21st Century Classrooms: No Excuses (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

During #satchathack weekly chat this morning, which occurred in lieu of #satchat (which was on vacation), my PLN had a lively conversation about 21st century education, how to get there, and the risk of edtech being a facade of achieving a 21st century classroom.

Today's discussion continued to confirm for me that we are currently preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist.  What?!  How is this possible?  A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on "Your Child's Job," where I referenced a recent Boston Globe article that examined current employment trends, and made some predictions for the future job market in Massachusetts.  To understand more how we are preparing our children for jobs that don't yet exist, go to: Your Child's Job.

Another point that was made by participants surrounded this 19th-20th-21st century dichotomy.  Some argued that we are living in a 19th century school curriculum and agrarian structure; others lamented living 20th century physical structures, and others still felt that 21st century skills are outdated: we're already 14% of the way through the 21st century.  Should we be preparing for 22nd century skills?  What are these, and have we mastered 21st century learning?

What struck me is that 21st century learning has become a nebulous term - almost a buzz term, dare I say.  Everyone wants 21st century classrooms, learning, and schools - but what does this really mean?  It means deconstructing "21st century skills" that we want students to Know, Understand, and be able to Do (KUD) - into discrete skills that we can measure and provide feedback to students and parents/guardians: communication skills, creativity, collaboration skills, and critical thinking skills.

Regardless of one's district, school or classroom's access to technology, students' learning 21st century skills is a reasonable request.  It is our obligation to infuse these skills into our classroom and school culture.  Technology and innovation can come in the form of high tech or low tech supports and supplies.  The presence of an iPad makes not a classroom innovative or possessing 21st century characteristics, and the lack of technology does not prevent students from learning to be creative, collaborative, communicative critical thinkers.

Students must learn discrete technology skills, but embedded into the content and classroom.  The end game is for students to learn, and all good teaching must be based in, well, solid teaching.  A lesson will fail and students will not learn if the flashiest of lessons is not first rooted in solid pedagogy and thoughtful teaching and learning.  If the 21st century classroom were a basketball game, technology gets the assist - it should assist students and teachers in the learning process, not be the learning process.  (Unless the goal is to teach students specific technology skills - in a technology/computer class.)

No excuses.  Today is the day to emphasize the four Cs of 21st century learning in your classroom, and ensure that students and parents/guardians know the direction we are going.  Because we have an obligation to prepare our students for the future and for the jobs that don't yet exist.  Not to be overly dramatic, but the future of our nation depends on it.

- Steve Guditus


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