Sunday, December 19, 2010

Examples of 21st Century Education

One hears about 21st Century Education and Schools a lot as catch-phrases by politicians, parents and teachers. But how often is someone who uses this phrase able to give a good definition of what it means, or what they think it means? And, even more rare, how often is someone who uses this phrase able to give real examples of what they mean?

There is, in all fields I suspect, a phenomenon of 'great volumes of talk but of little action.' The notion of a 21st Century Education has been this sort of phenomenon in education the past few years. There is SO much talk about it, but little action. Many I have discussed this with point to getting X number of computers into a school or into a classroom, and then there is 21st century education happening since kids can then access the Internet. Well, I suppose this is part of it, but in my mind that is the beginners' definition of this phrase. But there is SO much more we must do. What about problem solving? Sure, but that has been around for a couple centuries already in schools. For 21st Century problem solving, let's add the word 'creative' to it. Then there is innovation. Then there is critical thinking, which has also been a popular education term for at least decades now.

These are common terms that are overused and poorly defined by most people who use them. What continues to be missing, though, from too many faculty meetings and conferences and workshops are real examples of what these mean, and much more importantly, what they look like, in real classrooms. To put it bluntly, I think all teachers should be asking administrators and education professors and themselves, "Give me something I can actually use!!" Well, here is a TED video that does just that. A real classroom teacher, who really gets it when it comes to what a 21st Century classroom looks like, and who gives real examples from her classes of what we can do with high school students. She is social studies and history teacher Diana Laufenberg, and it is a great example of what I think all teachers should see and think about.

If we continue to teach and run schools the way we were taught and learned prior to the late 1990s, we will continue to lose kids to the many distractions that exist in the modern world that are more exciting than the old teaching and learning paradigms, and we will continue to do a disservice to kids because we are not preparing them for their world.

Check it out.

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