Then the world changed on us -- it become more immediate, more global, more intricate, more instantaneous.
With this change in the world should come a change in the expectations of our kids in the classroom. We can’t teach the same way anymore. Our kids need -- more.
One concept you’ll be hearing more about in the coming years is one called “Habits of Mind.” This phrase is being discussed in all our local districts, and I want to take a few minutes to be sure you have a working knowledge of its meaning.
The “Habits of Mind” are directly tied to literacy: reading, writing, speaking and listening. But literacy is not as simple as just this any more, because the demands of being literate in the 21st century are different from what it meant to be literate when we were in school.
Nowadays, students must learn how to engage in their literacy.
Let me put it another way. In the 21st century, literate students will not only be able to read, write, speak and listen, but they will be able to do so as scientists, historians, engineers, artists, writers, philosophers, mathematicians, engineers. Literacy today, in our changed world, means that our kids are literate from the perspective of all content areas.
In a reading class, being literate today means that our kids not only read and comprehend, but that they are also discerning and open-minded, questioning and assessing the claims and reasonings of assumptions and premises.
In a writing class, being literate means that our kids are able to write more than just a five paragraph essay. Literate writers both write -- and read -- with purpose. They look beneath the writing for the writer’s intent, bias and craft. And writers read as writers, not just as readers, developing a style all their own because of it.
In a history class, being literate means our kids aren’t just memorizing who authored a treaty or the capital of a U.S. state, but they are reading primary-source documents, evaluating evidence and asking questions about cause/effect, the past influencing the present, turning points, change and continuity.
In a math class, being literate means our kids can do more than the odd-numbered problems. We want our up-and-coming mathematicians to be pattern sniffers, experimenters, tinkerers, inventors, and visualizers who persevere and reason with precision, driving our next technology innovations.
In a science class, being literate means our kids have opportunities to do more than read about science from a textbook. Our next generation of scientists needs to be hands-on, curious, open to new ideas, intellectually honest, imaginative, creative and skeptical -- all at the same time.
These examples don’t come even close to the full range of “Habits” we want to see from our next generation of literate students, but it is the type of instruction we should be demanding of our schools.
I want my own kids to be able to manipulate their knowledge, respond to varying demands of each discipline, critique, be strategic, value evidence, understand others’ perspectives, demonstrate independence and be empowered to do and be -- more.
Because these “habits” are habits worth having.