21st century teaching

What is 21st century learning? Many of you have thought about this, read about this, engaged in dialog both face to face and online, and maybe blogged about this. Me too.

We had a meeting yesterday where we were looking at, and discussing that ‘age old’ question. There is no real need to rehash this again here. Besides, we are a decade into this century already! I did want to share a couple of interesting points from our discussion tonight.

Relative to times in the past, say 10 or more years ago, it was much easier to predict what a few years out looked like. Today, given the rate change in technology, job markets, communication tools etc. it is impossible to think what things will be like in 6 months or a year out, let alone 5 or 10 years out. I think the challenge of trying to articulate that future vision with clarity gives us a sense of being stalled in the journey to address the answer to ‘What is 21st century learning?’

However, maybe we are asking the wrong question. Maybe the question is: What does 21st century teaching look like? Imagine you have a class of students in front of you equipped with mobile learning devices – students with different devices. Some might have iPhones or Blackberrys. Perhaps others have netbooks or notebooks. Oh yes, some have iPod Touches, and throw in a couple of tablet PCs to round out the class. Now, that you have your class in with 1:1 web enabled devices in front of you, let’s think about these questions.

  • How does this change my teaching strategies?
  • How does this change my planning strategies? (lessons, units, short term, long term)
  • How do I facilitate learning in this environment where information is abundant and instantly accessible?
  • How do I manage students who will essentially be able to do many more learning activities in an environment where the learning can easily be personalized?

We discussed three key areas in thinking about this question: enablers, core tools, optional tools and innovation.

Enablers are required to provide access – wireless networking, network access control (Board/company owned and guest access coexisting), sufficient equipment, sufficient bandwidth. Core tools – perhaps the identification of a smaller set of web 2.0 tools that are used and integrated in a more systemic way. Innovation – the use of other technologies and strategies beyond the selected core tools for effective learning.

In some ways, we are perhaps back at the sand box stage. We don’t really know the right mix of technologies and instructional strategies to achieve the greatest success in the learning arena. To my way of thinking, investing energy into exploring the ‘what does 21st century teaching look like?’ question is a key aspect of really moving things forward in a planned and sustainable way. Of course, professional development and sharing of best practice are also critical ingredients. This must be looked at in a holistic manner. Success, at least in the meaningful systemic way, will not be achieved by addressing limited aspects of this agenda.

Food for thought and more thinking to go.

~ Mark