Monday, May 18, 2009

The Gears of 21st Century Learning

Let’s start by asking some questions. Why is 21st Century learning so important? Why are we in this academic field? What is our role? Isn’t it the education of our students? They are the future of our country and of our world. They are in reality our future! Don’t we have to prepare them for the future that they will face? Administrators have their roles, teachers have theirs and so do the parents and the students. In order for the gears of education to turn smoothly and in the right direction, everyone needs to do their part. Let’s start with the fruit of our labors, the students. Their role is to enter the classroom ready to learn, eager to participate and hungry for knowledge. The parents’ role is to support the students, teachers and administration. Remember, we are all in this together. The administrators’ role is to oversee that the gears of education are turning in the correct direction, that we are in fact moving forward. The teachers’ role is to create a classroom atmosphere that is inviting and challenging. All teachers have curriculum that they need to present to the students throughout the year. How they present it is solely at the discretion of the teacher.
21st century skills include problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. There are a tremendous amount of free websites that allow teachers to incorporate these 21st century skills in their curriculum. Quest Atlantis, Google Docs, Voice Threads, Podcasting using Audacity, Photo Story 3 & Movie Maker, Wikis, Blogs, RSS feeds, iGoogle, Pageflakes, creating global connections through video conferencing, Google tools, and Social Bookmarking are some of the many tools available. Many teachers also have Smart Boards, ActivBoards, wireless tablets such as the Mobi, Qomo, Airliner & ActivSlate, Classroom Performance Systems such as those made by eInstruction, Senteos by Smart Technologies or ActivExpressions made by Promethean or document cameras that allow the teachers to engage their students in their daily lessons.
There are many teachers that embrace technology and take the initiative to learn how it can be beneficial to the students’ education. However, there are some teachers that stay with the teaching methods that they have been comfortable with for many years. I think we can all agree that technology is an ever growing part of our lives. Since technology seems to be increasing at an exponential rate it also is logical to assume that technology will be an even larger part of our student’s lives. Now please understand that it is not about the technology, it is about how the technology can be used to increase the students’ learning. These tools allow students to be much more involved in the classroom. They can be used to allow the students to be creative, critical thinkers, problem solvers and collaborators. They can also be used to present the curriculum in an atmosphere that is more inviting and at the same time challenging to the students. These are things that help move the gears of education in a positive and smooth forward motion.
All of this may seem simple and straight forward, but in fact, we all know that it is more complex than that. But even though we know this fact, we cannot stray from our purpose or role in this mission because just one tooth in a gear of education that moves slowly or in the wrong direction will prevent us from completing what we need to do, and that is to educate our students for their future.

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