As I am grappling with articulating my central question for my action research this year in Grade 7 English, I am struck with the realization that I don’t have a firm grasp on what “21st Century Learning” really means. Am I alone in feeling how nebulous this term is?
I mean, I know on one level I know that it revolves around leveraging technology, connecting with our global world, collaborating with others, being innovative, and solving complex problems…but I have yet to internalize an effective and concise working definition as it applies to my practice and discipline.
So I consulted the oracle (Google) and I found this article from EducationWeek that was asking the same question I am pondering and posed it to eleven different educational thinkers.
As you can probably guess, their answers reflected the complex nature of this subject. But I pulled a few themes that either resonated with my personal beliefs or reflected an aspect of English teaching that I thought was applicable. According to these experts, 21st century learning is:
- Personalized: the learner’s goals and interest drive instruction
- Focused on Excellence: the fundamentals do not get replaced in this paradigm, but rather technology is leveraged (there’s that word again) to enhance instruction and improve how the basics are taught.
- Innovative: Getting outside of the box means rethinking the “norms” of school. Teachers become learners, risks are rewarded, the outside world is reflected in the classroom, and authentic problems are solved in order to teach concepts.
This makes me wonder if the educational community needs to collectively agree what we mean when we say “21st Century Learning”. Or is it that we don’t know what the future will hold, so we are all just collectively guessing about what we need to teach / how we teach it in order to best serve our students? Or should we all come to understand this term in our own way, even if that means uncertainty and confusion, because navigating these two ideas will be key for finding success in the world to come?