THE CHALLENGE OF MODELING 21ST CENTURY LEARNING
Teaching students to be successful in a 21st century knowledge-based economy requires a different way of teaching. Today’s students are fundamentally different than those of even a decade ago. The students we see in the classroom today are digital natives: they have grown up with technology around them rather than being forced to learn the technology later in life. It is important to note that children raised on diet of new technologies are less willing to fill out worksheets and listen to lectures patiently. These digital natives have several important characteristics:
They have only known a world bathed in technology: Today’s students were born surrounded by technology and so technology is not something new to learned by them but rather an integral part of their fabric. They are accustomed to technology in their everyday lives.
Technology is their first language: Born into a world dominated by technology, they do not have to learn technology as an alternative way of communicating or an alternative method for accomplishing tasks.
Much of what they learn occurs outside the school: The vast majority of what students they learn is occurring outside the school through their interaction with technology or formal outside of school learning opportunities (educational trips, tutoring etc.)
The 21st century learning therefore suggests a very different kind of schooling. Not all knowledge is transmitted in the school and learning is not exclusive to the classroom. Arguably, most of the learning that occurs today occurs outside the classroom. Therefore, the focus must shift to giving students the tools to learn. This vision of education recognizes that much of the learning that occurs is outside of the teacher’s control. Teachers therefore need a very different set of skills because they can no longer rely on lecture and other one-way methods of delivery. They must now become learning facilitators. This change does not come easily and demands that teachers have the technology skills to help students use technology to learn. Professional development will play a central role in fostering these changes.
Students’ ability to acquire information virtually anywhere and at any time is a game changer. Students are no longer wholly dependent on the teacher to gather information but the teacher is a critical resource for directing students’ learning efforts and helping students to learn independently.
As a Mary Ward school, we urgently need to develop responsive and effective ways to enable our students engage safely and ethically with social media and emerging technology. This awareness will hopefully ensure integrity of relationships while enhancing the opportunity for learning and creating global digital citizens.
‘Love truth and seek knowledge not for its own sake but for what it leads you to then you will be happy and be able to benefit yourself and others. Without it you will never be fit for anything’ (Venerable Mary Ward 1585-1645)
Sr. Madeleine Sophie IBVM