Back in 2011, while pursuing my Master degree, I wrote a blog post titled “The 21st Century Classroom” I recently stumbled upon a new article titled, “10 Signs You Really Are a 21st Century Teacher (And Might Not Know It)” which got me thinking about what being a 21st Century teacher means in 2016 and I figured I should craft update.
While we remain in the 21st century, what I thought was 21st century teaching in 2011, five years later looks somewhat different. In my previous post, I reference using my one laptop in my class with my students, connected to my smartboard and sometimes incorporating my iPad and iPod touch. I reference Bloom’s taxonomy and Gardner’s multiple intelligences and project-based learning. It’s interesting how education evolves and fads arise and fade, and what we think is going to change the world is discredited in future research studies.
Back in the 1990’s, I guess under the ideology of 20th century learning, Bill Clinton thought a $2 billion program of putting a computer in every classroom and a data link in every school would be the “great equalizer.” Supposedly this one computer would revolutionize the way children learn.
And in the past 20 years, my how plans have changed. Now the great equalizer is supposedly a 1 to 1 ratio of computer to student, at a budget of a minimum of $1 million dollars per district, or as much as $1 billion per district, like Los Angeles USD’s iPad program. How do districts afford these 21st century aspirations? Through budget cuts, often in the form of teacher lay-offs and I wonder if that’s really what 21st century learning is all about.
Numerous studies have shown that the most important factor affecting student learning is the teacher. Even so much as to say learning gains realized by students during a year in the classroom of an effective teacher were sustained over later years and were compounded by additional years with effective teachers.
So sorry, Bill Clinton, just having a computer in the classroom is not going to cut it. Neither is having a computer for every student a solution. Students can have unlimited access to unlimited resources, but if they are not taught how to use them, and how to use them correctly, those resources are nothing but knick-knacks.
When I wrote my original post in April of 2011, chromebooks hadn’t even been invented yet. Now kindergarteners have their own e-mail addresses and a laundry list of logins to IXL and Raz Kids and youtube. But with all this unlimited access, comes a dangerous level of unlimited power and that is where the 21st century learning comes in. These students in front of us are technology natives. They’ve had facebook accounts and hashtags since before they were even born. Teaching students how to use technology is no longer our job. It is our job as teachers to teach them to use it well.
This is where fushionyearbooks.com got it right: 21st century teachers use technology as a tool for suspending sterotypes, teaching empathy, fostering collaboration, advancing adaptivity and celebrating creativitiy. With the advent of technology, the world is at our fingertips and Google is our daily professor. But instant information gratification is as addicting as slot machines and what we need to teach is the responsibility of knowledge. What students really need to know is how to research, how to collaborate, how to present their findings, how to manage a dynamic team. Those are the skills the job market is looking for. Thomas L. Friedman wrote for the New York Times in 2004, right at the beginning of the 21st Century these telling words whose sentiment has only become more salient since then, "When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me: ''Finish your dinner -- people in China are starving.'' I, by contrast, find myself wanting to say to my daughters: ''Finish your homework -- people in China and India are starving for your job.''
The 21st century will continue to present to us new and innovative ways to share knowledge, demonstrate knowledge and acquire knowledge, and it is up to us as effective teachers to channel these opportunities and turn them into teachable moments for our students.
So bring on the chromebooks and the iPads and the Socratic Seminars, just don’t lose sight of the fact that the most valuable items in the classroom are the human beings, teaching and learning from each other.