and curriculum. I have yet to see tools that really take advantage of the medium and aren’t basically moving print to digital. Fortunately, not all are just pdfs online, but they still have a ways to go.

Off on our DIsruptive Adventure

Last spring, my husband and I decided that we would get our son (7th grade this fall) an iPad to have at school. His school has made some steps in the right direction: Google Apps, laptops for the teachers (FINALLY), but most important, their pedagogy is already in the right place – for the most part.

His school is very much about student centered curriculum, with students constantly creating things, working in collaborative groups, and building critical thinking skills through mostly project based curriculum. There are few tests, and he took his first standardized test in 6th grade – just to give them some practice. These things I like, and it is why we keep him there.

However, there is a pervasive attitude of NO CELL PHONES (yet a huge percentage of kids have them) and that technology is bad. While they did purchase a few iPads for teachers to work with this year, there was little, if any, professional development. One teacher told me he liked using it, but couldn’t possibly see how students would use it. Oh my. 

There is no official “BYOD” policy, but many kids do just that. So, we are going to as well. It’ll be an iPad.

I’ve told my son that by getting this device, he agrees that he will experiment with doing assignments differently than he’s told. (For a rule follower, this will be hard!) We’re going to work together on some homework, and if we feel that more learning would happen using the iPad, we’ll do that.

He’s also agreed to let me blog about it. So, here’s to more posts about our new disruptive adventure. 

Learning 2.0 Conference

Awesome conference this week — it’s FREE and VIRUTAL, so no need to travel. I’ve listened to a couple of sessions and keynotes while doing other work. 

While the live sessions are the best, the sessions are all recorded so you can listen to the ones you miss. (It’s a long conference!) 

I watched Marc Prensky’s keynote on Tuesday. He was, as usual, full of good quips:

  • everyturned off device is a turned off mind


  • every day we discourage use of tools is a day we deny kids their birthright as 21st century citizen.

I also participated in a great session by Peter Young at San Jose State University about research he’s doing on effective digital content delivery. It was a fun session with fun conversation and questions. There isn’t much solid research about effective delivery, so it is great to have this resource. For example, do you know the optimal podcast length and why that is?

Learning for Yesterday

I popped into a virtual conference today to hear a keynote by Mark Prensky. He was his usual irreverent self. I do enjoy his keynotes, and appreciate his commitment to education and his ability to justify the use of technology.

For example, he said that denying a student’s use of technology is denying the child’s birthright as a 21st century citizen. Why? We sure don’t deny adults the tools, so why should adults deny a student?

I also loved this slide showing the evolution of a literate person. I concur. If I was hiring staff today, would I look for the highest test score? Would I look for the best 5-paragraph essay? Nope. I’d look for the person who could create a video, deliver content visually, could be creative and think differently. Making a video requires even higher developed critical thinking skills, it means the student has to think not only in text, but in visuals. It’s far more difficult than that 5-paragraph essay. Bring it on!

Marc Prensky’s vision of a Literate Learner. Don’t teach for yesterday. Teach for tomorrow.

Internet is like Electricity…

An article in today’s StarTribune discusses a battle over putting broadband into rural Lake County, Minnesota.

I don’t have the background on this story, but it seems to me that the business interests missed the boat on this one, thinking only of their bottom line. Now the county is saying it needs broadband to stay competitive – -just like happened when electricity went in — so they’re taking action. The county is stepping up to provide a service that has been deemed essential, especially in an area like the North Shore.

What isn’t mentioned in this article is that if businesses don’t have broadband, neither do the schools. That means students in the rural areas don’t even have the option of becoming better connected students, of taking advantage of the learning opportunities that having internet access to the world provides.

Rural students deserve better. Thanks, Lake County, for picking up where the businesses failed you.


Visual Delivery of Information should be the new 5 Paragraph Essay

In a recent post, I lamented my pathetic design skills. It is sad, and I truly wish I had a better sense of design, an ability to turn information into a visualization. I see many places where this would be an incredibly useful skill, both  in my job and in my volunteer work. Even in low-key meetings, using visuals can be far more powerful than a bunch of words  or a long talk. Yet, my presentation skills are amateurish at best. It’s rather embarrassing.

Our society has shifted tremendously to using visuals, and students need to know how to interpret them and create them. It’s going to be at least as important, if not more important, that writing the ubiquitous 5-paragraph essay.

Of course, content is king – it always will be – but presentation is becoming more and more essential. There are many other ways besides the written word to communicate ideas. Video, photography, art, infographics.

The tools are there, we just need to let the kids use them.  I have powerful photo and video editing software on my iPhone. Tools like iBooks Author, Keynote, Prezi and more are there to make polished looking presentations. Here’s a great post by Larry Ferrlazo about resources for creating infographics. Teach kids about the basic principals of design. Hire more art teachers to help. Let kids practice, experiment, fail, and succeed.

Make sure you show design-inept kids, like me, how to be successful. I was incredibly good at those 5-paragraph essays. I could whip them up in a heartbeat, probably never getting less than an A-.  In a world based on visual delivery of information, I’d have been a C student at best. Huh. Guess intelligence sometimes depends more on perspective than reality.