Meeting the Needs of 21st Century Students
Oct 21, 2009 Learning Methodology 2721 Views
In evaluating the success of an educational program, our first inclination is to use our past experiences as a basis. Even better is to assess how successful our children are as a measuring tool. It is every parents dream that their children will grow to be successful adults, and we hope their school education will help with the preparation. For this to work, schools must operate in the world of the 21st Century.
The Internet Generation
The Internet Generation, or N-Geners, consists of the students of today. What we need to be asking is: are our schools giving these students the tools they need to have a successful future? Our country is no long reliant on farms, manual labor and assembly lines to provide our professions. What will define our citizens in the future? What do our students of today have to learn to compete and thrive in our new society? While the answer can be found from many sources, I would like to explore what corporate managers and executives feel about these questions.
In the article Rigor Redefined (2008), Tony Wagner interviewed many corporate CEOs to find out what they are looking for in todays workforce. Wagner was surprised at some of the answers he discovered to his questions. For example, the President of BOC Edwards indicated that what he was looking for first and foremost was someone to ask good questions. He stated that while they could always teach the technical stuff, it is very difficult to teach someone how to think and to ask good questions.
Many of these company CEOs shared their need to hire people who can work collaboratively in teams to discuss and come up with out of the box solutions for todays problems. All of this points to a need for educators to integrate into their teaching, meaningful activities with Blooms Taxonomy in mind. Throw out the old ditto sheets and give students real problems to solve. Give them opportunities to work in teams and make presentations of their work.
Schools today need to understand the needs of their students and adjust their curriculums to meet those needs. It is a real concern when I see packaged curriculums used with no supporting real world examples attached to them. It is troublesome that the Teachers Guides provided to teachers require them to proceed with a lesson without really thinking about the real world applications. And School Districts are requiring teachers to report on planning and pacing guides the lessons taught every day, leaving little room for teaching outside the box.
Great interaction between the teacher and the student is a key factor in the successful learning process. A student will do best when they sense that their teacher is aware of where they are coming from and how they can best learn. A teacher will do best when able to create and present lesson plans that are timely and relevant to the students situations.
Teachers today are educating the Internet Generation. As such, it is critical to integrate technology into the learning process as often as possible. Technology come naturally to our students, and it is our job to show them the practical and real world ways technology can be used. Our future holds classes and lesson plans using all forms of technology, including smart boards, PowerPoint presentations, cell phones and classroom response systems. These advanced teaching techniques are critical to the success of the Internet Generation and it is the educators job to embrace the opportunity to connect with the children.
To avoid the dry and uninteresting approaches found in packaged programs and planning and pacing guides, integrate reading and writing into rich content. Use social studies and science to promote and practice what was learned in reading and writing class.
The current trend toward curriculum narrowing in social studies and science is sad indeed. Transfer those skills students need to practice and integrate them into everything else you are doing. Without sufficient social studies and science instruction, we are leaving our students bereft of essential background knowledge upon which other knowledge can be built.
Many schools are struggling to educate children in poverty. Nearly 17% of all students come from poor families struggling to survive. These children have less life experience knowledge and vocabulary skills than their middle and upper class peers. Leaving out rich and varied subject matters at the expense of reading, writing and math subjects only magnifies these differences as children in poverty have little chance to learn these subjects outside of the school environment.
We must take seriously the building of cultural literacy through social studies teaching so that all our children have a chance to a better life. Psychological research has shown that to learn something new, we must be able to connect it to something we already know. Building a broad base of knowledge is essential for our poor and disenfranchised populations, and these students depend upon our schools for this.
Viable research has shown that cultural literacy is highly correlated with academic achievement, which in turn is correlated to annual income. If our job as educators is to prepare children for the 21st Century, then we must attend to the building of knowledge, not just teach them to read, write and do math.