Wednesday, October 17, 2012

21st Century Learning: How Do We Get There?

First of all, I have to wholeheartedly agree with the idea of teaching 21st century subject themes including "financial, health, and environmental literacy" (45). I certainly did not have this type of education six years ago after finishing high school, and I would love it if I did. Providing students with a basic understanding of how the world works is a necessity.

Furthermore, if "critical thinking and problem solving are considered by many to be the new basics of 21st century learning," (50), I'm a little more than disappointed that this wasn't already the case. While I do not have a great deal of experience within the classroom, it seems to me that a majority of teachers still tend to ignore engaging a student's higher order thinking skills. Considering the glacial rate of change with any of the numerous school movements that have swept the country, I can only imagine that critical thinking and problem solving will be the new basics by the end of the 21st century.

The only thing that can seemingly quicken this pace is the technology available today "for accessing, searching, analyzing, storing, managing, creating, and communicating information to support critical thinking and problem solving" (53). While this is all well and good, there are still major hurdles. First, the issue regarding equity; so many students and poorer districts cannot afford to maintain or keep up with the ever changing technology produced. Second, is the technology even there yet so that we can fully maximize its potential? I don't think it is. The article mentions that "students can now reach experts by email [and] text message" (53), which seems like it could cause students to be distracted by the amount of knowledge.

Ultimately, there is one piece from the article that I found to be the most important takeaway:

These skills [communication and collaboration] can be learned through a wide variety of methods, but they are best learned socially - by directly communicating and collaborating with others, either physically, face-to-face, or virtually, through technology. Team learning projects that intense communication and collaboration during the course of the project are excellent ways to develop these skills (56).

I understand and embrace the push for greater technology use in the classroom, but there can certainly be times when it is too much. The number of teachers I have seen sit at their desks to type notes on the board is astounding; there is little to no enthusiasm when this happens. Students need to feel like what they are learning is important, and not just told. Right now, the technology available in most classrooms is more of a bauble than something of actual practicality. The technology needs to serve a purpose and allow for a student to think critically.

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