One of the sessions at Edcamp Toronto this weekend was, “What is a 21st century learner? And what are the skills needed to be a 21st century teacher?” During one of the conversations, I thought we might get insight into 21st century students by looking back. I tweeted, “How do 21st century learners differ from 20th century learners?… or 19th century learners?” Later I realized that in my family, we had experience of education going back to the early 20th century.
My Grandmother was born in 1918 in Mannville, Alberta, and spent most of her 93 years within half an hour’s travel from the village. In the thirties, Grandma and a friend rode an Indian motorcycle 120 miles to Edmonton to college to become teachers. When she completed her teacher training, she began teaching in one room rural schools. Although, it was well into the 20th century, her initial experience of education and teaching was firmly rooted in the 19th century. Although she took some time off to raise four children, Grandma continued to teach until the early 80s and saw many changes in education throughout her long career. She finished her career teaching English in a rural grade 7-12 high school in Vermillion, Alberta.
I began teaching in the early 90’s and now find myself a teacher in the 21st century. I am currently teaching a Grade 4-8 Gifted class. The large range of grades is in many ways similar to the one room schoolhouses where Grandma went to school and begaun her teaching career. Technology has changed rapidly in the 30 years since my grandmother retired from teaching, and I am now teaching children whole new ways of communicating using the internet and online tools.
During another session at Edcamp Toronto, we had a lively discussion about teaching social media to children. The general consensus was that even very young children need little instruction on how to access social media. They pick up on how to use it very quickly. What they need is instruction on online etiquette and the social norms and rules around interacting with people online. During this discussion, I tweeted, “Kids are using social media anyway. Teacher’s need to guide its proper use, rather than teach them how to use it.” On twitter, @tanyasaidso responded, “replace *social media* with *life* and call yourself a parent.” I completely agree. I think that both parents and teachers need to teach 21st century children the ethics of how to treat others with respect both online and off.
During the discussion on teaching social media to children, I mentioned that in my classroom I have a rule which is quite effective with teaching preteens that language and behaviour that is be used in some situations is not appropriate in other situations. “The Grandma Rule” is: “If you would not say something to Grandma, Don’t Say it at School.” As soon as I mentioned it, about 3 people retweeted it, then after about 20 retweets over the course of the day, it morphed into, “If you wouldn’t say it to Grandma, don’t say it online”. If we could only have one rule for how we should behave online, I choose this one.
Thanks again to the organizers and sponsors for making Edcamp Toronto a great success. I’m already looking forward to the next one.