Tuesday, December 6, 2011

21st Century Skills: Communication

The four "Cs" in 21st Century Learning are Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. This entry will discuss what the 21st Century Learner must be able to demonstrate with regards to communication and will provide technological and instructional tools to aid in that preparation.

Students demonstrate effective communication in a variety of modes, contexts, forms, and environments.

The ability to communicate effectively is not a new idea for the 21st Century as it is a life skill that has been around since the beginning of time. What has changed, however, is the fact that there are many more modes, contexts, forms, and environments that a person will have to deal with. We now communicate face-to-face, on conference calls, via email, through video conferencing, by text messaging, and in written form. We have to be able to interact with the individual, small groups, large groups, and online communities, all of which have much different dynamics and all of which require a different skill-set. As educators, we must deviate from the one-way communication and differentiate our instruction to meet these needed skills.

What does your classroom look like? How many different modes of communication do they use and how many different audiences do they encounter?

Students can communicate in order to inform, instruct, motivate, and persuade.

The 21st Century Learner will need to be able to communicate in order to inform, instruct, motivate, and persuade. Again, this is nothing new, but how they do this in the digital age adds an element of complexity. Students should be able use verbal, written and digital forms to perform these skills. It is commonplace to have students write papers to instruct, motivate, inform, or persuade, but how often do we have them create a website to do this? How often do we have them blog? How often do we have them create instructional videos? How often are our students involved in online discussion boards?

Please do not misunderstand me as I am not advocating to do away with writing assignments. I'm simply saying that, in the 21st Century, we will need to balance the scales.

The student is an effective listener who can decipher meanings, values, attitudes, and intentions.

Communication is a two-way street. One talks and one listens...at least we hope. It is much easier to decipher meaning, value, attitudes, and intentions from one's voice than their writing. Sarcasm and satire don't always translate to the written word as well as we would like and it is much harder to provide instant clarification. In the 21st Century, with online classes, webinars, podcasts, and social media, it is important that we are adequately training our students how to listen and decipher in these various arenas. The learner needs to be able to look at the context and environment of the information and make judgements as to its validity and reliability. Further, to listen to a podcast, participate in an online discussion forum, or take part in a webinar requires a different discipline than a face-to-face interaction, and our students will be faced with more and more of these as they continue in their education. What are we doing to prepare them?

Again, do not think I am advocating eliminating face-to-face communication. I am not! It is so vital! As I said before, we simply need to balance the scales.

Students can use multiple technologies to communicate and know the appropriate time for each.

Finding the right tool for the task is so important. I used to think I could fix anything with a screwdriver and a hammer, so my home-improvement skills had to go through some improvements in order for me to be truly effective. There are so many communication tools available to us and we tend to use the easiest rather than the most appropriate; students need to know who their audience is and make a judgment as to  what tool to use and how to use it. Is it appropriate to email a potential employer? When should one use Skype? Should proper punctuation be used for all audiences? Can students get their point across in 140 characters? These are only a few questions that need to be addressed when using these tools. The bottom line, however, is that students need to be able to communicate effectively with each piece of technology.

Technology Tools To Facilitate Communication
• Email
• Skype
• Texting
• Instant Messaging (Chat)
• Twitter
• Facebook
• Blogging
• Google Apps

Instructional Strategies to facilitate communication
• Cooperative Learning
• Interviews (both in learning and assessment)
• Jigsawing
• Discussion Boards
• Partners: Think/Pair/Share, Tell/ReTell
• Think/Ink/Link: Students think about their response, write their response, and then share their response with someone else.
• Power Sentences: Students respond with one well-written sentence.
• Lit Circles/Book Clubs: Small group book discussions.

Have a happy day!

No comments:

Post a Comment