Reflections on RCAC Symposium 2010

Sometimes it just seems to take me a while to put my reflections into writing but having attending another great RCAC Symposium this year,  I thought, “Better late than never!”   Thanks so much to Doug Peterson and Doug Sadler for heading up such a great organizational team that makes this event so successful.

I read @dougpete’s Blog ‘Doug – off the record’ regularly and after the conference he wrote  this great post that reminds us that our passion for professional learning needs to lead to action!  As a life-long learner and a passionate teacher, I find that what I enjoy most about RCAC (I think I’ve been lucky enough to attend about 4 now) is the great balance between inspirational speakers, practical workshops that I can apply in my classroom, and the opportunity to network with other caring professionals.

I loved hearing Ian Jukes again (I’ve been a Committed Sardine for quite some time now) but I hadn’t had a chance to hear Angela Maiers yet, so I was excited about that prospect.  I met Angela at ISTE 2010 with some mutual friends in a pub in Denver after workshops, and her energy was pretty awesome – she quickly let us know about her passion for getting the passion back into school!

I’ve always been a little skeptical of the folks throwing around the ’21st Century Skills’ term because I’ve been teaching for 24 years and I have wanted nothing different for my kids 24 years ago than I do today.   I LOVED Angela’s thinking on this!  She notices that kindergarten kids seem to exemplify all of the qualities of  21st century learners,  so maybe the question shouldn’t be “How do we GIVE students the 21st century skills once they are disengaged 11 year olds” …but instead,

How do we help our students to KEEP those 21st Century Skills that they so naturally display when they enter school?

This isn’t a completely new concept, but it makes me think of the power of the learner in a new light. Mitchel Resnick’s work around creating environments that are more like Kindergarten led to the creation of Scratch, a wonderfully creative programming software from MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Lab.   Neil Postman’s book Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969) notes that ‘Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods’.  We need to help them explore the questions that are most important to them, and teachers need to  understand that we all have different opinions about what is worth knowing.

So check out Angela’s presentation called Habitudes of the 21st Century Learner and ask yourself how you can nurture the already curious, collaborative, creative, persistent, divergent learners that sit with you everyday.   I know I’m going to try to bring a little Kindergarten back into my teaching and see what happens!