And like that, the SpaceRace blog is back. The act of not updating it was starting to weigh heavily on my mind as we’ve become really, really busy during our third year of bizness. We’ve grown. We have people. Yay! And yet the art of balance seems to be the hardest thing to nail down. The longer I’m a grown up, the less I seem to be able to strike that sweet spot of synergy between all the goings on and things that need to be done, and things that need to be read, and plans that need to be created, and lunches that need to be packed, and appointments/meetings/tuckings in at bedtime/sleep. But the great thing about the busy-ness of this kind of small business is the opportunity to write as an outlet, and to document my thinking for myself (in case I’m struck by lightning and can’t remember what I do or who I am) and my awesome readers. I kinda forgot to do that for a few jam-packed months. The editorial calendar of blog topics that I maintain got longer and longer….some expired like 7-11 cheese, and some are there just blinking like a Las Vegas wedding chapel sign. (not sure where that image came from)

So here’s one that’s been stuck in my craw (not sure where that came from either) for a while, but has bubbled up with my recent election to our local school’s Parent Council, Curriculum Night, and some inspiring client research.

As a SpaceRacer, I like to wax about marketing, technology, and digitalisms. Since we work closely with educators and education companies, much of the great content and resources I come across are related to teaching and learning, or what some call 21st Century Learning. Every publisher out there has tried to coin it/own it/co-opt it/market it, but the joke is on them. Because you can’t buy it. It isn’t for sale, and it doesn’t come packaged in an app, an e-book, or (grr) a “digitized” PDF.

What is true about 21st Century Learning is that it is an approach that either lives within the heart of a teacher or a school, or it doesn’t. It took 100 years to get here, and it isn’t supposed to look the same as what passed for education 12 years ago. Beyond that, it’s awfully hard to define. Today I came across what I consider to be one of the most authentic “definitions”, if you want to call it that.

EdCampTO is coming up in a mere few weeks. It’s an unconference devoted to conversations about education. It’s inclusive, which means that teachers, administrators, parents and other community members can attend and participate. Vancouver recently had one, and from all accounts, it was a rousing success. I came across a link to Heidi Siwak’s Twitter handle while perusing updates on the site. Interestingly, Heidi’s profile says that she “…is documenting the transformation of her classroom into a 21st century place for learning..”. So I jumped straight to her site and discovered this absolute gem of a post. A post that wraps up so many questions I have about 21C, reassures me, frustrates me…and then throttles me out of my blogging hiatus in one blast. She writes about being approached (by Grade 7 students, no less) to facilitate a photography club at her school, and how it caused her to reflect on a “new model of learning”. And then the kicker – the question that has inspired me to stay up until 2 am blathering on: “These students are limited by the structure of school and have to pursue their learning goals outside of classroom hours. Why, if they’ve identified how and what they wish to learn next, is this so?”

Why indeed? If it wasn’t for this rather daunting problem, then we would be talking about a true 21st Century Learning environment. Yesterday at our school’s Curriculum Night, I asked about student access to technology and was told that “it really has to happen at home instead”, since there’s one computer (that works) in the Grade 4 classroom. It isn’t the fault of the teacher (who is one of the very few in the school to have access to a Smartboard and seems quite keen). It’s the structure of the school, and it’s what has to change in order for students to experience what access to technology provides when properly guided: collaboration, mobility, access, and engagement.

Siwak’s question is so much more about 21st Century Learning than education marketing jargon/hype/sandwich meat.

Where can the learning goals be achieved? That place is the 21st Century. I hope it’s your school.

It’s good to be back.