Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/History/21st Century
Our world is constantly changing. No longer are we ignorant to the world around us. We have created new technologies over the years so we can connect with the whole world. We have become a multicultural society, embracing ethnic and cultural differences, and also a technological society, using technologies, such as cell phones, computers, ipods, video games, etc., in our everyday lives. It is no surprise that because of this our educational system has changed and must continue to change in order to carry on in the 21st century. " The world has changed. Nearly all teachers understand how the industrial culture has shaped the organization and methods of schools in the 19th and 20th centuries, and they recognize that schools must now adapt to a new century" ("Introduction to PBL"). Educators have new standards to meet and much to learn in order to be successful teachers nowadays. They must be able to follow the curriculum established by NCLB and also incorporate technology and new teaching methods into their classroom in order to prepare students for the future. It is vital to "bring what we teach and how we teach into the 21st century" (Wallis, 2006).
One change upon entering the 21st century was the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This act was made in 2001 to ensure that all children have an equal and fair opportunity to get a high quality education and perform at the minimum proficiency level set by their state on achievement tests. This act was implemented because there were too many students being “left behind” in the classroom. These students were falling further and further behind each year because they were not getting the individualized attention they needed to perform well in school. NCLB makes certain that students will learn every concept they need to learn at their grade level. In order to make this happen, teachers must be “highly qualified” and undergo rigorous assessment themselves. They are judged upon how their students perform on the standardized tests. This leaves educators no choice but to teach strictly from the book to meet these standards. No longer do teachers have the time to review concepts over and over again and move the class along as they see fit. The classroom must follow a strict schedule to get things done. However, this creates another problem for the educational system. If so much emphasis is placed on getting passing scores on achievement tests, where is the time to teach students other important things needed in the 21st century? According to (Fletcher, 2007), “What may be needed is a fundamental shift in how we think about curriculum.” The current view in the standards movement is that the state should define what needs to be taught and the teachers should teach according to those set standards. However, we need to become less content-oriented and focus more on the process (Fletcher, 2007). According to (Wallis, 2006), teachers need to do much more than the bare minimum to have students meet testing requirements for NCLB. They also need to teach students skills essential to the 21st century. These skills include, but are not limited to, learning about the world around them, being able to think outside the box and across different disciplines, developing good people skills, and learning how to process and organize information. (Wallis, 2006).
Many of these skills essential to the 21st century rely on the use of technology. As said previously, technology is everywhere in our world today. Children are growing up with computers, cell phones, ipods, etc. Our society depends on these technologies on an everyday basis. In order for educators to be successful teachers in the 21st century they must be able to integrate these technologies into the school curriculum. "How teachers of the 21st century implement computers into their schools is critical to achieving the benefits of technology in children's learning" (Dockstader, 1999). It is vital to students’ success in the future, both independently and professionally. It was stated in (Fletcher, 2007) that several hundred employers were polled to see what skills were thought to be the most important to learn for success in the workplace. The skills reported as the most important were professionalism/work ethic, teamwork collaboration, oral communication, and critical thinking/problem solving (Fletcher, 2007). All of the skills mentioned can be taught through technology integration. The question is How?
Incorporting technology into the curriculum can be quite a struggle, especially if one does not understand what technology integration actually means. It is not just about using computers in the classroom; it is about using computers and other technologies to effectively teach general subject matter. Dockstader stated, “Technology integration is having the curriculum drive technology usage, not having technology drive the curriculum” (Dockstader,1999). It might seem like a hard task to do this effectively, but there are now many new teaching methods out there to help. Many of these methods focus on a student-centered approach to learning rather than a teacher-centered approach. This gives students the opportunity to work hands on with technology and each other to build the skills they need for life. Two of these many methods that will be further discussed are Cooperative Learning and Project Based Learning.
The No Child Left Behind Act was signed on 2005 by President George W. Bush it is still a huge factor. It means that each state has different standard tests that each student needs to graduate from school. It is also difficult for teachers because they have to cover every lecture befor the semester ends and it is a struggle. In Virginia, they have a special standard tests call Standards of Learing tests (SOL's). Every student has to pass at least six of them to graduate, which it started in 2004. It is a nightmare and it is no fun in the sun too.
Cooperative Learning is defined as "students of all levels of performance working together in structured groups towards a shared or common goal" ("A Guide to Cooperative Learning"). In this kind of learning environment teachers act as a facilitator or coach in the learning process. The students are responsible for creating a learning community among themselves. This encourages group members to support each other and build team work skills. It also raises both group and individual accountability ("A Guide.."). Through cooperative learning students are able to achieve goals they would not be able to do individually. These projects help students attain higher levels of achievement and increase their self-esteem and communication skills they need to be productive members of society ("A Guide.."). Some of the basic principles of this teaching method are: Face-to-face Promotive Interaction, where learning is active, students discuss ideas and learn to appreciate others values; Positive Interdependence, where there is a single team product and different roles for each group member; Individual Accountability and Collaborative Skills, where students are encouraged to work together effectively; and Reflection/ Group Processing of interaction, where students analyze how their group functions ("A Guide..").
The results of Cooperative Learning in classrooms have been positive ones. There seems to be a "higher retention of subject material, better attitutes towards learning, and enhanced personal relationships among peers" ("A Guide.."). Because of this success, cooperative learning will more than likely be encouraged to use in future classroom settings.
Project Based Learning (PBL)
Another teaching method new to the 21st century is called Problem Based Learning, or PBL. In this approach to teaching, the teacher creates a project designed around a problem or topic that is (1) addressed in the existing course curriculum, (2) effects the students life or community, and (3) is solved by the student using teacher supplied resources and guidelines ("Introduction to PBL"). PBL is a great way to incorportate both content and life skills into learning at the same time. A less broad approach to PBL is Standards-Focused PBL. This is defined as "a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks" ("Intro.."). PBL begins with a driving question that is tied to content standards in the curriculum. Students need to answer this question by using tools and skills, like technology and project management. It requires students to investigate, research, reason, and learn from experience ("Intro.."). This creates in-depth exploration of the topic in a challenging and interactive way. Some of the benefits founds to be associated with this approach are students learning problem solving and communication, it assesses performance on content and skills, encourages accountability, and it meets the needs of students with different learning styles ("Intro.."). PBL learning and Cooperative Learning are just two methods of many that can be excellent ways to teach the children of the 21st century. They will be able to learn the content that is required by NCLB and also learn important and necessary skills for the future.
Conclusion: What teachers of the 21st century need to do
Teachers of the 21st century have much to do in order to meet the needs of students, parents, and administrators. It is important that they “..will know and understand basic technology competencies are important. And they will know how to integrate technology using a consistant and well-designed model of instruction” (Dockstader, 1999). 21st century teachers need to be willing to work with new technologies and incorporate them into their teaching. They must be able to move away from traditional teaching methods and use a more student-centered approach.
This requires teachers to be open-minded, patient, and not afraid to ask questions. Because students "must develop a high level of competence not only in traditional academic areas but also in 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, creativity, innovation, information literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, and global awareness” (Rosenfeld, 2007), it is vital that the curriculum establishes a balance between content knowledge and skills. By doing this we will be able to successfully prepare our children for what's ahead of them in the future.
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- Dockstader, Jolene. (1999, January). Teachers of the 21st Century know the what, why, and how of technology. Retrieved September 18, 2007, from http://www.thejournal.com/articles/14141.
- Rosenfeld, Ester. (2007, April). Beginning the Conversation About Education 2.0. Teacher Librarian, 34(6-7). Retrieved September 18, 2007, from Education Full Text database http://www.vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/hww/shared/shared_main.jhtml?_requestid=122710.
- Wallis, C, ft Steptoe, S. (2006, December 18). How to bring our schools out of the 20th Century. Time, 768(25). Retrieved September 16, 2007, from http://www.time.com/magazine/article/0,9171,1568480,00.html.
- Fletcher, Geoffrey H. (2007, July). An Eye on the Future. T.H.E. Journal, 34(26-7). Retrieved September 16, 2007 from Education Full Text database http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/hww/shared/shared_main.jtml?_requestid=28540.
- Stitt, Jason. (2004, March). 21st century skills, the future of technology and education. Retrieved September 18, 2007, from http://www.wistechnology.com/article.php?id=685.
- Introduction to PBL. Retrieved September 18, 2007, from Buck Institute for Education http://www.bie.org/index.php/site/PBL/pbL/pbl_handbook_introduction/#history.
- A Guide to Cooperative Learning. Retrieved September 18, 2007, from http://www.pgcps.pg.k12.md.us/~elc/learning1.html.