It’s a beautiful noise
And it’s a sound that I love
And it makes me feel good
I’ve been working a lot lately with educators in developing curricular units of study and talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. As an aside, I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” in front of “learning skills” as I think we all understand in 2014 that we are in the 21st century. It’s lost its cache or novelty. I don’t recall having a constant reference to 20th century learning skills when I was a student. I know that the learning skills necessary for students today are certainly different and, as a result, the teaching practices to support those skills, also need to be different.
It’s fair to say that we need to deepen the critical thinking skills of our students. It’s also important that we shift to conceptual understanding and away from understanding by an algorithm or rule. Both of these shifts will require more student “talk” time. As an offshoot of the advances in technology, it’s been suggested that kids today communicate more. While that may be true, I think it’s equally true to claim they actually talk less. They can spend an hour with a peer the previous night on their devices, but barely muster a hello the next day at school when they pass each other in the hallway.
Asking students to explain their solutions (not just the why but also the how) may be foreign to some. They might be used to simply providing a response as a regurgitation of a fact or a basic manipulation of information – a level 1 or 2 response on Webb’s depth of knowledge. Critical thinking will require levels 3 and 4 on Webb’s or the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Ultimately this will mean less teacher talk time (think of five minutes as your maximum before turning it over to your students) and more collaboration between students. It will mean more of the “beautiful noise” that is evidenced in classrooms where students are highly engaged and deeply involved in their learning. Educators know the difference between disruptive, non-productive noise and this beautiful noise. I know I’m enjoying the visits to the learning environments where there is that highly productive hum. It really is a sound that I love.