In our present digital age, businesses use technology to foster innovation, enhance productivity, and drive the bottom line. But across the United States teachers frequently are not afforded the opportunity to support the classroom learning of future entrepreneurs with technology that … well … fosters innovation and enhances productivity.
Perhaps you’ve heard the terms, “21st Century Learning,” or “digital age learning.” While the K-12 world is perpetually replete with the latest buzzwords, there are some wonderful and meaningful shifts embodied in these memes. Two changes in particular characterize digital age, 21st Century Learning.
First, in a world where we are tripping over information, especially in its digital forms, she who knows something, and knows how to use that knowledge, holds a competitive advantage over she who merely has learned facts and mastered procedures. Productive citizens in the 21st Century still require basic skills and a deep knowledge of content. More than ever before, jobs demand that those entering the workforce can do things with what they know. Making sense of information, working with it, and acting on it are the building blocks of creating something of value. Skills like creative and critical thinking, and how to collaborate and communicate with others are at the core of a 21st Century education.
Second, learning is fun—naturally fun. School can and should be irresistibly engaging. The most important thing we can do for our kids is to nurture the desire to keep learning throughout work and life. By tapping into our natural desire to learn new things through doing, we can learn more and understand more deeply. Basic skills, plus deep knowledge of content, plus learning through doing (individually and in groups), plus innovative and creative uses of technology, equals 21st Century Learning.
Recognizing that people learn differently, teachers in Washoe County and around the State are already finding innovative ways to teach with technology and help their students learn 21st Century skills. In these classrooms of the 21st century, students may be seated around tables, or moving about the room. Available technology may be used for the creation of products of learning. Teachers may be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of students, helping them solve a problem or create a project. Other groups of students may be working together on projects. Others may be working alone. It may be noisy.
Work used to be done more individually, but businesses now frequently rely on the work of teams. Today’s economy demands dynamic, independent, information-savvy creators and communicators. Forward-looking schools are providing environments where those skills are actively nurtured.
Andy Jorgensen is Program Director of Nevada Ready 21 at the Nevada Department of Education – a new initiative of the Governor and Legislature to provide funding for middle schools to embrace technology and help teachers seize this opportunity.
Robert Sidford is Coordinator of 21 Century Learning at Washoe County School District.