21ST CENTURY LEARNING
The phrase ‘21st Century Learning’ has become a vital part of educational philosophy in preparation for the new millennium. Educators are actively examining new ways to prepare students to face the challenges. The educational system has been changing faster than ever before. Rote memorization and exam-focused learning is not an effective strategy any more.
Past – Present – Future
Until some time ago, the role of the educator was to prepare students for the specific trade, craft, or profession that they had chosen. Communities were standardized, with simple values and work cultures. Nowadays, the job market needs a mix of many different skills and competencies. Globalization has opened up the world and allowed people to connect in new and exciting ways. The blend of past and modern methods of learning cannot be delivered in the classroom; it has to be developed through experiences and passions. Educators convey the knowledge and concepts without the expectation of them being adopted by the learners.
Teacher-centred classrooms are becoming less efficient for student engagement. Schools and teachers are trying to figure out what their role is in educating their 21st century students. Despite knowing the skills that students need to develop to become successful in the 21st century, educators have to figure out what methods may be worth keeping and what new ways will be effective.
The role of education still is to prepare students to become active, successful and contributing members of society. The core purpose of education has not changed but society has changed. Educators cannot adequately prepare students for the society that will exist in the future. In order to prepare students to play their role in the 21st century, a few considerations come to mind in deciding how schools and classrooms should function.
Student Centred Instruction
The days of ‘chalk and talk’ or ‘board and marker’ teachers have passed – though not completely. While student-centred learning is strongly encouraged in the 21st century the educator still needs to give a lecture now and then. The main source of knowledge in the classroom shifts from the teacher to various other media. Education is now absorbing the information facilitated by the teacher. Students will later need to be able to acquire new information as new problems arise in order to formulate solutions. They will need to connect the new information with the knowledge they already have and then apply it to solving the problem at hand. So, they will need to have ‘learned how to learn’ on their own.
In the 21st century classroom, the teacher would act as a facilitator for the students; students gather information on their own, albeit under the guidance of the teacher. Diverse learning styles are encouraged for the students to have an enhanced sense of motivation and responsibility. They engage in different activities, as well as demonstrate learning in many ways. Learning is about discovery, no more the memorization of facts.
Students must learn how to cooperate with others. Humanity today has people collaborating across the globe. Students are expected to be able to work with people from other cultures with different values from their own. Students should be encouraged to work together to discover information, piece it together and form ideas of their own.
Collaboration should be dynamic; students should learn to recognize the strengths, talents or weaknesses each person can bring to a project and change roles depending on those attributes. Further, educational institutions should also be collaborating with each other to share information and learn about new practices or methods that have been developed. They should be willing to alter their instructional methods in light of new advancements.
Student centred does not mean that the teacher gives up control of the classroom. While students are encouraged to learn in different ways, the teacher still provides guidance as to the skills that need to be acquired. The teacher can make a point of helping students to understand how the skills they are building can be applied in their lives. Students will be much more motivated to learn something when they can see the value in it.
Since schools are no longer preparing students for specific tasks and roles, they need to take a more general approach and teach the skills that are useful in any situation. Lessons have little purpose if they do not have any impact in a student’s life outside of the school.
Integrate with the Community
To become responsible citizens, students need a model – 21st century schools will have to work at creating a school community, encouraging them to join committees and take part in school projects and events. With the powers of technology and the internet, students of today can reach out to the whole world. 21st century education should help students take part in the global community and find ways to create impact more than just the local neighbourhood.