Learning new skills is part of being lifelong learners

Sask Bulletin
June 25, 2021
By Dean Vendramin, Teacher, Archbishop M.C. O’Neill Catholic High School

Hello and welcome to another edition of Tech Talk. In education, there are a lot of buzzwords/phrases that get a lot of airtime.

One phrase I tend to hear in education quite a bit still is 21st century skills. I think I have heard this phrase for the last 20 some odd years. I think it might be time to retire this phrase. Many of the skills that are usually part of this are skills we have needed before, just in slightly different ways. It’s maybe time to see that learning new skills should be just something we do as lifelong learners.

Teachers should be examples of people who embrace lifelong learning and continually look for ways to improve their practice.

Would it be acceptable if a doctor was still only using medical devices and procedures from 25 years ago? Would a mechanic still be in business today if they only had the parts and knowledge to work on cars from 25 years ago?

The pandemic has definitely brought a lot of technology issues to the forefront. Was education prepared to meet these challenges? I witnessed some impressive collaboration and problem solving. But I also am aware that there were gaps and issues with implementing and using technology.

Why did it take a pandemic to shake things up so much? When other sectors are embracing technology for problem solving and innovation, why does it seem we are OK with doing what we always have done? Are we providing students with opportunities to be successful for their futures? What is holding teachers back from continually growing and developing as professionals?

There are (and have been) many professional opportunities to grow digital skills. Is a funding shortage the cause of many of the gaps? Do universities’ teacher education programs need to make technology integration a compulsory class or integrated in each course in the program in order to obtain an education degree? As you can tell, I have more questions than answers, but I do want to be part of the solution.

So what does the future hold? Are we going to go back to the way it was before or use the valuable lessons learned to provide differentiated, student voice and choice, and problem-solving opportunities? More importantly, how can we use technology to offer improved community, social/emotional learning and relationship building opportunities?

Developing (digital) citizenship skills is important for both teachers and students and we all need to embrace the need to change and evolve. Thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope it gave some food for thought and generated a conversation. Want to keep the conversation going? Join us on #saskedchat Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on Twitter. This is a great professional learning community that discusses educational topics like this one and so much more.

Also, thanks to Jens Nielsen for all his amazing work providing teachers across the province with the opportunity to celebrate our achievements, be informed on issues and bringing our community together. Good luck and blessings on your next adventure.