One of the problems with 20th century approaches to education, according to learning activist and Tokyo International School founder Patrick Newell, is that children are taught what to learn but not how to learn, "and they are slowing educated out of their innate curiosity and creativity." 21:21 The Movie—which is 21 minutes and 21 seconds long— contains interviews with many thought leaders including David Perkins, Kirpal Singh, Philip Zimbardo, David Kelley, and many others. An overview of the elements of 21st century learning can be seen here on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website. Obviously the core subjects are still important, including the "3 Rs," but it's so much more than that. "As teachers and parents," says Newell, "we need to create learning environments which nurture creativity and inspire confidence."
Presentations: nurturing creativity & inspiring confidence
If you are particularly interested in the role presentation plays in the modern classroom—especially presentations researched, designed, and delivered by students—then this section of the video here entitled Learning Through Teaching may be of special interest to you. Last April I was on campus to watch students at the Tokyo International School come together to give presentations of projects on which they'd been working. In this section you can get a glimpse of that event as well as some interviews with students and adults on the role of presentation in this context.
While watching the students present and teach others I was reminded of this old chestnut from Harvard's Erik Mazur, a physics professor who is famous for having his students learn by teaching their peers what they had learned: "You can forget facts, but you can not forget understanding." From what I saw, students learned that presentation is not merely the transfer of information but rather an opportunity to make a contribution. After the event the presenters were even more excited about their subjects and you really could see the confidence in their eyes as a result of a job well done. A job for which they had full ownership. (Watch the full 21:21video here.)
Watch the 21:21 documentary without Japanese subtitles here.
"When learners are engaged in defining their learning processes, and when they have ownership to choose and to use digital tools to express themselves, their excitement becomes tangible, and their skills long-lasting." — Patrick Newell
An organic metaphor for teaching & learning
In the clip below, Sir Ken Robinson speaks of good schools and good teaching as being those that provide the right conditions for students to reach their potential. He calls this more of an organic approach that stresses not an industrial metaphor of mechanization, compliance, and standardization, but rather the creation of the optimal conditions for learning. In this way Robinson says a more modern metaphor would be one of a teacher as gardener or farmer. A farmer depends on plants growing healthy and strong, and yet gardeners do not make plants grow, of course, they provide the conditions for growth to occur. "Great farmers know what the conditions of growth are and bad ones don't," says Robinson. "Great teachers know what the conditions of growth are and bad ones don't." Part of providing the right conditions in today's world means giving students more ownership of their learning, their explorations, and discoveries. A significant part of that journey is students sharing ideas and materials with students in myriad ways, including the many forms of presentation.
* More material from the movie
Go here to the 21 Foundation Youtube page for many more interviews by the foundation that did not make it into the movie, including interviews with Jill Bolte Taylor, Nalini Nadkarni, Hans Rosling, Nicholas Negroponte, and more. (In the interest of full disclosure I should say that Partick Newell is my personal friend. Yet even if I were not his friend, I would be one of his biggest fans. His energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to education is inspiring.)