Seeing the world through our learners’ eyes? Digital tools, communication, social networks, and even money redefine how we think about leading our Generation Connected (Generation C) students. Information literacy, technology connection tools, and efficiency in daily tasks — all with digital tools — are forcing education to change. The current generation of learners has always had digital cameras and touch-screen tools and may not ever know what the term “land line” refers to. This will have an immense impact on the expectations of educational institutions.
When I first read the U.S. Department National Technology Plan in 2010, I wondered if our federal educational administration in Washington D.C. really understood that this may not all be possible. But the vision and forethought to determine the change is coming not from the top down but instead from the world of Generation C.
My nine-year-old daughter is an example, reading the Time Almanac for Kids and scanning her QR codes for more digital information on her iPod. My thoughts turn to the question, “What will education look like in 10 years?” when she is in high school. The Kid Tech Infograph from Apple portrays a vision of this emerging Gen C from much earlier ages and a wider variety of tools. What will she expect from her school leadership, educators, and even fellow Gen C’ers to move her knowledge and skills forward — beyond what she can gain from her own personalized learning and devices — because the world information is at every student’s fingertips?
The Power of Reversing the Learning Process
Reversing the learning process to empower the leadership of Generation C is essential for the viability of the American education system. This is identified by the technology plan goals: assessment, teaching, infrastructure, productivity, and teaching.
Generation C is young as the five-year-old using the iPad or smartphone device while their parents are still searching YouTube for tutorials or calling the help line. These residents of Generation C are becoming leaders through simple ingenuity, a sense of experimentation, and the value of engagement to learn.
Leaders and educators of Generation C will need to create digital-rich learning environments where teachers are transformed to facilitators of the learning process led by students, technology tools, and personalized learning pedagogy. From the Mindshift article “What It Takes to Launch a Mobile Learning Program in School,” the essential component of unified leadership vision-making, consent, and maintenance of such a program is necessary to serve the needs of student to be engaged and productive learners.
The power of Generation C to be instructors, mentors, and guides of educational change is the most essential element of effective leadership. It is the leaders who will need to be open to the idea of flexible learning environments, infrastructure to support personal devices, and the ability to understand the learners needs to enter the world as productive digital citizens who will be mobile with access to information 24/7.
Harnessing the power of digital-savvy students as mentors is the most under utilized “consultant” of any school district. My own experiences empowering students as tech mentors was the single most important step to close the digital divide and produce a major cultural shift about digital tools. The tech-savvy student mentors bridged the gap between non-Generation C instructors and students to teach them about and best practices with digital technologies. It also provided comfort and confidence to educators to embrace the concept that they can guide student knowledge while using technology tools and maintaining the dominant voice in the classroom.
Top 5 Essential Elements of Learner-centered Leadership to Transform Future Mobile Learning
The systemic transformation to value learner-centered leadership creates redefined expectations for dynamic learning environments with connected networks, technology, and information.
Leadership must acknowledge the new role of learners as leaders in a positive way to redefine the rules, expectations, and their own personal device use to understand the instant digital and communication world is not going away.
We can talk in grand terminology about 21st-century school districts, but the more important standard to discuss is an institution that defines itself as world class, learner-centered environment maximizing the connected digital-learning experience.
So what are the top five necessary steps for any effective leader of students in Generation C during the next couple of years?
- Offering personalized learning opportunities via flexible schedules, spaces, and interactive learning stations allowing opportunities for higher-level thinking activities
- Using creative common spaces for connecting, sharing, learning, innovating, and promoting the use of personal and digital tools using problem-based learning and innovative production opportunities
- Providing infrastructure to promote access to and equity for a variety of learning devices and tools that promote systemic change in instruction and learning promoted by effective personalized technology coaching
- Instituting policies that promote the use of personal and mobile devices beyond the classroom to extend learning and encourage Generation C’s connected culture
- Opening minds to understand that Generation C is part of visionary planning process, and using Gen C’s input to help guide implementation of effective strategies for mastery of learning and effective digital literacy
Leaders who proceed down this path of learner-centered, digital-leadership decision making can meet the needs of students who are becoming educators for a world of jobs not yet even created. The results of open-minded educational leaders’ transformed learning and teaching practices will be covered in my next blog entry.
Nussbaum-Beech, Sheryl and Hall, Lani Ritter. The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age, Indiana, Solution Tree Press, 2012.
Wagner, Tony. Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. New York, Simon Schuster. 2012.