What is 21st Century Learning?
Jul 9, 2010 Learning Methodology 2664 Views
Education is in a state of flux. The traditional learning techniques of a teacher standing in front of a class full of students referring to notes and a 'standard' textbook are beginning to feel a little dated. While this may provide an excellent method that facilitates examination methodology and coaches children to store enough basic knowledge to pass a series of questions on an exam paper, it isn't how people actually learn. Application of knowledge is just as important as the accumulation of facts - probably more so in a technological world. So what kind of educational method is going to shape the schools of the future?
21st Century Learning
Step forward a concept known as 21st Century learning. This idea was first developed by an initiative of American and English businesses and organisations. Their idea (revolutionary in its simplicity) was to try to collate and make sense of the multitude of different learning techniques used by colleges, schools and universities around the world. What worked, what didn't - everything was analysed not just according to educational standards but to other concepts too such as those being developed in the field of psychology. They asked how people learn, how they interpret what they see and how they apply that knowledge to a real life situation. They concluded that the current methodology panders to one driving principle - economics.
The re-emergence of 'technical colleges'
What traditional learning methods didn't factor in was the rapid advancement of technology. The gatekeepers of the education system, although claiming to embrace technology as an integral part of the education process, appeared to be blinkered for a long time when it came to the sheer importance of electronic media, the role of computers in our society and how students actually use these new tools. Digital media and technological advancement still seemed to be confined to one period of 'IT studies' a week, despite the fact that the students themselves were continually accessing technology to help them develop their studies in other areas.
But finally, schools and colleges have caught up with their students. The Internet is a vital tool for homework or assignments. Social networking gives students a new opportunity to create groups of friends that they would otherwise not come into physical contact with. Software development is creating new tools to analyse data in everything from mathematics to sports performance. The initiative asked where these vital applications fitted in to current thinking and teaching methods. They concluded that they didn't. And this was, in their opinion, something that had to be rectified.
As education experts realise that the old methods of learning are being superseded by new, more dynamic and more organic methods, the school of the future is going to be far more tech-focused than textbook-focused. The key concept is going to be 'interaction'. While learning facts and figures is still going to have a major role in education, the emphasis will shift more towards how that knowledge works in the real world and more importantly, an understanding of the role technology plays in every aspect of modern life.
A new way of thinking
The education system may have been a little slow off the blocks, but they are making up for lost time. The Government is keen to promote the idea of technology-led education, offering incentives and grants to schools that lean towards a technology-based system. This encouragement of schools that have embraced technology as their primary source of learning has led to the creation of technology 'institutes'. Homework is set online, the use of the Internet as a primary information source is encouraged and programming, development and the use of technology to enhance the learning experience is the driving force behind every lesson plan. Computers are now being used in primary schools, giving children an early access to the electronic world and developing a keen interest in technology not just for entertainment, but also for educational values.
So will exams as we know them disappear? Most students would hope so, but a baccalaureate or diploma system is a more likely route rather than the more traditional GCSEs, AS and A'level exams. Will laptops replace paper workbooks and chalk boards? Probably not, but they will play a much larger role in classrooms, allowing students to access a wealth of knowledge that is being constantly updated. Lesson plans will be more fluid, more organic and more adaptable than traditional syllabuses that remain unchanged from one year to the next.
21st Century learning is a merging of technology and a better understanding of how the human brain processes and uses information. It is this fusion of concepts, as well as the infinite possibilities that electronic-based learning creates that make the development of 21st Century learning an exciting prospect.