Our educational system in the United States is out of date and not preparing students to enter the world as adults ready to succeed. A need to transform our system to not only shift what needs to be learned to meet today’s needs, but also how students are allowed to learn is necessary. David Edwards points out. “Our kids learn within a system of education devised for a world that increasingly does not exist. We “learn,” and after this we “do.” We go to school and then we go to work.This approach does not map very well to personal and professional success in America today.” (Edwards, 2014). Technology has changed our world at an amazing pace over the past few years, and holding on to traditions within education will ultimately leave our students unprepared thereby taxing our country’s economy.
Alvin Toffler once said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” To obtain this goal, ““we need to shift our instructional approach to a 21st-century learning environment that will provide our students with the most in-demand skills; those that can’t be easily outsourced, automated, or turned into software: creativity, lateral thinking, and problem solving dealing with nonroutine cognitive tasks.” (Crockett, p.32, 2011) Instead of the four R’s, though important, our new focus must change to the four C’s, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. These will help propel our students into a successful entry into our ever changing world.
Prior to beginning the technology integration program at Walden University, I had begun to begin the process of changing some of my own pedagogical thinking about the role of the teacher. Now beginning my third course, I am eager to continue to learn how such a transformation will look like within my classroom. In considering the ideas within the readings cited, one of the first hurdles is going to be teaching students how to unlearn what they have been led to believe is how they are to learn. Their understanding of what school looks like and how they should act to be successful, may be a challenge that must be unlearned in order for them to be able to relearn new ideas on how they can learn independently. Then it will be important to follow what J. Voogt’s thoughts, “It is important to stress that technology literacy and fluency are embedded, that is, the use of technology should be seen within specific real-life contexts (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006). To understand such processes we have to look at different contexts where literacy is practiced and given meaning, and how new technologies are changing the nature and processes of meaning-making.” (Voogt, p. 408, 2013)
To be able to help students reshape their thinking about what school and learning looks like in a 21st century classroom, there will be some challenges. Allowing students to learn on their own, without giving them instructions will confuse them and have them disoriented at first. I have changed my science lessons into a project based approach already. Students have been given the freedom to choose the topics that they find most interesting to study on their own or in groups. As they have started the process, it is very hard not to step in and give them direction. They are only scratching the surface of knowledge in their topics of interest. I have been working to provide them with real experiences, such as rock identification kits, or magnets and electricity kits, to explore with on their own. As they work throughout the year, to change their mindset, I will have to celebrate their failures. This will help them to understand that not everything they set out to learn will have a positive outcome. Then I can guide them towards relearning how to research topics with more success.
“Our long-term education goals for the 21st-century learner are: problem solving, creativity, analytic thinking, collaboration, communication, and ethics, action, and accountability.” (Crockett, p.85, 2011) Teaching the skill of learning, unlearning, and relearning, will help meet these long-term goals with our students. As I have pointed out, it will not be an easy task. Not only must students mindsets be changed, but those of their parents, colleagues, administration, and on up to the political arena. I firmly believe, that by making the transformation, students will be able to achieve at a much higher level on the outdated assessments they will have to continue to take, because they will have problem solving and critical thinking skills which will propel them to a deeper understanding. In time, others will see the value of making the change and there may come a time in which new measures of success may be considered that align with these new skills.
Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough: 21st–century fluencies for the digital age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. IBooks.
Edwards, D. (2014, October 17). American Schools are Training Kids for a World That Doesn’t Exist. Wired Magazine. Retrieved October 25, 2016, from https://www.wired.com/2014/10/on-learning-by-doing/
Voogt, J., Erstad, O., Dede, C., & Mishra, P. (2013). Challenges to learning and schooling in the digital networked world of the 21st century. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(5), 403–413. Retrieved from Walden University Library. October 24, 2016.