Tradition vs. Innovation: New Year’s [Conflict] Resolution

20111225-204309.jpgHappy New Year! Having just finished with the holidays, tradition has been in the air, and nothing is more traditional in education than the time-honored three R’s – Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic.

But the old idea of the three R’s certainly has taken a beating these days, hasn’t it?

Mary Bart, writing for Faculty Focus, identified what is quickly becoming accepted as “best practice” for a new generation of learners:

Christy Price, EdD, a psychology professor at Dalton State College, became interested in Millennial learners when she noticed a gap between students’ expectation for success and the effort they put forth in the classroom (Price, 2009). Price then conducted a qualitative analysis of narratives provided by more than a hundred Millennial learners to get a more accurate picture of what makes them tick.

In the recent online seminar Five Strategies to Engage Today’s Students, Price shared some of what she’s learned regarding the characteristics of Millennials’ ideal learning environments, their preferences regarding assignments and assessment, and the characteristics of their ideal professor. She then outlined the instructional implications of her findings with these five R’s for engaging Millennial students:

  1. Research-based methods: Research suggests Millennials prefer a variety of active learning methods. When they are not interested in something, their attention quickly shifts elsewhere. Interestingly, many of the components of their ideal learning environment — less lecture, use of multimedia, collaborating with peers — are some of the same techniques research has shown to be effective, Price said.
  2. Relevance: Millennials have grown up being able to Google anything they want to know, therefore they do not typically value information for information’s sake. As a result, the professor’s role is shifting from disseminating information to helping students apply the information. One of the greatest challenges for teachers is to connect course content to the current culture and make learning outcomes and activities relevant, Price said.
  3. Rationale: Unlike Boomers who were raised in a more authoritarian manner in which they more readily accept the chain of command, Millennials were raised in a non-authoritarian manner and are more likely to comply with course policies when teachers provide them with a rationale for specific policies and assignments.
  4. Relaxed: Millennials prefer a less formal learning environment in which they can informally interact with the professor and one another. In interviews with students, the term “laid back” was used repeatedly.
  5. Rapport: Millennials are extremely relational. They are more central to their parents’ lives than previous generations and are used to having the adults in their lives show great interest in them. They appreciate it when professors show that same interest, and they seem to be more willing to pursue learning outcomes when instructors connect with them on a personal level.

Another take on reforming the three R’s can be found here by edublogger Mark Brumley:

Creating is not only at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy, it is a critical skill needed for the advancement of our society. The “Creative Class”, a term used by author Richard Florida in his book The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, is growing and manufacturing jobs are dwindling. We must teach students skills to engage in non-routine cognitive work.

Curating is a skill needed to sift through the mountains of new content created every day. Students need to know how to discover and discern what is truly meaningful and relevant and discard the rest. This includes “crap detection” (Howard Rheingold) but also “gem detection” to determine the truly remarkable content.

A key component of creative class jobs is collaboration. In almost all cases, these types of professions involve working with others and creating and curating within the groups. Of course this means not only collaborating with the people next to you but globally and even virtually.

So the Industrial Revolution gave us the 3 R’s and now the Digital Revolution has given us the 3 C’s. In my next series of posts, I plan to outline the relationship between the traditional methods of pedagogy and the rise of a new model appropriate for the 21st Century.

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