When I think about a 21st Century Skills Classroom, I see a classroom where students are actively involved in learning. More time and attention is spent on discovering information, finding solutions, and figuring out ways to present what has been learned rather than just memorizing facts and listing them on a test. Students may be working in small groups, completing whole class activities, or working independently. They are not fixed to one spot doing one type of activity over and over but are able to move back and forth as they work on integrated projects designed to increase communication, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving.
In this 21st Century Skills Classroom, technology is present but is not the main focus. Students and teachers are using technology to enhance learning and instruction, not just because it is there. Lessons and projects determine what and how technology is used; not the other way around. Are all students and teachers doing things the same exact way? No, there are many pathways to the same end result. Students are using the ways that work best for them to achieve the stated goals, whether those goals are teacher-directed or student-initiated.
In this classroom, there is a “technology toolbox” available to enhance students learning. The teacher in this 21st Century Classroom will promote the use of technology through modeling and designing assignments to utilize tools students are familiar with using. Using these tools allows students to be exposed to and learn more about the information, media, and technology skills they will need to be successful.
A certain type of teacher is needed for this 21st Century Skills Classroom. Vicki Davis (http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/) describes this teacher as a “teacherpreneur” who is interested in collaboration, reflection, and always learning (NCTIES Opening Session, March 2009). The teacher of this class will work hard to form partnerships to benefit his or her students. They will also think about what does and does not work with his or her instruction, and strive to gain new ideas and insights, possibly from a Personal Learning Network (PLN). The teacher in this 21st Century Skills Classroom is more concerned with teaching the skills students need for learning than focusing on the tools they may use.
Students and teachers in this 21st Century Classroom may be using things like interactive boards, document cameras, wikis, blogs, and all kinds of things we don’t even know about yet. But the main focus of this classroom and its teachers or students will be the LEARNING that is taking place whether using the newest forms of technology or not. The technology that is used will be used to bring about greater levels of learning.
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