21st century? Already?

Really?  I’m surprised.  All the talk in education these days seems to be about getting kids ready for 21st century jobs, with 21st century skills in 21st century schools, I thought it was rapidly approaching but never dreamed it was already here.

But seriously folks, maybe it’s just because I’m in my second online graduate course that talks about 21st century students and teaching, but I’m tired of seeing “21st century” as an adjective for everything.  I know the world is changing and changing quickly.  The “21st century” craze was useful in the ’80s and ’90s, but now, over ten years into the new millennium, it just seems, well. . . lame.  I guess it still serves its purpose, conveying the idea that the future will be different from the past, dramatically different.  But, as I read this week about 21st century skills, I started leaving out the “21 century” part and in my head just said “skills.”  You know what?  Almost everything still made a lot of sense.  The lesson in there, I think, is that 21st century skills are the same skills that have prooven effective since the time of Socrates.

Speaking of Socrates, I think I am preparing my students for the 21st century in the same way he did (not that I’m any kind of legendary teacher, mind you, I just borrow some from his style).  My strength as a teacher lies in getting kids to think.  Thinking critically and being creative problem solvers are skills that are useful for success in any century, but never more so than now.  When students leave my classroom, I feel like I’ve done my part toward getting them ready to meet the challenges of the future.  I have to admit that I worry that the teachers that follow me might set them back a little.  I work very hard to move my math students beyond “what steps do I do to get the right answer?” and get them to think about the how and the why beyond the current problem.

My biggest challenge is to do even more by doing much less (another one of those educational paradoxes).  I want to do more to help my kids think for themselves by doing less for them (if that sounds like @ddmeyer, it’s not a coincidence).  I need to learn to let go and let them struggle.  The best way that I know how to pull that off is to use more interesting questions and their natural curiosity.  Before next year, I want to work out more #anyqs and #WCYDWT problems.

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One Comment on “21st century? Already?”

  1. Tom Everett Says:

    I appreciate what you have to say. I completely agree. Effective teaching gets the point across to the students. I remember working with a very traditional, lecture oriented teacher that the students loved. They didn’t care that he gave them worksheets and lectured. Learning can occur if the teacher persuades the students that what he or she is teaching is important. Is technology needed? Sometimes, but other times not necessarily. A good lesson is a good lesson. It really comes down to the teacher and building a relationship with students.


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