Teaching 21st Century Learners

For our current module, we were asked to define 21st-century learning skills and how we might use that definition in coaching. This is as my triggering questions and with ISTE Coaching Standard 1d “Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms” and ISTE Coaching Standard 2f “Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences” I wanted to know how we as coaches can help teachers implement 21st century learning skills with technology. 

To help answer this question I first needed to explore what is meant by 21st-century learning. P12 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning) developed a framework to help define what this learning looks like. According to P12, “today’s students face higher expectations in both school and the workforce, 21st Century Skills help to prepare students for what they will need to know and be able to do in school and college, at work and throughout all aspects of personal and civic life. Students can build these skills by applying them as they learn regular school subjects. And we know that pointing out these skills will actually increase students’ grasp of what they’re learning, as well their overall engagement in their own education”. 21st Century Skills are a set of academic building blocks—abilities and ways of thinking—that can help kids thrive as 21st-century citizens. The Partnership for 21st Century Learning identifies these skills (or the 4Cs as they are often called) as Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and Innovation.

Helping Teachers Implement

New 21st century learners are highly relational and demand quick access to new knowledge. More than that, they are capable of engaging in learning at a whole new level. With the world literally at their fingertips, today’s students need teachers and administrators to re-envision the role of technology in the classroom. As students develop the four C’s, we have discovered that effective application of these vital skills in a technology-infused life and workplace requires acquiring them in a technology-infused learning environment. This environment calls for two elements: We must increasingly put technology into the hands of students and must trust them with more progressive technology use.

Shifting Roles: Using 21st-century learning skills teachers should make the shift from being the focal point of the classroom with presentations using technology to students being the focal point as explorers and designers of their learning. Teachers should spend less time creating presentations and more time crafting powerful learning activities. According to NAESP article Technolgy Integration for the 21st Century Learner by Nancye Blair “they will find that material is covered with more depth and retention the first time around, saving them time and energy in the long run”. Allowing students to be explorers and designers shows that we as teachers believe in our students’ abilities.

Discovery and Exploration: In technology-infused discovery activities, Internet research, virtual manipulatives, and multimedia resources allow students to explore unanswered questions. Blair also stated, “discovery activities give students real-world, problem-solving experience and ownership over their learning, as well as allow them to bring their observations into the subsequent lesson, discussion, or creation activity as prior knowledge.”

Creation and Design: Creation activities provide students the ability to develop creativity and problem-solving skills by displaying their mastery in profound and meaningful ways. Through creation activities, students design products that make them active partners in constructing learning experiences in the classroom and beyond. In demonstrating their skills and knowledge, they become more confident in their own abilities and their own voices

What We Can Do As Coaches Conclusion

Knowing the information above we as coaches can help teachers implement these changes in their lessons. Informing teachers of what 21st century learning looks like in the classroom is a good first step in effectively implementing this skills for all learners. One of my colleagues in my cohort for our Master’s program wrote a great post about self-reflection for 21st learning skills for teachers or coaches to use (read her post here). All of the evaluation tools are great for teachers to see how they are currently implementing 21st-century learning skills. With the information gathered from self-reflections and from understanding how to integration technology into the classroom with the support from coaches will help teachers successfully teach 21st century learners.


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