Saturday, 10 December 2016

21st Century Literacy; Preparing Me Today for Tomorrow

What is 21st century literacy? In a society where technology has increased the “intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possesses a wide range of abilities and competencies…” Henceforth, 21st century literacy is the ability to be literate within the language and within technology.
Looking back 100 years, so many things have changed: medicine, automobiles, science, technology, yet one thing has stayed constant, the education system is teaching students the same way it did 100 years ago. That then begs the question, is it working? Is our education system properly preparing students for a future that is constantly advancing and changing if the education system itself is not advancing or changing?
Traditionally, in a high school English class, students are not engaged and lack enthusiasm within their studies.  In a typical English class, you would see students sitting in rows and rows of individual desks, mundanely watching their teacher lecture in front of the chalk board. After that lecture, what would you see? Well, students would go home with their homework to read Chapters one through three in the textbook and answer questions A through K about the previous chapter. Subsequently falling asleep twice while answering question F, “define an apostrophe and identify three examples of apostrophe in the following text”, students will then embark on their next day of English class. The students will walk into class and flop their homework on the teacher’s desk and await the next boringly mundane lecture. This time, after listening to the teacher go on and on about How to Kill a Mockingbird, students will have to write a five page MLA formatted essay summarizing the book.  Oh, but wait, Carly has a question, “What do we do if we are finished already, can I have some more challenging work?” Sadly no, Carly cannot have anymore challenging work because the teacher has four other English classes to teach and four other English classes’ homework to correct. Therefore the teacher does not have time to find more challenging work for just one student. It’s okay Carly, maybe next time.
Here at Cedar Ridge, in our unique 21st Century Literacy Course, Carly along with all the other students will get that more challenging work they’ve been asking for. English, within 21st Century Literacy, is engaging and thought-provoking, and definitely one of my favourite courses thus far. In our high school English class, our teacher sits among us and listens to us as we teach the class about apostrophes. After listening to that student teach us about apostrophes, the next students jumps up and teaches us about allegories. “As you can see in Flowers For Algernon, there are many allegorical references to Plato’s Republic. The placement of this allegory then begs the question of whether Charlie was happier in the cave or outside in the real world,” the student will explain, then opening it up for discussion. Now, students could write a boring summary of the book, or students could write in the Point of View of a character to deliver a complete understanding of the story. To keep the students engaged, they then get to watch the Flowers for Algernon movie, but they won’t get off that easily. They are tasked with writing a Comparative text study (Flowers for Algernon and “Charly)”.  The next week, students learn about Canada’s unofficial poet laureate, Gord Downie. After watching multiple videos about Gord Downie’s final concert and his legacy, The Secret Path, students go home with a connection to their studies. With that newly established connection, students write a poem inspired by Gord Downie. However, a poem only covers certain curriculum links, so students in our English class go more in depth. Create a presentation on The Tragically Hip’s legacy, write an essay on the cancer that is affecting Gord Downie, students are given the freedom to choose how they wish to complete the assignments.  Now that all the technical aspects of the curriculum are complete, students in our English class embrace their individuality and develop their own voice that will be heard by the world. Cedar Ridge prepares students for the future, a future where they need to stand out, to be unique, to be leaders of our generation.
This course has inspired me to go beyond the textbook, to discover the world through literature and technology that is rapidly advancing and will lead us into the future. With the skills, knowledge and desire for exploration, I feel that I am fully prepared not only for university, but for a life full of curiosity and learning. Beginning this English course, I was prepared. I was prepared in a sense that I knew the fundamentals, but I was also prepared for the challenges and endeavors set forth by my educators. Coming from that class where the teacher did not have time to find more challenging work for just one student, I was in a way falling into the routine of just accepting that. Cedar Ridge brought me back out of that routine, and I am incredibly thankful for that. I was thankful that I am back to those days of being three and asking “why” in response to everything.  This English class has taught me many things and it has been an opportunity for me to grow and learn. Let me tell you, I have learned lots. I have also learned lots about myself. I learned how much I enjoy reading Shakespeare, and that he is no longer just a 400 year old literary genius. Through studying his literary works, and developing a deeper understanding of those works through modern retellings and re-enactments, I realized that I will be buying some of his other plays to be reading on my morning commutes. In studying Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip, I learned how fascinated I am with First Nations and was inspired to change the horrific ways in which they are currently living. Presented with the opportunity to individualize my work, I realized how much I loved writing essays. And no, I do not write essays in my free time, much to the rest of the class’ dismay. Through writing these essays, it was clear that I needed to work on personalizing my work. I needed to make some of my work less scientific and more about my opinions and beliefs. Having all those freedoms and opportunities, I learned what I have to say and I learned that there are people out there willing to listen.
Traditionally, business classes were very uniformed and structured. Most business classes were taught from a textbook, read from a projector screen, but never taught from experience. Students would walk into class after struggling to keep awake during their first period English class and sit down, only to have to sit through yet another lecture. This lecture is not about Shakespeare though, this lecture is about fiscal responsibility! After that lesson, students get to enjoy a nice break for lunch before they trek through the endless halls to their next class.  But sadly that is not the end of business for the day. Students must go home and create a spreadsheet depicting a yearly budget for Mark’s Tool Supply. Similar to their English class, students will walk in the next day and flop down the spreadsheet they worked on the night before and take a seat in the rows and rows of desks. If you were lucky, your business teacher might let you set up a business selling store bought cupcakes to other students in the cafeteria during lunch.
21st Century Literacy’s Business does not teach from a textbook, it teaches through experience. Combined with English, business is taught to compliment our other studies. Students learn about spreadsheets through experience and application. Planning a Duke of Ed adventurous journey to the British Virgin Islands, well, a budgetary spreadsheet and travel itinerary are definitely in order. Creating a blog to showcase all of your work and want to send it Kate Middleton, send her  a blog announcement letter and wait for a response (which did come!). Curious about what people’s perspectives are on international terrorism, make a survey and tweet it out to the world to complete. Feeling heartbroken over the way Aboriginals are currently living in third world conditions, apply your business knowledge to create an Aboriginal Clean Water Initiative to solve the problem. Students in this business class are taught the real world applications of business and digital literacy. They are taught the necessary skills that are required by the education ministry, but they are taught to discover ways in which they can then apply those requirements to everyday life.
Business was never something I was truly interested in nor was I thinking about taking business courses. However, throughout the past thirteen weeks learning about business, I have developed an appreciation and desire to continue my business education. Most of my previous business knowledge was very technical, what cash flow is, what is the term when profit equals cost. I had assumed that my business knowledge was only necessary if I wished to pursue a career in business. Boy, was I wrong. Business is about so much more than the technical aspects, it is about communication and digital literacy. I learned that the business skills I had developed and owned throughout the term would lead me to be incredibly interested in the subject. In fact, by learning about the clinical and applicable side of business, I developed my Aboriginal Clean Water Initiative. I feel as though, through partaking in this business course, I have owned my communication skills, communicating orally and through writing. As a guest of Karen McCrimmons at a political dinner,I had the opportunity to converse with many adults about politics, school, even ACWI. In participating in this dinner, I learned a very valuable lesson that is applicable to business. I learned how to take my knowledge of business from the classroom to real life.

The past thirteen weeks, I have partook in an innovative and revolutionary course that is preparing students for an advancing and changing future, 21st Century Literacy. Throughout this course, I have further developed my English and Business knowledge as it pertains to my grade. This course has provided me with the necessary skills that will allow me to succeed in my future endeavors.


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  2. This is a pleasing entry to read, Emma. You have captured the essence of what it means to be "literate" in society. As a former educator of yours, it is nice to see how much your thought processing and perspective on a number of topics has evolved---a very high level of critical thinking going on here, which is what more of our younger folks need! Keep it up!---dG