Unit 5: 21st Century Learning

The term ’21st Century Learning’ has been a catch phrase of a number of educators and thinkers who have argued for widespread changes to current education systems. In many ways the term may be redundant, considering we are already 12 years into the new century. This learning encompasses the potential of communication technologies, the structure of schools and classrooms and the changing role of educators in the learning process.

Sir Ken Robinson is one of the leading speakers in this field. Take three minutes to watch the video below, where he talks about the role of policy in education. How do you feel about his assertion (at 1.50) that the current systems of education are ‘antiquated and largely pointless’?

Video: Sir Ken Robinson On The Role Of Policy In Education

As an extension, you might like to watch some more of Ken Robinson, such as his TED talk on the learning revolution or another from the RSA about changing education paradigms.

Online collaboration

There is no doubt that the internet has revolutionised communication, and one of the biggest benefits is the potential for online collaboration in the classroom. Have a look at the Flat Classroom Project and hear from the students at Sacred Heart School and Pularumpi School about their online connections.

Learning spaces in the 21st Century

While virtual learning spaces are one of the most talked about aspects of 21st century learning, physical learning spaces are changing as well. Professor Stephen Heppell has been involved in designing learning spaces  around the world. You can read more on his website which has some great images from his research, even if his choice of colours is a bit hard on the eyes!

Digital natives vs. digital immigrants

You may have heard of the phrases ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ used before, alluding to the seeming ease with which young people can pick up and play with technology, compared with those of us that find it complex, confusing, and sometimes alienating.

Marc Prensky is an internationally acclaimed speaker, writer, consultant, futurist, visionary and inventor in the critical areas of education and learning.  You can see more of his work here. It’s hard to believe that it was over a decade ago that Prensky first used the phrases ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ in this short but compelling paper (PDF).

In some ways Prensky is suggesting that being born in the right place at the right time affects your socialisation, education, and of course affinity with technology. With this half-truth in mind, this interesting TED Talk delivered by Sugata Mitra about ‘The child-driven education’ presents another way of looking at learning in the age of technology.

Reflection question

Educators have always been faced with change, and technology is just one more changing aspect that needs to be considered as we refine education systems.  Do you agree with the idea of the new generation of students being digital natives, and does this need to inform the way schools are structured? Is the increasing use of communication technology a challenge, an opportunity, or both?

Go to the next task- Mobile devices in schools

Go back to the Unit 5 overview

3 Responses to Unit 5: 21st Century Learning

  1. Merilyn says:

    Yes, the use of communication technology is certainly both a challenge and an opportunity, but it also puts on educators a responsibility – the responsibility to keep up with it and implement it in teaching. As Ken Robinson suggests, we owe it the kids to teach in the way that their minds work. And what a terrific presentation by Suga Mitra who tells us that kids will learn, no matter what! I’m in love with both those men.
    Thanks for introducing me to TEDtalks. I’m going to check out the talks regularly.

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  3. Geoff says:

    Digital natives being taught by digital immigrants is one thing.
    Digital natives being taught by digital phobes is another!

    Will now take the time to watch all of Sir Ken’s TED talks. I’ve always loved his “Schools and Creativity” talk.

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