Earlier this summer, I accepted an invitation to speak at the beginning-of-the-school-year convocation for the faculty of one of the universities for which I serve as adjunct faculty. The minute I said yes, I knew I’d regret it… and I was wrong.
Sure, I regret the summer Saturdays when I could have been reading or enjoying activities. I regret how many times my Facebook page said “working on my speech.” But I can’t regret what I learned by having taken on this challenge.
The content of the address is not new to me; I did a little research to solidify the case to be made, but most of the key points were things I talk about regularly. It’s amazing, though, how much you clarify your thinking when you’re going to try to communicate it to others in a formal way. As a learning facilitator, I know that, of course, but it’s been a while since I actually had to communicate at this level, and it was enlightening, energizing, and daunting.
I also learned a thing or two about crafting a decent speech (I hope) – with a shout out to Brent Schlenker and Karl Kapp – two experts who I heard speak in the last month and who really set the bar. I’m pleased with the slides I created, too, with a little help from expert colleagues. So it’s been a good journey, if a time-consuming one.
The topic of the address is “Educating the 21st Century Professional; Emerging trends in teaching and learning.” (Spoiler alert if you happen to be attending on Wednesday.)
I started out thinking that the 21st century professional was a moniker of the millennial generation, but a snide remark from my brother reminded me that in 2009, we are ALL 21st century professionals (unless you happen to be retired, I suppose). We are all living in a rapidly changing world and most of us have access to an amazing array of tools and technologies that support our performance and our learning. There are no generational differences in terms of the way the mind works to accomplish learning – and all of us are capable of using the spiffy new tools for access and collaboration as well as using the tried-and-true methods of interacting with others, learning by doing, and reflecting on experience.
The bigger change in teaching the 21st century professional is in the content of what we teach. In researching the talk, I came across this quote by Dr. Ann Pendleton-Jullian:
A twentieth-century approach to education holds fast to the notion of teaching as a systematic delivery of knowledge—knowledge that is vetted and sanctioned and delivered in discipline-based packages from expert teachers to students. It is education in which one learns about specific stuff and how to do specific things.
In contrast, twenty-first century learning environments are about learning that extends far beyond the classroom… The assumption is that we need to prepare for futures in which the specific things we will be doing, and specific stuff we will need to know, do not yet exist. (emphasis mine)
So teaching in this century is not so much about transfer of knowledge as it is about helping students learn to think more deeply. We need to prepare students to grapple with the real, challenging issues of their professions (and of our world in general). We also need to support students in recognizing and learning to deal with issues of ethics and with concerns about social, economic, and environmental sustainability. That’s quite a charge for those of us in the business of educating the 21st century professional!
Fingers crossed, I think it will be a pretty good speech; I figure if I learned some things along the way, then my colleagues in the audience ought to be able to take a few ideas away as well. All in all, it’s been a good journey, even if it has put a crimp in my summer and made me miss a few weeks of blogging. Wish me luck! 🙂