21st Century Teaching and Learning

I regularly hear 21st Century Learning referred  to as learning a lot of technology, a big term saying that I need to know a lot of apps.  However, this isn’t a definition I choose.  Those technologies are important, as are those apps.  But if we are to keep up, learn the newest programs, adapt to the next big paradigm shifts, then the most important areas of learning are the foundational skills that we will need. thinking Learning the newest programs serves me well until I am no longer someone’s student. At that point, what I need is the ability to teach myself, to discern what I do and do not need to know and how and when I need to apply my learning.  I need to develop and choose the techniques best suited to solve the problems I will face in my life.  And if the new reality is that I will work in several different jobs and fields, then any job specific skill set is less useful than the skills to help myself transition to my next career.


And so it is that the new reality, in so far as it exists or will exist, is best served by students who have highly developed critical & creative thinking skills.  These students can teach themselves the newest tools and apply them with skill and meaning.  Students who can pose and solve problems will navigate change with success.  Students who understand their place in the world of technology, in the social world and in the natural world, and who can think and make informed choices to shape the best future possible.


In selecting these topics, it is inevitable that there will be objections about the 3 Rs and how more time spent on other topics lessens the English or Mathematics learning of our children.  I disagree.  If we look at the broader areas of literacy and numeracy, we find critical thinking and problem solving as essential skills.  A quick look at my school’s OSSLT results from the past years shows that our literacy is most fettered by students struggling to make connections and use high-level thinking skills.  Teaching critical thinking might address this deficit.  On the math EQAO, we suffer most in questions related to solving problems and that fall under the thinking/inquiry category of the achievement chart.  We’d be better mathematicians, and certainly more numerate if we were better thinkers.  In both tests, students do fairly well in their recall of knowledge and facts.  We don’t need kids with more facts, we don’t even need kids who know where to find more facts. We need kids who know why they need to know something, what kind of facts they need, where to find them, how to connect them and what limits the information they gather may have.  We need kids who can face the environmental and political crises that they inherit from us.  That’s what I believe will lead to success in the 21st century.  It’s what I want for my own children.


This post in part of a blog hop on 21st century learning.  Please see the other entries here: 
Susan Campo @susancampo
Jim Cash @cashjim
Greg Pearson @vptechnodork
Phil Young @_PhilYoung
James Nunes @jameseliasnunes
Donald Campbell @libramlad
Ken Dewar Bestbefore2030
Graham Whisen @grahamwhisen
Lynn Filliter @assessmentgeek
Debbie Axiak @DebbieAxiak
Alicia Quennell @AliciaQuennell
Jonathan So @MrSoClassroom
Jim Blackwood @jimmyblackwood
Jason Richea @jrichea
Tina Zita @Xna_zita

2 thoughts on “21st Century Teaching and Learning

  1. Josh it is interesting that not one of the other blog posts that I have read (so far) has mentioned that 21st century learning is about using tech. Yes it is part of 21st century but you are right it is more about the learning. 21st century learning is more about how we are curating, facilitating and thinking about the information, and tools we have at our disposal. I always say its not the tech that’s important but the teacher. Was twenty years ago and still is today. Thanks for your post.

  2. I strongly feel that using tech isn’t 21st century learning. In fact you can be a 21st Century teacher without ever touching an iPad or device. I love how you said kids need to know who and why. They are so full of curiosity we need to nurture this. I feel historically this tends to get squashed.

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