Posted by: darcymullin | February 8, 2011

Inspired by Real Learning

Over the last year I have been really interested in 21st Century learning.  I have spent a significant amount of time trying to get my head around what it looks like.  I know it can/will/should? incorporate technology, but the more I think about it, the more I think it is about process.  It is about collaborating, discussing, making learning relevant.  I was sent this link today  To me this is the best example of what 21st Century learning is about.  These kids collaborated, mentored, discussed, were committed to a cause and the outcome was truly inspiring.   I obviously didn’t attend any of their practices (how do you practice for a flash mob?), but I bet you the kids were fully engaged and on task…with no adults around.

My guess is that they also learned a bunch.  They learned that they could make a difference; they learned it is great to be different.  They learned that collaborating can be truly inspirational.  I don’t know any of these kids, but I bet if you asked them or their teachers, after being a part of this event, they are more willing to take a stand against all forms of discrimination.  

Did they use technology, sure some. They probably connected on Facebook or some other social media site.  They likely used an Ipod to play the music and maybe got some dance moves from YouTube, but the learning had nothing to do with technology and everything to do with collaboration, communication and leadership.  Technology was just one of the many tools they used. 

Too often 21st century learning comes down to a discussion about technology.  Don’t get me wrong, technology is an integral part of the discussion, but it is not whole discussion.  Technology used poorly just reinforces poor pedagogy.  If I have an interactive whiteboard and create a cool PowerPoint then stand at the front of the class and deliver a lecture I am merely using technology to reinforce “old school” practices.  I control the content and I am telling the students what they need to learn. 

I am still working on what personalized learning looks like, but the more I think about it, the more I know it is the students who are driving the bus, not me.


  1. I think you’re absolutely right about reinforcing ‘old ways’. Technology shouldn’t just make our old stuff look cool. I think…Personalized learning is student-centered and stretches across all disciplines. I think it’s about students developing the necessary skills to adapt to the fast-pace of change in the 21st Century. I like the analogy…you might decide on the destination, but each students drives their own bus via the route they choose. I think 21st Century learning emphasizes the “how” more than the “what”; the content used to be the end, but it is slowly becoming the means.

    Great post Darcy!

  2. […] for this post came from Darcy Mullin’s (@dMully) post entitled, “Inspired by Real Learning.” and a comment he wrote on my post “What Educators sometimes say…” While commenting on my […]

  3. I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote. Further to what I think you’re saying, the following is taken from the Premier’s Technology Council’s report, “A Vision for 21st Century Education.”
    Components of 21st Century Education
    1. a flexible educational path with project-based or integrated learning
    2. a blended system that uses classrooms and technology
    3. technology to access learning objects and teaching tools
    4. open access to information systems for content and decision making
    5. constant feedback and assessment to allow students, parents and teachers to adjust to meet challenges or accommodate progress

    In terms of technology, I think #3 is slowly reaching critical mass. Meanwhile I would guess there is resistance to #2 from many quarters, including teacher federations. #4 is a technology issue too, and it is slowly happening. It’s primarily a funding issue, basically getting more internet access in the classrooms.

    #5 is also happening. I’ve been surprised at how many classrooms I’ve been in that are taking this approach. I would guess it’s around 1/3.

    For me, the big one is #1. This will require a major shift in thinking and the way education is run. I think it requires major curriculum reform along with cross-institutional efforts. For example, BC has a relatively new science 10 curriculum. It is so packed that the students are guaranteed to not spend more than 4 classes on any one topic or unit. This makes discovery, inquiry and project based learning almost impossible.

    The technology features of 21C learning are relatively easy to implement. It is the other features along with new attitudes that are more important and will be much harder. I think I’m now inspired to write my own blog post!

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