Thursday, July 19, 2012

The 16 Habits of Mind and Online Curriculum

It is impossible to teach our students everything they need to learn before they leave our classroom walls and online spaces. Our goal is to create responsible digital citizens who see learning as an ongoing and continuous life process, and who find joy in that process. So much of what we hope to teach young people has nothing to do with curriculum, but rather with habits, skills, values, and commitment. It is our responsibility, as educators, not to teach everything, but to inspire, and to lay the foundations from which to explore.

Guiding our online students through the "16 Habits of Mind" by incorporating them into the online experience is essential. We are not with our students each day, nor should we be, frankly. Learning is ongoing, and much of what we do as online instructors is clear the path, introduce new ideas, and allow our students to discover on their own. All at the same time, being present and available when they need us. Incorporating these "Habits" into the online curriculum works well because the goal is not to simply complete assignments for class, but rather to learn how to be successful outside of the classroom too.

Online learning requires independence and persistence. The habits are not taught in isolation, as in, today we are going to learn about listening to others and remaining flexible, but rather are weaved throughout the overall experience. I expose my students to the 16 Habits of Mind so that they see where I am coming from. Guiding students through these are important to my overall philosophy. As many teachers say, we teach young people, not subjects. I have seen the power of discussion boards and blogging for students become a source of both frustration and incredible growth. Not everyone agrees with what you write, and there is definitely vulnerability in releasing your words and publishing them, whether to an in class post or to the public, but these creative risks are important to our development and to our confidence in contributing to a connected society.

Online learning is sometimes very chaotic, and I have watched students and parents struggle with that, especially when they are transitioning from a face to face classroom where they are used to familiar routine and expectations. It is the responsibility of an online instructor to try to remove as many barriers as possible, so that the focus is on learning, rather than on trying to figure out how to learn. Although, sometimes even in that process, because this is new, students are able to overcome a great deal by simply taking the leap and navigating through this innovative space.

I try to keep in mind that because I am not teaching the same thing each day to the same group of students sitting in front of me, and that because they are each learning at their own pace, I must lead by example... remaining flexible, finding humor in what I do, and staying curious. We have the world literally at our fingertips, and so do our students. Encouraging them to adopt these habits benefits all of us as we treat the world as our classrooms and flourish in a global economy.