How Do We Have It All?
How do we address both the short-term goals of preparing students for the tests as well as addressing the long term goals of preparing them for life? How do we address the need for our students to learn both the traditional content as well as the essentials for modern learning simultaneously?
The first thing we need to understand is that the traditional emphasis on literacy, while absolutely important, is no longer enough. We believe that even if we were to educate all of our students to the standards of 20th Century literacies – reading, writing, arithmetic – that our students will be literate by the standards of the 20th century, but they won’t be literate based on the needs and demands of the 21st Century. We believe that we need to move our thinking – that we need to move our teaching – beyond our current focus on just 20th Century literacies – to equipping them with the essentials of modern learning.
The essentials of modern learning are mental processes that can be learned, practiced, developed and applied as unconscious habits of mind. These new mental processes are essential skills that pave the way to success in the modern world. There are two major steps in developing these skills. The first step is the conscious application there are two major steps in developing these unconscious habits of mind.
First, there is the conscious application of the skills. In other words, you can use them, but you have to think about how to use them. This is a very necessary and useful stage in skill development. Think back to when you were learning to drive. When you got your learner’s license for driving a car, you were very conscious about turning the steering wheel, stepping on the brake, stepping on the gas, using the turn signals, checking mirrors, and a whole bunch of other new skills.
Learning all of these things was a necessary step which is why we don’t just give student drivers their license. They’re just not ready to drive independently without an experienced driver being with them to help them learn the necessary skills.
And because they have to constantly think about applying these new skills, student drivers don’t drive the car smoothly. They lurch, they stall, they stop abruptly. In the beginning, driving is a halting, uneven, uncomfortable experience. To become an independent driver, students need sufficient practice and experience so they can learn to apply all of these skills unconsciously and intuitively. Experienced drivers can actually perform all of these driving skills at a high level, drive smoothly and still be able to carry on conversations with their passengers and listen to music because they don’t have to think, they just drive.
They have reached a level of unconscious skill. When a driver reaches an unconscious skill level, they’re able to move to higher level cognitive functions. Not just respond, but also to anticipate what other drivers are going to do and to take corrective or preventative action before something actually happens. This unconscious skill level doesn’t just apply to driving, it also applies to reading, writing, arithmetic, research, and problem solving skills. It’s what multitasking is all about – being able to do several things unconsciously and simultaneously.
So what are the essential skills for modern learning? Put another way, what are the critical skills all students need to know to an unconscious level that are above and beyond an understanding of traditional content areas? We’ve asked this question hundreds of times in dozens of countries, to everyone from students, parents and teachers to educational and political leaders. No matter who we talk to – no matter where we ask this question – the answers we hear are almost always the same. People consistently identify nine essential skills they believe must become an increasing focus of teaching and learning if we hope to keep schools relevant in the modern changing world. In fact, we believe the skills we’re about to introduce are as important as reading and writing were for success in the 20th century – these are not optional skills. We call them the 9 I’s for Modern Learning.
The 9 I’s For Modern Learning
- Intra-personal Skills
Intra-personal Skills are internal skills, perceptions and attitudes that occur within a person’s own mind. Art Costa called these the habits of mind. Skills that individuals use to work through real world situations. Skills that allow individuals to respond using awareness, thought, and intentional strategy in order to gain positive outcomes.
Examples of intra-personal skills include such things as self-esteem, open mindedness, being aware of your own thinking, the ability to learn, being able to understand and manage your own emotions, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-motivation, being able to overcome boredom, being patient, being a self starter, being able to take initiative, working independently, being persistent, having a positive attitude, and being a good manager of time, to name but a few.
Intra-personal Skills can be learned in the same way that we learn math and language skills. And they are the absolute foundation of every day life. The problem is that these skills aren’t typically introduced to students in any kind of organized manner.
- Interpersonal Skills
The 2nd I is for Interpersonal Skills. One of the vital differences between intra-personal and interpersonal communication is that Intra-personal skills are inward focused, whereas interpersonal skills are outward focused. Interpersonal abilities have to do with understanding and comprehending external situations and being able to communicate with people. Interpersonal Skills are the life skills we have to use every day to communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups.
Interpersonal skills include such things as non-verbal communication, being able to conduct a conversation, being able to give positive feedback, the ability to listen, being able to persuade, debate, convince, sell, or defend a position, the ability to ask questions, being able to communicate respectfully, social and cultural awareness, being able to accept criticism, and personal assertiveness. Having a well-developed repertoire of interpersonal skills allows individuals to handle challenging situations more effectively.
- Independent Problem Solving Skills
The 3rd I is Independent Problem Solving. Independent Problem Solving involves students learning a structured mental process that will allow them to independently solve complex problems in real-time. The world is in desperate need of analytical thinkers who are able to compare, contrast, evaluate, synthesize, and apply their analyses in order to answer difficult questions or solve problems in real time – independently without instruction or supervision. In other words, people who can the higher order thinking skills that we talk about all the time. Independent Problem Solving requires students to learn clear steps – unconscious habits of mind that can be explained, learned, practiced, applied, internalized and most importantly, be improved upon over time. This model originally known as the 4 D’s (but now expanded to 6 D’s – Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Debrief), was originally developed by Ted McCain back in the 1980‘s.
Describing the process is too much to do in such a brief overview but, in general, the D’s parallel the structured mental process of Scientific Method, the Writing Process, or what videographers do in creating film. Independent Problem Solving is a process that must be embedded into every subject, at every grade level – and the responsibility of every teacher.
- Interdependent Collaboration Skills
Being able to work with others on a project has always been an important skill. Collaboration is based on the idea that the power of we is greater than the power of we. In the fast-paced, high pressure, online world of today, individuals and businesses must use every competitive advantage available to them. Today, even competitors are collaborating with each other when it is mutually beneficial. With the development of global online communications and shared productivity tools such as Skype, Go-To-Meeting and Google Docs, being able to collaborate both physically and virtually has become an essential skill for all.
Interdependent Collaboration skills include such things as planning and facilitation skills, being able to organize functional teams with members who complement one another, the ability to take on a role within a group, being able to criticize ideas without criticizing individuals, negotiating within a team, group brainstorming, group problem solving, eliciting and listening to feedback, and taking responsibility for designated tasks
Today digital online tools have greatly expanded the scope of collaboration. Collaboration skills can now be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous collaboration happens in real-time, where collaborative partners are simultaneously working and communicating as they work. Online collaborative tools now mean that this real time collaboration can also take place with virtual partners who are not physically in the same place. Asynchronous collaboration happens where partners are working and communicating using collaborative software, but they’re not necessarily communicating at the same time.
- Information Investigation Skills
The 5th I is Information Investigation. We don’t want students who simply consume and regurgitate theoretical knowledge without questioning and validating the reliability of what they have read or seen. Rather, we want students who can differentiate between reliable and unreliable information sources in order to determine the credibility of a wide range of digital and non-digital materials.
We want students to be information investigators who are able to apply a structured mental process we call the 5A’s (Ask, Access, Analyze/Authenticate, Apply, Assess) to solve information problems. Once again, describing the process is way too much to do in such a brief overview as this, but suffice it to say that the 5A’s is a structured mental process for being able to answer any information problem.
- Information Communication Skills
The next I is Information Communication. This is a message that everyone reading this needs to hear. The world has moved beyond text. Visual communication through graphic design or presentation became the standard quite some time ago – it’s a given. But now today the world has moved even further. Kids today are growing up in the YouTube era. We have moved beyond still images to a new video standard. Messages are being constructed using an audiovisual standard that not only requires an understanding of graphic design but also of video production tools that as little as 10 years ago cost millions of dollars to purchase are now free or inexpensive.
They have allowed students to move from being consumers of media to prosumers of media where they not only consume but produce media. In an increasingly visual world, visual communication design must be an everyday part of the curriculum at every grade level and in every subject. Students must be able to communicate as effectively in multimedia formats as we, the older generations were taught to communicate with text and speech. Every student and every teacher needs to know how modern readers read, they need to understand the principles of graphical design and typography, the principles of color use, the principles of photo, the principles of sound production and the principles of video composition as well as how to use this knowledge to effectively communicate information to others. Information Communication skills are absolutely foundational in a modern world.
- Imagination Creativity Skills
The next I is Imagination Creativity. Imagination Creativity skills are about how you imaginatively communicate ideas. For example, when we were growing up, if we wanted to make a comment about race relations, the standard way of communicating this was through words in the form of an essay. But for many people, this was stifling. It put them in a straight jacket because there are so many other ways to creatively communicate your thoughts on race relations to be limited to a single form.
The school system has a very narrow academic focus that does not acknowledge the wide spectrum of possible ways of communicating. For example, in addition to writing an essay, you could also write a song, create a poster, write a play, short story or poem, paint a picture, or create a sculpture – all of these alternative modes of communication could greatly enhance how your message is conveyed.
Further, Imagination Creativity is how you can add meaning through design. For example, it’s what Apple does with the exterior shape of their technology, or what fast food restaurants do this with the creative packaging and presentation of hamburgers and pizza, or what Levis does with the style of their clothing, and Ford does with the styling of their cars and trucks. imagination creativity is what changes people’s perceptions of products. For example, there are lots of companies that make computers, but only one company that makes Apple computers.
Imagination Creativity goes even further than this. It is also about creating beauty and value purely from its shape and form. This is why people buy a sculpture or piece of art – this is beauty for beauty’s sake. It doesn’t have to serve a function – its value can come purely from its shape, its colour, its texture or its sound. Imagination Creativity involve two processes: conceiving, then producing. If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative. To be imaginatively creative. you need to both generate an idea as well as find a creative ways to communicate that idea.
- Innovation Creativity Skills
The next I is Innovation Creativity. While imagination creativity deals with the form of something, innovation creativity deals with its function. The whole idea of innovation is that we are going to do something that is improved or new. Many people think that the ability to innovate is genetic – that some people can do it and others can’t – this is patently untrue.
Have you ever owned a product and thought that if they just put some velcro here or a button there that it would work better. Have you ever seen people unloading a truck and thought that if they just did it a different way, it be so much better – that’s innovation skill. You’ve just thought of a way to improve a product or process – you may have even thought, “Hey, someone should invent something to do this or that.” That is true innovation of how to produce a new product or process.
The first key to sparking innovation is to have students examine products or processes they are familiar with. For example, have students consider how announcements are made, or how food is sold in the cafeteria, how chemicals are stored in the chemistry lab, how textbooks are distributed, how the bus schedule works, or how to teach fractions. Things from students’ everyday school life. Snd ask them to come up with alternatives. Ask them to come up with better ways to do things.
The important factor is not for their ideas to be successful, but to get them to start thinking about how they can improve something that already exists. This kind of thinking is greatly valued in the world today. Successful companies will tell you that they want their research and development departments to generate hundreds if not thousands of ideas because all they need is one great idea to make millions of dollars. The key here is that a culture of looking for new and improved ideas is encouraged because it’s ideas that make the world go round – that’s what sparks innovative thinking. The point here is that in getting students to generate innovative thinking that leads to original ideas for improved or new products and processes. That’s what Innovation Creativity is all about.
- Internet Citizenship Skills
The last I is Internet Citizenship. You wouldn’t give the keys to your car to a kid without first showing them how to drive, having them obtain a driver’s license, outlining your expectations and identifying the consequences for inappropriate actions. Yet we give kids access to the internet, smartphones and other digital devices without proper guidance and some of them inevitably do stupid things. Why in the world would we do that without first providing comprehensive internet education?
That’s what Internet Citizenship is all about. Internet Citizenship is about protecting yourself in the online world, protecting others in the online world, and protecting the work of others in the online world. Internet Citizenship is about a set of ever-changing social conventions about how people should act using digital technology. Internet Citizenship includes online etiquette, basic courtesy and privacy considerations; common rules and practices for email, messaging, web browsing, social networking as well as behavioral expectations for any online tool. As students grow as global citizens, they must develop a system of ethics and accountability that starts with the individual and expands to the global level.
We’re Almost Done…
So there they are – a brief overview of the 9 I’s – the nine essentials of modern learning. There’s so much more to describe, like how do you embed and teach the I’s together with the curriculum content…but that’s for another day and other blog posts.
For further information, please visit www.infosavvy21.com where we’ve provided over 5000 articles, including 600 specifically organized on an “I” by “I” basis in Evernote.