It's as though schools were meant to be rigid and boring. But now the situation has changed. Technology has successfully integrated itself to the basic needs of the education system today in the form of online lectures, group forum assignments, personal learning networks etc.
A middle-aged parent once said in a teacher-parent conference,
"I don't get it! I went to school and did well. My oldest kids have gone through school and it looked exactly the way it was when I went to school. I didn't like school, but I got through it and I've done well." Then he added, "So what is this talk about "changing" school? I don't understand what you mean by 21st Century Learning? What's the definition of it?"
Education today is much more about ways of thinking which involves everyday creative and critical approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. It is also about ways of working as well as the tools they require, such as the capacity to recognize and exploit the potential of new technologies and methods of teaching. These citizens influence what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, and it is this desire and inclination that shapes the role of educators.
But the question is,
What is the problem for the students?
"Why fix what's not broken?" is a common refrain.
But let's be honest – today’s education is outdated. The world is changing. The skillset needed to survive a livelihood in the world today is far different than the one needed just a few years ago.Knowing how to use technology is a key requirement today. Some of the indexed broad points which will help students get an insight on 21st century learning can be enlisted as:
Become a self-teacher– Its true definition can be quoted as ‘building the ability to learn without the exclusive teaching of a teacher or other such authority figure (parents, tutor, etc.)’. This is very different from learning being just an instruction designed to help students consume existing bodies of knowledge and actually this is the ultimate goal of any education system.
Application based knowledge– building a broad set of basic skills needed by everyone for life and work in the 21st century. This is a totally different approach of education by encouraging students to accumulate knowledge-based credentials only but instead applying the skills online on various real-time contests and scenarios.
Sharers not just consumers of knowledge– using knowledge to develop new knowledge, as opposed to ‘getting’ existing knowledge and having no contribution of oneself. Using blogs and other forums to have detailed discussions and debates on topics.
Helping mentally challenged co-students globally– instead of pressurizing them to cover their tracks they should be allowed to work at their own pace, and in contexts of interest to them. It is the opposite of ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches.
Generating Multi-tasking skills – such as analyzing, synthesizing, creative thinking, and practical thinking and so on. The 21st century expects that these would be developed implicitly, not just via exposure to the traditional subjects.
Add to ‘right brain thinking’– the idea that ‘left brain thinking’ (logical, analytic, detail-oriented thinking) is necessary, but no longer sufficient, and ‘right brain thinking’ (aesthetic, synthesizing, simultaneous, ‘big picture’ thinking) is now just as important.
Developing collaborative skills – people skills and emotional intelligence has become more easy and compulsory both for a good network.
Of course there is no alternative of hard-work, whatever century we live in. But, the process of finding the right direction to put that hard-work has been made very easy today. Students should always keep a check on the same. The best way are asking oneself “the four crucial questions”:
- Where (Vision); “Where are we headed?”
- What (Values); "What are we becoming?"
- Why (Mission); "Why do we exist?"
- How (Goals); "How do we get there?"