By the time I was ready for college, I had a solid background in the fundamentals: reading, writing, and public speaking. With good teachers and the ability to concentrate, you can go pretty far with these skills. --- Lee Iacocca (Iacocca: An Autobiography)
This quote is from Iacocca: An Autobiography. I use this quote to point out that Iacocca’s basic observation, from his youth, is still current today in our high technology world. Reading comprehensively, writing effectively, and public speaking are core concepts that are as beneficial today as they were in Iacocca’s youth. You develop these three core learning concepts most effectively; when coupled with glue that consists of concentration on the part of the student, and the guidance of a good teacher.
Our 21st Century students read today in various formats. Students read books of course; however, most students today spend more of their non-focused time reading tweets, blogs, Facebook posts, and Google results from web searches. There are those that would have us believe that something is wrong with our students because of this; I disagree. These are the communication venues of our current time. One should not get to comfortable with these communications venues because, by the time today’s students become adults a new more dynamic venue will likely exist. My suggestion is embrace the current venue, learn to use the venue, guide students in the venue’s use in a moral and ethical way, and communicate within the venue.
Now let us turn to writing, the ability of 21st Century students to blog, Google, tweet, or whatever other social media method cannot be ignored. These forms of expression are still forms of communication. Just as radio is a form of communication. Writing is important, and it will evolve; most likely driven by the continued advances of our time in the area of technology. For example, in some courses a student writes an assignment on paper and gives it to the teacher manually in a paper format; however, this is no longer necessary. The technology used in online courses should be applied to our current brick and mortar schools. For instance, in most online courses requiring a written response on paper is not feasible or required; instead, the student writes a paper or short answer in an electronic medium; saves it and sends it to the instructor. The instructor opens a copy of the document, electronically comments and makes notes where desired; gives it a grade and returns it to the student, electronically; all without having a sheet of paper to crumple.
Next, we will take a look at public speaking; the ability to speak in public is not merely limited to the high powered executive, or the politician. The ability to speak in public may be used by the popular student in a classroom, a teacher among her peers in a faculty meeting, or a parent in a parent teacher association meeting. From a 21st Century perspective, students might be asked to give a speech and present it to their classroom, and beam the live presentation into a classroom on the other side of the city, continent or for that matter around the world. Some ask, “Why would you do that?” My answer, “You and our children compete in a global society, today, in the here and now.” Today’s child will compete with someone from half way around the world for a given job.
This discussion would not be complete without talking about the glue of concentration by the student and the guidance of a good teacher. Let us start with the concentration of the student. The strength of this concentration will depend on the student’s interest in the topic. The student will arrive with interest in something. This will occur because from the womb, a human is constantly curious. This curiosity should not and does not stop at the schoolhouse doors.
This leads to the second aspect of the glue, the guidance of a good teacher. Whether the teacher uses Socratic methods or other methods; guidance from a good teacher will have a significant impact on the direction of the student’s learning, the speed of the student’s learning, and the clarity of the student’s learning. This is not to say that the teacher alone determines the level of student learning; but the interaction between the teacher and the student. This partially consists of the human interaction that occurs between the teacher and the student, and other students. This interaction may take place between one student and the teacher or several students and the teacher.
The teacher must serve as a doctor; gathering information about the student or students, and then prescribing, and then implementing the correct strategy for facilitating student motivation and student involvement or student engagement. A teacher must function as a doctor in the education environment by diagnosing what is the most effective way to guide the learning of each of his or her students. The teacher must decide things like: whole group, small group or one-on-one; homework or classwork; sole content or integrated content; count for a grade or do not count for a grade; one day assignment or multi-day assignment. Ultimately these efforts are taken for the purpose of increasing student learning and student achievement.
In conclusion, there are three areas of emphasis presented here that are just as important today, as they were in Lee Iacocca’s youth. They are reading comprehensively, writing effectively and public speaking.
The important aspect related to all three of these points is their ability to communicate an idea or concept whether for a serious subject or social dialogue.
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