One of the major themes in our district this year is how to best prepare students to be learners and leaders in the 21st Century. I've recently joined our district's curriculum advisory committee, which has given me a great opportunity to discuss a vision for learning with other teachers, parents and administrators. One of the questions that has arisen from these committee meetings is "What does it mean to be a 21st Century Learner?"
Several years ago, Education Week published an article with eleven different answers to that question. Educational scholars and leaders weighed in on the topic and shared their own definitions of what it means to be a 21st Century Learner. As I read through their responses I realized that I agreed with many of the different definitions that were put forth. Trying to define what it means to be a learner in this century is a complex proposition, but is it definitely a discussion worth having.
In my opinion, being a 21st Century Learner means having the skills and knowledge to be successful in our ever-changing world. Technology is changing and advancing at an increasing rate. Students today need to be able to adapt to changes in technology and use technology as a medium to advance their own learning. Students also need to be able to use technology to build and manage social networks for the purpose of learning and collaborating.
In today's world, effective collaboration requires effective means of communication. Students need to be able to use and learn language, including academic language, world languages and the languages of technology (like coding). Academic language allows students to develop their own voice as learners, world languages allow students to communicate globally, and coding languages allow students to become creators (and not just consumers) of technology.
Finally, students need to be equipped to think critically about the world. There are a multitude of issues in our world today that require complex problem solving and critical analysis. Students need practice in defining problems and identifying multiple solutions. We need to teach students to be able to look at issues from multiple perspectives and identify the complex relationships between issues.
Being a 21st Century learner and leader requires an intentional commitment and investment in education. It requires teachers, administrators and parents working together to establish a vision for learning and teaching. Isolation is no longer an option. We must work together and encourage one another to create the kind of learning environment our students need to be successful. Let's make it happen!