K-12 classrooms are a changing entity. Pen pals now come in the form of face-to-face video conferences. Shared Google docs are commonplace, extending learning beyond the traditional classroom schedule. Field trips occur in virtual reality, allowing students to visit places they could never have experienced before. Today’s learning is an engaging experience, rather than a passive one. As the education profession rapidly evolves, a Converse degree continues to be recognized as a mark of innovation by school leaders across the nation.
Converse is equipping future educators to not only meet the demands of teaching in the 21st century but also to lead the way among their peers. Our faculty provide insight on the current trends in education– from digital technology to arts integration to the globally connected classroom – and center their teaching around five key areas: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication and community.
Converse students are challenged to develop their own cognitive skills and gain a strong pedagogical understanding of what 21st-century teaching should be.
“Arts make the learning stick,” says Jed Dearybury. “Years ago I wrote a jingle to help students learn the seven continents. Ten years later, students are still singing it to remember where in the world they are!” In today’s classroom, students have instant access to all kinds of facts via online searches. It’s important that they learn what to do with that knowledge. Where are ideas born? Creativity is the path to innovation for all learners.
Converse education students are connecting with other students across the globe – in Iowa, Texas, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Ireland, Kenya, India and Australia – for a variety of collaborative projects. They can often be found Skyping with authors rather than reading their texts in isolation. Tours of national parks, museums, and animal conservatories spark ideas for virtual field trips they can take into local public schools.
Embracing the online community enables Converse preservice teachers to learn from professional education circles well beyond our campus. “When my Converse students collaborated with 4th-grade bloggers in the Chicago area, the power of academic feedback became real. All the theory they read about was made authentic with this connection,” says Dr. Julie Jones.
Teaching in the 21st century extends far beyond the basic subjects. Teachers must provide students with unique experiences to cultivate their critical-thinking abilities. Converse professors model a variety of innovative instruction strategies. Breakout EDU allows students to work collaboratively, solving a series of critical thinking puzzles to open a locked box. Makerspace is an opportunity to utilize engineering skills in a collaborative work space – learning, exploring, making and sharing – using high tech and no tech tools.
Genius hour is another method of fostering critical thinking by bringing individual passions to student-led projects. Through innovative strategies such as these, Converse students are challenged to develop their own cognitive skills and gain a strong pedagogical understanding of what 21st-century teaching should be.
The education profession is witnessing the rise of teacher-leaders thanks to a growing collaborative movement on social media. Twitter, Google Plus, and Skype are a few of the platforms on which modern educators are reaching out for professional development, independently seeking inspiration and solutions with peer professionals through the building of a personal learning network (PLN).
Converse students and alumni collaborate online using hashtag #conversechat
Converse students and alumni collaborate online using the hashtag #conversechat. This platform allows them to connect with one another around the clock, sharing innovation in their classrooms. These connections strengthen the power of mentorship and networking across the Converse sisterhood.
Ongoing professional development is vital to the success of educators. Converse provides both current students and teachers across the region with engaging, relevant experiences to strengthen their classrooms. In partnership with the Palmetto State Teachers Association, Converse hosted Edcamp – a “nonconference” experience for educators by educators. This hands-on, innovative training is open to teachers across the Upstate of South Carolina as well as to Converse students. EdCamp is a community effort, supported by local businesses and national partners such as mindSpark Learning, Lily Sarah Grace, and Discovery Place EDU.
The Converse Master Series is another new avenue of opportunity, featuring alumni who are dynamic movers and shakers in the field. These alumni come to campus to share teaching wisdom, knowledge and best practice with current students. The connections that are forged provide many of our pre-service teachers with mentors as they enter the classroom. The Masters Series opened to all Converse alumni as professional development workshop experiences in Fall 2017.
Originally published in The Converse Magazine.