The Learning Circuits Big Question this month is about learning professionals, leadership, and literacies. Tony breaks it down as several questions, but the Learning Revolutionary summed all the questions up nicely:
Should learning professionals be leading the charge around new work literacies such as social media and informal learning?
Because I’m outside the corporate world, I’m going to look at this from the perspective of 21st century literacy skills rather than “work literacy.” Granted, I think there’s a lot of overlap between the work literacy ideas and the Framework for 21st Century Skills. I see this as similar goals but different contexts.
Let’s start with the idea that K-12 students should be supported in learning 21st century literacy skills. This should not be a controversial starting point; after all, 80% of American voters agree that the skills students need now aren’t the same as the skills needed in the past.
If students need to learn these skills, then their teachers need to have them too, right? Granted, some students will learn the skills outside the system, in spite of whatever the schools teach. But we’re looking at what we want to happen, and I want these skills to be supported by the schools. That means teachers need to have the skills. They have to be able to model the skills for students.
Where will the teachers learn the skills? I don’t think there’s a single answer here: professional learning communities, workshops, conferences, university courses, and mentoring all play a part. Since I work in the higher ed realm though, that’s where I’m going to focus. I think our instructors should have 21st century skills. These are the people who are teaching the teachers, who pride themselves on being the “best of the best” in the field of education. They’re the next group of people who need the skills.
But where are they going to learn? From me and the other people on our team. We have to lead by example for these skills. Our team is leading the charge, and we are making progress. It isn’t nearly as fast as I’d like, but when I look at how far we’ve come in our little corner of the world, it does give me hope.
I want the K-12 students to learn those 21st century skills, but I don’t have access to them directly. Therefore, my responsibility is to work on my own sphere of influence, starting with our online course development team leading by example for our facilitators. When the facilitators have strong 21st century skills, they’ll pass those skills on to the teachers, who in turn will be leaders for their students. If I want others to lead in these skills, I have to do my part to lead by example too. It would be hypocritical to ask them to teach technology skills without practicing what I preach (that is, after all, why I started this blog in the first place).
If I had to focus on one single skill, it would be lifelong learning. Perhaps this isn’t a skill so much as an attitude. It drives me crazy to see educators who think they’ve learned all they need to learn and aren’t willing to even try to learn anything new anymore. Cultivating a culture of learning, where people expect and enjoy continuous learning, is the underlying solution for everything else. We’re never going to get teachers to use technology if they’re determined they don’t need to learn anything anymore. Until they accept their role as learner as well as teacher, we won’t get the changes to happen. Creating a culture that supports lifelong learning needs to start with the professionals who lead by example.
If you had to focus on one skill for this leading by example, what would it be? What’s the underlying skill that supports all the rest, the one where you will concentrate your efforts first?