Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical thinking – or “the four C’s.” These are the four components of the much talked-about 21st century learning and innovation skills, a movement and framework that illustrates the skills and knowledge needed for students to succeed in school, work, and life.
The ability for students to collaborate, work on authentic problems, and engage with the community is believed to be what will separate those who are prepared for increasingly complex life and work environments, and those who are not.
Tyler Tarver, Miner Academy Principal & Learning Bird lesson contributor acknowledges that “ the job landscape is changing” and that “students are attending school every day to train for jobs that could very well not exist yet,” making the need for these 21st century skills to be all the more important.
Teachers know about these skills and believe them to be important. They also understand the teaching methods that are required to promote them and believe them to be effective, yet research shows they are not using them. A recent study showed that most instructional time is composed of seat work and whole-class instruction led by the teacher. Even when class sizes are reduced, teachers do not change their teaching strategies to use more student-centric methods.
Part of the 21st century skills movement’s plan is the call for greater integration with technology. Not only is mastering technology and computing devices an important 21st century skill, but technology also gives teachers the opportunity to enhance their lessons, making them more engaging and effective. An online tool like Learning Bird provides teachers with a diverse library of digital content for differentiating instruction in the classroom. They can also view and be inspired by other teachers’ lessons, adding to their professional development and opening up opportunities for classroom innovation. Such a tool will also promote the self-directed study skills that are so key to student success.
Tyler Tarver also explains “The thing we must remind ourselves is that people are the same, learning is similar and the general purpose of school is the same as it was 10, 20, or even 50 years ago. The only thing that’s changed are the tools we use to allow students to learn.”
Integrating technology and encouraging development of the 21st century skills can be an overwhelming task for teachers, particularly those who have been doing it for a long time and now need to adjust their teaching practices. It’s also difficult for educators to understand what they should actually be doing in their classrooms. At Learning Bird we understand teachers, and we understand technology, so we have come up with our top nine practices for a 21st century teacher. What should they be doing? What should their classrooms look like?
The 21st century teacher is a facilitator. The student is an active participant, learning by doing. The focus should be on the students; their needs, abilities, and preferences for learning. There are three different models for student-centred learning:
- Inquiry-Based Learning: based on asking challenging questions so students are motivated to delve deep and explore new avenues of thinking and knowledge.
- Problem-Based Learning: students engage in complex real-life problems and work collaboratively to find a solution.
- Project-Based Learning: students work for an extended period of time on a problem that is reflective of what people do in the everyday world outside the classroom.
Mix and match these learning models or find the one that works best for you and each of your students.
We all know that the one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work anymore and we need to aim for a one-size-fits-one solution. Technology is becoming more readily available in classrooms today allowing for a more enhanced learning experience for students, who can learn at their own pace with the tools they are most comfortable with. This is not to say that pen and paper is dead, but technology is an effective supplement to, or even replacement for, more traditional teaching methods. This is known as Blended Learning – a common technique used in today’s modern classrooms and by today’s 21st century teachers. Check out a recent post on Blending Like A Smoothie.
Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation have put together a neat illustration to show the different types of blended learning techniques. For more information on the specific types of blended learning click here.
Adapt to your students
Every student is different, not just in the way that they learn but also in terms of their personalities and cultural backgrounds. Bear these differences in mind when you set tasks for your students and do your best to personalize your teaching so that you can do the best for every child in your class. Technology can be a useful tool when it comes to personalizing content for your students. Be sensitive to the diversity in your classrooms, respect, and get to you know each of your students so that they feel valued.
It’s not just kids who are hooked on their social media, but it is becoming an increasingly important tool for professionals. And it’s not just about staying connected but it serves many other purposes such as professional development, researching, and networking. The prevalence of social media in education has really given a new dimension to the industry and opened up doors for educators.
Here are five ways you can use social media to stay in the 21st century’s social circle:
Be in touch with your students. Having an understanding of social media and seeing the digital world from their point-of-view will mean that you can help them to use the platforms effectively so they can solve problems, research, and communicate appropriately.
Improve communication with students, parents and peers. For example, share class updates with parents via a classroom blog, or setup a Facebook group and communicate homework assignments with your students.
Stay informed and up to date with relevant trends and tools in the industry. Use social media sites to create and share your own professional content as well as to navigate and learn from content created by other professionals.
Be aware of school / district policies so that you can use social media appropriately on your own and with your students, and stay inside school approved guidelines.
Educate students about online safety and the impact of sharing their personal information online or with people they don’t know.
Give positive feedback
A “well done” or “great effort” is sometimes all that’s needed to show you recognize and appreciate your students’ work. Little effort on your part, but a big impact on your student. Publicly praising positive behaviour will let your students know that you are celebrating their achievements and also creates a successful, supportive and encouraging environment in which your students will thrive.
Inject some personality
“Don’t smile until christmas” was the most common piece of advice that I heard from fellow teachers on starting a career in teaching. However, things have changed and research has found that an authoritative and coercive style of teaching only disheartens learners and kills their motivation. Don’t be afraid to use humour now and then to increase student engagement and spice up your teaching. When students understand that you are a human being too, they are more likely to have confidence and express themselves.
Set the scene
A structured learning environment that is planned and well-organized is key to student success. Particularly when you are integrating technology and more student-centric learning techniques into your classroom, it’s important to maintain the attention span and give very clear instructions and guidelines. Letting students know where the line is and what they are expected to achieve will help them to set their own goals and be self-directed in their learning.
Assess your students
Assessment doesn’t just mean making your students take lots of written tests. Incorporate regular performance-based assessment so that instead of asking the traditional question “Do you know it?” you are asking the question “How well can you use what you know?” Assessments, just like instruction, should be tailored to the individual needs and abilities of each student. Incorporate quizzes, polls, or even projects to determine your students understanding and needs so that you can plan your teaching time accordingly.
Love your job
As Abraham Lincoln once said “Love the job you do and you will never have to work a day.” The best way to motivate and get students interested in your subject is to have passion for it yourself and convey this passion to everyone and most importantly to your students. Your positivity will only rub off on them in a positive way and they will be much more likely to engage in your lessons and be successful in their learning.
Continue to follow our Teacher Tech-niques series on the blog and you will be equipped with all the tools you’ll need to become a tech champion and make a difference to the students in your classroom and around the world. Want to become a Learning Bird star contributor? Well, you can even share your own lesson content with us and when one of your lessons in rated as being ‘helpful’ by a student, we will share 50% of that child’s subscription fee with you. Create, share, get rewarded!
What does it mean to be a 21st century teacher? You may have heard the term “21st century” being tossed around in the media referring to what’s cutting edge in education. Beyond being up-to-date with the latest in technology in the classroom, what does a 21st century teacher actually look like? Here we will take a look at a few of the key characteristics of a 21st century educator and some applicable teaching strategies.
Teaching Strategies: A 21st Century Educator Prepares for the Future
The 21st century educator looks forward to the future. They are aware of the ever-changing trends in technology and are in tune of what the future may bring to education. A good 21st century teacher is aware of the career opportunities that will be in the coming years for their students, and are always advocating towards forward thinking and planning to ensure all students will not be left behind. Lastly, the 21st century educator must use teaching strategies to ensure that the focus in education is on preparing today’s children for the future of where they will live and where they will work, not for our current world.
A Master of Technology in the Classroom
Technology in the classroom is ever-changing and moving at a rapid pace. The 21st century teacher is one that moves right along with it. Technology in the classroom, whether it’s for lessons, assignments, or grading, can help students learn better and faster, and help make a teacher’s time more effective. A 21st century teacher does not have to have a class set of tablets in every child’s hand, or the latest Smartboard. But they can have a nice balance of educational tools in their classroom. An effective teacher knows what technology in the classroom can truly help transform their students’ education. They know what the best tools are, and how and when to use them.
Knows How to Collaborate
An effective 21st century educator must be able to collaborate and work well in a team. Working with others is an important 21st century skill. Over the past few years, being able to collaborate effectively in the workplace has grown quite rapidly. Learning is deemed to be more effective when you can share your ideas and knowledge with others. Sharing your expertise and experience, communicating and learning from others, and being able to self-reflect is an important part of the learning and teaching process.
A 21st century teacher is able to adapt to whatever comes their way. Teaching is a career that has pretty much stayed the same over the past few decades. The tools have changed over the years (Smartboards have replaced chalkboards, tablets have replaced textbooks) but the practice has not. The 21st century teacher is able to look at their practice and adapt based on the needs of their students. They must be able to adapt their teaching style to include different modes of learning, adapt when a lesson fails, and adapt to new technology. They must be able to adapt to the curriculum and the requirements and be able to use their imagination to teach in creative ways.
Is a Lifelong Learner
The 21st century educator is a lifelong learner. They don’t just expect their students to be lifelong learners, but they too stay current and on top of what’s new in education. Even though they may still use the same lesson plan from years before, they know how to change it to keep up-to-date with what is current. A great educator will not only embrace technology, but be willing to learn more about it.
Advocates for Their Profession
It’s a critical time in education and how it and teachers are being perceived. With the common core being implemented and judged, the teaching profession is being met with a close eye now more than ever before. Instead of sitting back, a 21st century takes a stand for themselves and advocates for their profession. They pay close attention to the important issues and talk about them with their community. They keep parents and students informed on what’s going on in education and address on issues head on.
21st Century learning means teaching just as you have done in the past centuries, but with way better tools. Today’s teachers have a great advantage, they have powerful learning tools at their disposal that they didn’t have before. 21st Century technology is an opportunity for students to acquire more knowledge. Teachers have the ability to move away from being the dispenser of information to someone who can guide them and prepare them for their future. Ultimately, the 21st century learner will be “learner-driven,” where they choose how and what they want to learn. The teacher will serve as a facilitator and guide to help embrace 21st century learning.
What do you think a 21st century looks like? Do you think they must have a set of specific skills and characteristics? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us below. We would love to hear what you have to say.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.