When talking about the 21st century classroom, many people focus only on the new devices. Although devices are great, the current revolution in teaching goes far beyond them. New approaches, standards, and even philosophies will soon overtake the outdated holdovers from the 20th century.
This trend started early in the 21st century, with the No Child Left Behind program. Now, it is starting to pay off. Most schools are adopting the Common Core State Standards, as well as increasingly using standardized testing. This means special challenges for schools with less funding than average, but also more opportunities for individual students. By achieving these standards, a student can be better prepared for college.
Probably the greatest changes in teaching come from the realization that the majority of students are motivated. While 20th century schools were modeled after disciplinary institutions, on the assumption that students needed to be forced to learn, 21st century schools are designed around the premise that students want to learn. Primary and secondary schooling increasingly feels like postsecondary education.
Standards and curricula have changed to acknowledge student agency. Now, most Common Core standards ask for high-level critical thinking. Most activities involve students performing a task instead of memorizing material.
There’s no time like the present for students to learn that they are in charge of their own success. Teachers increasingly are letting students determine their own projects and workflows. In some cases, students can even have a say in which books to read or what units to complete. Far from encouraging laziness, this actually encourages students by giving them ownership of their time.
Collaboration, both Online and Offline
Most students are smart enough to know that the answer to virtually any question is already on the Internet, or in one of their friend’s notebooks. This is actually not a bad thing. Although 20th century teachers thought of it as cheating, knowing how to collaborate with others, both online and off, is a valuable skill in the modern world. 21st century grades focus more on process than result, and encourage students to improve their process use the input of others.
Finally, Of Course, Devices
All this collaboration, responsibility, and activity works great by itself, but works evenbetter with the proper tools. These can include:
• Interactive whiteboards. These devices are present in more than 1 in 10 of all American classrooms, and a much larger percentage than that in Europe. Interactive whiteboards have two components: a projector and a touch-sensitive board. Most projectors are similar, varying only by lens size. Boards, however, can be greatly variable.
• Tablets and laptops. Although expensive, many schools find that students benefit from an all-in-one note-taker, organizer, graphing calculator, and internet research aid. These can be laptops, but tablets are cheaper and more portable. Some schools even offer wireless internet to make these devices more useful.
• Webcams. Cannot make it to school? No problem! A video of what your class discussed can be quickly posted to the Internet.