I consider myself a progressive, 21st century teacher. I use the “laptop for learning” loaned to me by Boston Public Schools, I teach lessons using a Smart Board, iPad and iTouch iPods and I incorporate media literacy in lessons. Today, students cannot succeed in the job market without proficiency at word processing, PowerPoint and social media tools.
The integration of technology has impacted and changed the way students connect with their peers, school assignments and the world. “With instant access to facts, schools are able to re-conceive the role of memorization, and focus more on higher order skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation” (21st Century Skills Framework, p.6).
Yet downfalls accompany the contributions technology has brought to the 21st Century classroom. Text messaging has been a revolution detrimental to the written language and has even impacted spoken language. With acronyms like “OMG,” and “LOL” infiltrating youth vocabulary, eloquence may be diminishing. The average teenage vocabulary in 1950 was 50,000 words, but by 2000, that statistic had decreased to 10,000 and now in 2011, I fear that word count might be even less (“Like Whatever,” p. 28-9). These letters are becoming a language all their own, such as the online “Tech Dictionary.”
However, the 21st century classroom does not just revolve around technology, it also encompasses learning styles, multiple intelligences, and classroom revolution. Education from this century is greatly influenced by learning science, as outlined in “The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework” article. Scientists like Vygotsky, Piaget, Bloom and Gardner have given us insights into the mental capabilities of learners, child development, intelligence and pedagogy.
As an educator, I am quite familiar with pedagogical theories. However, I have just begun seeing their true implications in the classroom. I am very interested in Gardner’s multiple intelligences and empowering my students to see that each of them is smart in their own way. I try to differentiate lessons that apply to students across the intelligences and incorporate reading, note taking, movement and music into the classroom activities. This multiple-intelligence online quiz I think would be perfect for older-grade students to discover and validate their strengths as a learner.
The question, “What is intelligence?” is debatable, especially among cultures. The article “Who are the Bright Children? The Cultural Context of Being and Acting Intelligent” had me thinking about how intelligence is measured in the cultures of my students. As an ESL teacher both at an elementary school and a college, I interact with students from six to forty years old from Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.
This article outlines the implication of culture and intelligence for education. “Whether teachers take into account the differences in conceptions of who is intelligent and who acts intelligently can also affect how well students learn,” it states (Sternberg, p.148). In my classroom, I try to validate each student’s culture through sharing and positive reinforcement. I had considered different learning styles and experiences being the result of my students’ varying cultures, but before reading this article, I had not imagined how a student’s and their teacher’s culture about intelligence could impact student learning and outcome. According to the article, “The rank order of children of various groups’ performance in school as evaluated by their teachers, could be perfectly predicted by the extent to which their parents shared the teachers’ conception of intelligence.” (Sternberg, p.149). Have I been unintentionally evaluating my students using my own pre-conceived notions of intelligence? And to what extent has my own ideology of intelligence impacted my instruction? Teaching can be very subjective, especially grading, and I have decided to try and be more aware of my own cultural bias while instructing.
We have also investigated different classroom styles including experimental learning, inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning. Project-based learning can be most powerful when it makes real-world connections. In the sixth grade math class I co-teach, we are continually trying to relate the skills and learning objectives to real-life situations. They were unenthused about learning how to add, subtract, multiply and divide decimals, until we pointed out the connection that we use decimals to denote money. Students continually wonder why they have to learn what we set out to teach, and if we have a good answer to that question for them, they are more inclined to be interested and engaged.
The most formidable obstacle to 21st century may be legislation. The U.S. educational policy attempts to mandate excellence and equity, but it relies on standardized testing to measure progress toward these aspirations (21st Century Skills Framework, p. 6). Standardized tests do not belong in 21st century education as the sole determinant of intelligence or success. Just as Bell stated, “we must shift our thinking about assessment when teaching twenty first-century skills” (Bell, p.43).
Bell, Stephanie. Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century: Skills for the Future The Clearing House, 83: 39–43, 2010. Copyright C_ Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
“Like Whatever” Utne Reader July-August 2000, pages 28-9.
“The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework” Partnership for 21st Century Skills
Multiple-Intelligence Online Assessment http://literacyworks.org/mi/assessment/findyourstrengths.html
Sternberg, Robert J., “Who Are the Bright Children? The Cultural Context of Being and Acting Intelligent” Educational Researcher, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 148–155
Tech Dictionary. Accessed 29 April 2011. http://www.techdictionary.com/chat.html