Saturday, October 16, 2010

Akwaaba (welcome) CRSTE members and visitors!

In the Agrarian Age, when farming the land was the primary work for the society (as it still in many parts of the world), contributing to society meant learning how to grow food for more than your family. Passing on the knowledge, tradition, and crafts of rural life to your children was an essential survival need.

In the Industrial Age, when the population dramatically shifted from farm to city – rural urban migration – and work moved from the fields to the factories, education played new roles in society. Typically, men had one or two career paths: working in a trade factory or clerical job, or becoming a manager, administrator, or professional if they could make the grade. Women’s choices were, of course, far fewer.

This brings us to our time, our recently arrived Knowledge Age.

Technology is more a part of our children’s lives each day. Why should they have to check their technology at the classroom door and compete for limited school computer time?

The world is full of engaging, real-world challenges, problems, and questions. Why do teachers spend so much time on disconnected questions at the end of a textbook chapter?

Doing projects on something one cares about comes naturally to all learners. Why are learning projects so scarce inside so many classrooms?

Innovation and creativity are so important to the future success of our economy. Why do schools spend so little time on developing creativity and innovation skills?

My blog shares my experiences and sentiments for the 21st Century Education, Life and Work.

Thank you for your visit.


Diverse teams for classrooms?

How time flies! Memories of my involvement in the ThinkQuest International challenge (2002) come into mind especially when I’m at work due to its profound impact on my life. ThinkQuest is an international competition that challenges students to work in diverse teams around the world to solve real world problem by applying their critical thinking, communication and technology skills.

In my ThinkQuest team, we were diverse team members from Ghana, Egypt, Netherland, Australia and USA. We worked together online to create a project on sea mammals with the title “Gentle Giants of the Deep”. Of course, we were working from different time zones exchanging over thousand messages in the course of the project. Most times, I stayed overnight when it is mid-day for some of my team members. We used different web tools to create and share our work online, constantly adding, editing and modifying our work.

The first time I met with some of my team members was at San Diego for ThinkQuest conference in 2006. It took a short time to readjust with my team members because there are no accents in online messages, and the finer points of personality, styles, body language and joke could not be fully appreciated until the team was physically together. Our friendship also deepened.

The world of work is increasingly made up of diverse virtual and real teams working together to solve problems and create something new. Why do students mostly work alone and compete with each other for teacher approval?

Today’s fields of endeavors are made up of team diversity, from the soccer field to the field of work. Increased mobility, immigration, intermarriage, and access to job opportunities worldwide have led to another kind of blending and mixing-communities across the globe are becoming ever more culturally diverse. Though this diversity has brought vitality and richness to our communities, difference between traditional culture and modern values are still a troubling source of tension in the world.

Students need different skills for these new challenges. There should be a vibrant global movement in play to retune the instruments of education for a rising band of digital learners, and to sync up learning to the new rhythms of the 21st Century.

Diverse work teams, scattered around the globe and connected by technology, are becoming the norm in the 21st Century work. Diverse schools and communities are also becoming more common worldwide. The ability to work effectively and creatively with team members and classmates regardless of difference in culture and style is an essential 21st Century life skills.

Understanding and accommodating cultural and social differences, and using these differences to come up with even more creative ideas and solutions to problem, will be increasingly important throughout this century. The skills to become socially adept, cross-culturally fluent global learners and citizens are more important than ever.
21st Century.

In our newly flat world of connected knowledge work, global markets, social media world, tele-linked citizens, and blended cultural traditions, the 21st Century demands a fresh set of responses.

To be a productive contributor to society in our 21st Century, you need to be able to quickly learn the core content of a field of knowledge while also mastering a broad portfolio of essential learning, innovation, technology and career skills needed for work and life.

And when you apply these skills to today’s knowledge and innovation work, you are participating in a global network in which, for example, a product may be designed in Africa, manufactured in China, assembled in the USA and sold in cities across the world.

© Harry Tetteh

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What does this mean?

It really marvels me when dedication for work becomes the pleasure to make an impact. My good friend William Effah Owusu gladly welcomed the responsibility as an opportunity to teach Seidi D/A Junior High School and make an impact with his profession as a teacher. Trust me; very few city residents would accept this task.  Seidi is rural community located within the suburb of Ashanti region of Ghana with population less than 1000 and maize farming as their main profession. They don’t have flowing tap water but recently got connected to the electric grid through cash contributions by school teachers in the village.

William now lives in Seidi but occasionally comes home (to Kumasi city) and gets the chance to check his emails. It was a delight to reconnect with William on Facebook to share his experiences.

According to William, very few students are able to graduate to the Senior High School at Seidi, let alone obtain a University degree. Not because the students are not intelligent but the school lacks the basic educational resources to equip the students development. Profession of parents is automatically inherited by their children in Seidi. Students need to be continuously persuaded and motivated to attend school each day. Some students even prefer to assist their parents on the farm in the morning and join the class in the afternoon.

Even though Information Communication Technology is part of their curriculum, William says “the mention of it in class seems like one of the planets somewhere on the solar system”. The only computer which William helped to purchase is now the school’s computer lab. Seems like the pace of the 21st Century change differs globally and what does this mean for education?

Research has disclosed that the top 10 in-demand jobs for 2010 did not exist in 2004. The amount of new ‘technical information’ is doubling every 2 years. So for students starting a 4-year technical related degree, this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study. And what does this mean?

Of course, this brings a lot more questions in mind after thinking of how the world was when we were kids and what the world has become today.  All boiling down to where exactly is the world heading – or – what would the future of the kids of today be? The information age brought more knowledge workers due to the demand for their services. Obviously, we are preparing students for jobs that do not exist today, in order to solve problems that we do not even know exist yet. 

The invention of IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) has led to the increase of internet devices from PCs to mobile phones, TVs, watches and counting. What does this mean? To share with you some interesting facts....

Google says over 31 billion searches are done on its servers every month. In 2006 the number was 2.7 billion. To whom were these questions addressed before Google? Wikipedia was launched in 2001 and now features over 13 million articles in more than 200 languages.

Studies show the number of unique visitors on Facebook, Youtube, and Myspace every month collectively exceed 250 million. But none of these sites existed 6 years ago. We’re living in exponential times indeed.

How are you using social networking sites?

Social media is not a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate, connect and relate to each other in the 21st Century. Interestingly, the virtual world created by the internet is also presenting a virtual culture. A typical example is the language widely adapted online with numerous abbreviations especially on chat sessions to express our mood. For example, “l8r” for “later”, “g2g” for “got to go”, “brb” for “be right back”, “lol” for “laughing out loud” etc. Anyway, how many of us honestly were actually laughing out loud before typing “lol”? – Well, I wouldn’t be surprise to see these chat expressions appear soon in dictionaries if it hasn’t yet. What does this mean?

Everyone should have a passing interest in technological development as eventually they may change everyone’s life for the better. The 21st Century Skills brings the skill set needed to continuously prepare workers and students to survive today’s challenges and enjoy tomorrow’s opportunities. What does this mean?

It means that education is no longer a pathway to opportunities but a prerequisite for success in the 21st Century. I share with President Obama that in the 21st Century, “…a nation most valuable currency is the knowledge and skills of its people”. And like Sarah Brown Wessling (2010 National Teacher of the year, USA) said, “we need 21st Century teachers not just adults teaching in the 21st Century” to prepare our students for the future.

© Harry Tetteh