Everything About 21st Century Learning + 99 Tools For Educators & Teachers
Twenty-first-century learning shouldn’t be controversial. It is simply an effort to define modern learning using modern tools. (The problem is that what’s modern in 2010 has accelerated far beyond 2000, a year which now seems “so last century.”)
Twenty-first-century learning builds upon such past conceptions of learning as “core knowledge in subject areas” and recasts them for today’s world, where a global perspective and collaboration skills are critical. It’s no longer enough to “know things.” It’s even more important to stay curious about finding out things.
The Internet, which has enabled instant global communication and access to information, likewise holds the key to enacting a new educational system, where students use information at their fingertips and work in teams to accomplish more than what one individual can alone, mirroring the 21st-century workplace. If 10 years from now we are still debating 21st-century learning, it would be a clear sign that a permanent myopia has clouded what should be 20/20 vision. - Milton Chen - Senior Fellow & Executive Director, Emeritus, The George Lucas Educational Foundation; author of Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools.
The term "21st-century skills" is generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today's world. In a broader sense, however, the idea of what learning in the 21st century should look like is open to interpretation—and controversy.
It’s an especially important consideration at the elementary level, because so many of the tech trends in education are tested out and geared toward middle and high schools. One-to-one computer initiatives, for example, usually start at sixth grade or higher. Google Apps for Education is fabulous, but to what extent can seven- and eight-year-olds use it? It takes a bit more reflection to figure out what the trickle-down effect of tech trends really means for the the youngest learners.
Our world is changing and changing rapidly. But while we often see digital natives on the covers of contemporary magazines, we have students in our classrooms from both sides of the divide. A 21st century classroom must engage and energize both natives and non-natives, preparing all students to be active participants in our exciting global community.
Many look at this divide and cry out for a renewed focus on the 3 R’s - reading, writing, and arithmetic. But in order to fully participate in today’s global community, students must also master the 4 C’s – creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
When we think about bringing the 4 C’s into our classroom, we don’t need to “add” a thing. The best way to help students master these skills is to change HOW we teach and learn in our classrooms. It is the process of learning, not the content of learning, that addresses the 4 C’s.
To me, 21st century learning in an elementary school has the same overall goals as a secondary school: it’s only the implementation that differs. They should be producing content, not just consuming it passively. Though technology isn’t synonymous with 21st century learning, it IS an integral part of it, and it’s often the set of tools that makes this new approach to teaching and learning possible. The purpose of technology used in a 21st century classroom should be (in my opinion) to connect students with their world and enable them learn from others and to share their own ideas. It should also be used to differentiate the curriculum so that students are learning on their own developmental levels and are able to pursue their unique interests and passions.
I think that’s one of the greatest things about technology and one of the most exciting aspects of the vision for 21st century schools: that children are no longer all forced to learn the same thing the same way just because the teacher doesn’t have a simple way to differentiate. I don’t think we’re quite at the point where technology makes it “simple” to differentiate instruction, but certainly simpler. And with the thousands of new apps and websites being launched each day, I believe the quality and a variety of tools available for teachers is going to continue increasing. Even the most tech-averse teacher will be saying in 10 years, Wow, [insert name of tool/program/app] really makes it easier to help my students. How did I ever live without this? Many of us have already reached that point with tech tools in our personal lives (smart phones, laptops, tablets, eReaders): Our teaching lives are going to be transformed soon, too. For some teachers, that’s already a reality, and it’s amazing to see.There’s no one “right” way to teach 21st century skills or integrate technology in the classroom. You can pick and choose the things that make the most sense for you and your students.Since technology use is one of the hardest aspects of 21st century learning for many teachers to incorporate (in large part due to school budget cuts and lack of tech resources/customer services), I’ll elaborate a bit more on what’s possible.
So, the goals of 21st century learning in the elementary classroom are helping each child communicate, collaborate, and exercise creativity and critical thinking while both consuming and producing content that connects them with their world in ways that are personally meaningful and relevant. Wow, that’s a mouthful!
21st Century Classroom Characteristics
A 21st century classroom has many characteristics associated with it which distinguish it from the classrooms of the past centuries. The Top 10 characteristics of a 21st century classroom are:
Student-centric: In these classrooms, students play an active role in their learning and teachers serve as mere guides. They are more facilitators of learning than lecturers. They help students think critically and learn by doing and act as a resource while their students discover and master new concepts. Student-centric classroom environments put students’ interests first and are focused on each student’s needs, abilities and learning styles.
Computing devices: Computers are readily available in modern classrooms, since they are essential tools for 21st century students and replace the utilities of pen and paper. They not only give students the means to conduct online research and master the technology skills they need, but they also give teachers the opportunity to enhance their lessons. The ability to deftly operate a computer is a critical 21st century skill. Computing devices greatly assist in teaching and learning and make them more engaging and effective.
Active learning: In modern classrooms, students are actively engaged in what they learn. Students participate in more active learning by working in groups or on computers and complete projects and other interesting activities that help them discover new skills. Students can learn actively by talking and listening, writing, reading and reflecting. When students are encouraged to take an active interest in learning, they are more likely to retain the knowledge they’ve accumulated.
Adaptive learning: Any classroom will always have students of different types of learning abilities in it which often makes it difficult for teachers to make sure that all of them understand the concepts. The modern approach of adaptive learning gives students the freedom to learn at their own pace and in the way they are most comfortable with. There are various kinds of software available for adaptive learning that teachers can use to enhance the learning of their students.
Invitational environment: The classrooms should not be cramped or overcrowded. Modern classrooms should have the basic material required for teaching such as, interactive whiteboards and LCD projectors. The BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) approach can be adopted, so that students can bring their laptops or tablets to the classroom for better personalized learning. Teaching with technological material is more effective, stimulates student engagement, eases the work of teachers and makes it easy for students to focus on learning.
Students understand and follow the rules and procedures: The learning environment is carefully planned and well-organized. Class rules, procedures, and notices of upcoming activities are posted in convenient places to help students stay on track. Students are constantly encouraged to remind them of their goals and responsibilities. They follow class routines and understand what they are expected to achieve each day and how they are to go about it.
Mutual respect: Teachers and students should always have respect for each other. As now the role of teachers is no longer to be the sage on the stage, students should not forget their value as they will always receive guidance from them. Also, teachers should encourage students to speak with confidence and value their opinions. In a well-disciplined environment, students should also co-operate with and respect their classmates.
Students take responsibility of their learning: As students are encouraged to actively participate in their own learning, they become responsible for their learning. Self-directed students not only encourage each other, but also work with their teacher to achieve academic and behavioral goals that they themselves have helped establish. Teachers should employ a variety of strategies to promote responsible decision-making and create self-reliant students.
Performance-based assessments: Regular
The 21st century is a time of rapid change, and while the brain may not be changing (much), the tools we use to feed it are.
This puts the 21st century teacher in a critical spot–of mastering constantly evolving technology and digital learning tools–the same tools their students use every day.
Everybody seems to be talking about learning 21st century skills, but what does it all mean for the classroom teacher who needs better technology in education and more resources for tomorrow's mathematics or history lesson?
Concerned about preparing today's children for tomorrow's world, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and International Society for Technology in Education have drafted frameworks and guidelines that outline what our students need to know to meet the challenges of the modern age. Mastery of core content areas, such as language Arts (including English language arts, reading, Spanish, etc....), mathematics, science and history, remains the centerpiece. But these two organizations emphasize the importance of cultivating interdisciplinary themes, such as global awareness and financial, civic and health literacies, and weaving key skill areas (creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, and critical thinking, problem solving and decision making) into core subject matter.
Here are just a few resources which show photo and video examples of elementary teachers who have truly created 21st century classrooms in which students are not just consuming information but creating it:
- Blog by a 1st grade ASL/English classr in NYC: has great ideas for iPad use in real-world projects
- Suzy Brook’s ning Technically Invisible (various photo albums of techy stuff her 3rd graders do; also see her blog)
- Mrs. Cassidy’s blog: lots of great 21st century learning projects her six-year-old students have done
- A post with a 2nd grader using the Show Me app to explain a math problem (I’ve even seen kindergarteners do this)
- Beautifully made 3 minute video giving an overview of tech integration in kindergarten
- Video about blogging in the elementary classroom: second grade
- Jen Deyenburg’s Prezi on what an elementary classroom looks like in the 21st century (includes student work samples)
The way 21st century learning works in your classroom will depend on a lot of factors, such as the types of tech tools you have available, your students’ needs, your curriculum, your administration’s requirements and vision, and your own familiarity and comfort with technology. If you’re wanting to shift your classroom more toward the 21st century vision, you can start with just one or two tools in one or two subject areas. Some elementary teachers like to take a single unit of study each quarter to extend their use of technology. For example, let’s say there’s a particular social studies unit that’s rather dry, or a math concept that the kids never quite seem to master. Check with your best friend, Google, and see what’s available. You can use information consumption tools at first: have kids watch videos online, read eBooks or websites, or use Google Earth to tour faraway places. You can try to choose one or two resources that are a bit more interactive, such as webquests or online quizzes.
Top 99 21st Century Learning Tools in 2016
Free Audio Tools for Teachers
Bookmarking Websites for Teachers
10- Give a Link
Create Protected Blogs and Webpages for your Class
Tools to Edit Images
Web Tools to Create Videos
Presentation Creation Tools for Teachers
2- Haiku Deck
Great Tools to Create Digital Portfolios
2- Google Sites
Plagiarism Detector Tools for Teachers and Educators
Screen Capture Tools for Teachers
1- 1- LightShot
Easy Poll/ Survey Tools for Teachers
Tools to Create and Administer Quizzes
Tools for Better Time Management
3- Focus Time
5- Flat Tomato
Sticky Notes Apps for Teachers and Students
Task Management Tools for Educators
7- My Shortcuts:
Tools for digital curators