Thursday, March 24, 2011

21st Century Skills in the Classroom

Traditionally, we think of the classroom setting as a relationship between teachers and students. The teacher is expected to create an atmosphere that fosters learning while preparing their students for the next step in the educational process. The student is then responsible for learning the material presented by the teacher and proving their knowledge on exams. On some level this still occurs, however fashioning a classroom that prepares students for success in the 21st Century goes beyond the common lecture within the classroom.

Now more than ever school districts are expected to assist their classroom teachers with the tools to help students succeed in our present era. Not only do teachers need to possess the abilities to do this, but there is an important need for districts to establish learning goals through their policies, professional development, curriculum guidelines and school environments. Our students are evolving with our society, therefore we need to change the way that we educate them. We are doing our students a disservice if we do not prepare them for the world that lies ahead.

It is no secret that we now live in a technology driven world. Personally, professionally and socially we are dependent on computers, cell phones and social networks. As educators, we need to embrace these technical advancements and use them in and out of the classroom to improve the learning process. In addition, we must prepare our students to excel in the world in which they live. Yes, students must be able to learn using these tools, but they must also possess the ability to apply what they have learned in their daily life and their future professions. Thus, the 21st Century classroom must feature teachers and learners preparing for present and future success in this technology driven era.

Recent technological advancements provide us with an advantage in the amount of knowledge we can provide to our students while also improving how we present this information. Expecting our students to learn through teacher-led memorization and repetition is no longer acceptable. To improve student accomplishment, it is increasingly important to create a student-centered atmosphere that will engage students in their learning; doing so will result in them having the ability to analyze information and appropriately apply it in practical situations. These skills are necessary if they are to excel at the local level, as well as in the international society in which we now live. If we, as educators, successfully apply all that we know about technology, educational methodologies, and today’s students, we will produce students that possess these 21st century skills. That is, our students will possess the confidence and abilities to exceedingly pass through our educational system; ultimately resulting in an understanding of how to appropriately communicate with others and think critically to solve complex issues.