The Jolt into 21st Century Learning

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Do you remember the short-lived high energy drink, Jolt? I think today’s modern version of Jolt is a Coke product called Vault. I don’t drink it, but I see it everywhere. It’s funny how many folks need a product like Jolt or Vault to get them in gear. Like many busy teachers, I’m not ready for my day without a little caffeine. But a Jolt or Vault might be more than I’m ready for early in the morning. I usually try to ease into my day, slowly working toward an even, manageable pace. The pace abruptly yet pleasantly changed on October 25th for lots of Alabama teachers.

Yesterday the Alabama Best Practices Center held its first face to face meeting of the year for the schools involved in its 21st Century Learners project. Five people from twenty Alabama schools convened in Alabaster to prepare for a year of professional technological growth in the third year of the program. I don’t remember being served a Jolt or Vault cola, but somehow an energy source was poured into me and many of the other teachers present. This energy could be found everywhere. You could feel it in the messages each educator left to another on our networking site, Ning. You could hear the energy in the noisy conversations. You can see the energy on the abpc wiki, in the emails to each other, and in today’s conversations in the halls among the teachers who attended. And it hasn’t even been 24 hours since it ended.

The day was loaded full of instruction for meaningful uses of technology in our classrooms. All of this can be seen by the world at the abpc wiki. The leaders of the project, Cathy Gassenhieimer and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach, can be counted on to thoroughly plan a meaningful experience for teachers. This kind of attention to detail provides the motivation to engage the message and transfer to practice. Today, the transferring began.

But what made the F2F (Face to Face) launch such a great jolt into this professional learning year was how the group felt about the project. It is our mission to prepare our students for this century. We no longer need to teach kids how to work on the railroad, we must teach them how to adapt and work on things we haven’t yet conceived. Not only does everyone believe in this mission, 21st Century Learner teams refused to make excuses for failing to carry out that mission. It’s exciting to be a part such a trailblazing group of educators.

I am looking forward to so many things during this next year. Deeper connections to other “mission-minded” educators is somewhere near the top of my list. Sharing, talking, and blogging will be great fun in 2007-08. I’m even feeling pretty good about failing when I try something that doesn’t work. Basically, it’s a year to take risks, reflect, and learn from taking risks. And none of us have to do that alone. A supportive structure for learning is not easy to create. But this has been accomplished over the last couple of years by the hard work of lots of teachers and their leaders at the ABPC.

Jolt and Vault promote themselves as energy in a bottle. Trying to bottle and sell what is happening in Alabama might really be worth a venture capitalist’s efforts. Our 21st Century Learners project doesn’t have an official energy drink as its corporate sponsor. Now that I think about it, maybe it should!

2 thoughts on “The Jolt into 21st Century Learning

  1. Cathy Gassenheimer says:

    Thank you for your reflection on yesterday’s session! I found this post from a teacher who is a member of one of our teams on Ning this morning:

    “Sometimes I become overwhelmed when I attend 21st Century meetings. Then I remember how little I knew 2 years ago and how much more I know today and I am okay…until the next meltdown!!!”

    It sounds as if she was jolted, but also encouraged at the same time! I’m so glad you are a part of this work!


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