The 21st century may be a chaotic and confusing place, lacking security and stability, yet these turbulent times of change may also provide opportunities and exciting possibilities (especially in the classroom!). Our learners will need a future in which they can be active and capable even in times of great change.
In this post, we will shed light on some of the current challenges, the possible future we are not preparing students for, and the changes necessary to prepare them for this.
The Present Situation
The current education system is not equipping students with the skills they require for the 21st century. The ability to retain and recall information and to understand and perform calculations is clearly useful, yet its importance is diminished as technology becomes more readily available and able to perform these simple tasks. We all have libraries and calculators in our pockets, and at the touch of a button (or “hey Siri”) we are able to scan, search and compute.
What we do need for the 21st century have has been dubbed “the 4Cs”. These include:
- Critical thinking
21st Century Work
Many of the jobs your students (or children) will perform have not been created yet. We need to guide them towards being holistic thinkers and analysts with the ability to collaborate and problem solve. We are currently preparing students for the wrong jobs, jobs which we imagine them undertaking now, such as coding and treating patients. These roles will be performed by AI and automation.
Instead of preparing for roles in digital industries, we should focus on the creativity and roles which require a human touch (or heart) and collaborative work (possibly between man and machine).
To make things a little clearer, below are a collection of jobs that didn’t exist just 20 years ago. Many of the jobs of tomorrow are to follow this pattern.
- App Developer
- Online Influencer
- Content Moderators
- Digital Marketing Expert
- GDPR Data Protection Officer
- Web Analyst
- Cyber Security Analyst
- Robotics Engineer
- Wellbeing Coach
- Social Media Manager
The 21st Century Educator
In order to prepare students for these inevitable changes, the role of the educator must change.
The 21st-century educator must be brave and willing to experiment with different teaching styles as well as different forms of technology (as they are still being developed) which can be a daunting task as I’m sure you all know!
They need to be able to teach topics that students are not just interested in but passionate about, allowing them to choose their own topics and personalise their learning, to undertake projects and problem solve (essential tasks in the real world). This should increase their engagement and develop a love for lifelong learning.
The 21st-century educator should be brave enough to breach the walls of the classroom and facilitate communication with others in the local and global community, with parents, peers and professionals, and those of different ages and backgrounds.
The 21st-century educator should also facilitate the self-learning of students and co-learn alongside them. They need to reframe from the traditional role of imparting knowledge and encourage self-discovery and exploration.
They need to develop social, collaborative students, who are able to work alongside fellow humans, artificial forms of intelligence and automation (as this is what they may be doing for a living in the future).
They also need to develop critical students who are able to navigate the murky world of modern media, fake news and deep fakes, students who possess the skills to critically analyse data and adequately select the most relevant and accurate for the task in question.
They need to promote the development of a lifelong learner who is able to self-learn and re-learn and succeed in an ever fast-changing world with less stability, more competition and an increased life expectancy.
However daunting the above may sound, it should also be seen as an opportunity (a rather exciting one!), a license to experiment with non-traditional methodologies, technologies and a wide array of content. Learners should enjoy this change (a lot more than sitting behind desks, eyes to the board at a learning pace and manner which may not suit them), and if they enjoy it, they will do more of it, and in the C21st being able to enjoy what they do may be the best gift their teacher can give them.
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