Meeting the 21st Century kids of 2011!

I met a 21st century kid this week.

By “met” I mean I chatted with him on Skype! It was a really interesting conversation about QR codes and teaching Year 8 and enjoying the company of teachers. The fact that he was IN Year 8 in 2011 and that HE was doing the teaching… yep! a 21st Century kid!

My encounter with MasterNomNom (will just use one of his online names for all the digi cit reasons) came about through my 11 year old son. He and NomNom had met online – Minecraft was their point of contact originally but that has blossomed across the gamer landscape.

As a high school teacher I meet a lot of kids, so as a way of reflecting on some of what those kids have taught me this year I thought I might write about a few of them. It has got me thinking about 21st Century kids. I teach in a segregated school so most of my examples will be girls but these are just some that I have come across… there’s a whole generation of others out there…

No names – just in case I cross any boundaries.

I met a YouTube chick this year. She is just barely 12 years old and has a YouTube channel full of videos that she has made in her bedroom. She talks about style and music and life and is a natural in front of the camera. She has significant school attendance issues for a whole host of reasons, but sitting watching her on YouTube convinces me that she is a survivor and that life out of school holds much ambition and passion. It’s difficult to know how school can best cater for a child who already has such focus and direction.

I met a tumblr chick too. Hers is a website full of bad language and in-your-face images. She’s into finding ways around the filtering system at school and would happily spend her days playing nonsense games and being a troll online! She has a wild streak in her that means she spends lots of time in the Deputy Principal’s office, and openly declares that school is a waste of time that she would prefer to spend with her friends – real life or facebook – any friend will do.

I met a budding geologist dude. An 11 year old who collects rocks – nothing special? Only, this 11 year old spends his time on e-bay trawling for specimens from around the world. At Council cleanup this year he sourced a set of drawers for more room for his collection. His most recent specimen had arrived from the Czech Republic and his conversation was about how he had to be patient when the volcanos in Iceland interrupted flight schedules in Europe – apparently it always happened when he was waiting for one of his rock purchases to arrive. Not exactly the concerns of the average 11 year old… except in the 21st century.

I met a webtool chick. She was part of a special project I was involved with this year and we used a wiki as our central point of organisation. The opportunity to add pages and showcase embedding tools and this Year 7 girl was in her element! No challenge was too much – she wanted to ‘level up’ as soon as possible and was prepared to connect via edmodo 24/7 to do it! More challenges, more learning, more connecting – she was up for it all.

I met a blogger chick. Her blog was mentioned on a teacher website so I clicked the connection to have a peek. Her writing revealed a student of dance… a very serious student of dance! She was in Year 9 in 2011 and her year included a trip toNew York with the highlight being attending a series of dance classes with a troupe there. Broadway and ballet and channelling inspiration provided by great dancers and performers – her blog is like falling down the rabbit hole withAlice, into a world of dance. Her passion for dance and her willingness to blog about her life journey are precious gifts that she shares with her readers. Sure… this young Melbourne resident lives a life of a certain level of privilege but her blog strips away all that to the life of a dancer… inspiration provided free of charge.


So back to MasterNomNom. His achievements are already amazing. In Year 8 and he is stripping computers to rebuild and repurpose (like building a server for a collection of QR codes for puzzle activities in the school grounds – which he created himself); being a help desk for teachers who make new technology purchases (iPhone or Android he can get you sorted!); being prepared to do the grunt work to keep technology running smoothly; being a DJ for local primary schools; exploring collaboration tools so that he can help his team to plan and win the battle in their competitive FPS battles; connecting via twitter and coming up with engaging ICT to help a teacher who is also a friend! And he’s in Year 8!


Getting to know these 21st century children, providing a differentiated curriculum for them, engaging and inspiring them… these are the challenges. However, on the way to ‘doing our job’ and working within the Quality Teaching Framework and adjusting to the changes of the National Curriculum… these 21st century kids have an opinion, a viewpoint – they’re creative and inspiring – there is much to learn from them and they are often willing teachers for anyone who wants to learn.

Acquisition of inspiration by Poet…

Pablo Neruda – Die Slowly

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience, dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones “i’s” rather than a bundle of emotions,
the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound
in the face of mistakes and feelings, dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice
at least once in their lives, die slowly.

He who does not travel,
who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself, dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck,
about the rain that never stops, dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it,
who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know,
he who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know, die slowly.

Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,
always reminding oneself that being alive
requires an effort by far
greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead to the attainment
of a splendid happiness.


As time ravages, there is much to learn here about evolving as a teacher and as a person who performs an important role in the lives of other people’s children. OPCs! No matter what your life has brought you to thus far, if you are a school teacher, classroom or executive or consultant, it is imperative to focus on your role, your impact, on the learning life of other people’s children!

Every interaction we have as adults in the lives of OPCs should be metred with the respect for those children and the investment we have made in their arrival, and the responsibility we hold for their nurturing. This is not without challenge but those who invest their sense of self righteousness in their interactions with children, fail to respect those children and in that moment teach a poor lesson.

Teachers require that same burning patience… the passion of challenge, the love of learning… and in this way the nature of your interaction with other people’s children will take on a new form – the example of learning, the passion of searching.

No more dieing slowly.