The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’m not certain, but I think I have become disenchanted with the term “21st century educator.” Surely, there are teachers whose instructional techniques and pedagogy remain firmly entrenched in bygone times, but the term “21st century” seems to have become the latest in education speak — an amorphous term that conjures up a variety of images and definitions…sometimes masking business as usual. Ask one-hundred people to describe 21st century teaching/learning, and I am guessing that at least ninety of them will emphasize technology in their definition. I am ok with that, unless it is implied that using technology is, in and of itself, the essence of 21st century learning.
Anyone who reads my posts on a regular basis knows that I am a vocal advocate of educational technology. In my opinion, integration of technology is not an option, it is an obligation. What concerns me is a commonly heard suggestion that meaningful instructional change is somehow entirely dependent upon the adoption of technology tools. I don’t believe that to be the case.
Effectively teaching (and learning) in the 21st century — and beyond — is dependent upon educational freedom, opportunities to explore, collaboration, problem solving, creativity, individualization, passion…the list could go on. The development of this skill set can certainly be enhanced by the incorporation of technology (and perhaps, reaching capacity requires it) but we don’t have to wait on technology to address these learning objectives with our students. In fact, technology may not always be the most appropriate means of teaching these skills. It is a bit of the “chicken and egg” conundrum…which comes first, 21st century educating, or technology? Can one be effective without the other?
I am open to argument, but even as a staunch supporter of technology in education, I believe it is possible for a teacher to engage students in the skill set described above without technology — although it doesn’t mean they should have to do so. We don’t need to wait until we have a full array of technology tools to shift the educational paradigm. We shouldn’t use a lack of technology as an excuse to continue with failed pedagogy.
I will continue to advocate for the purposeful use of technology in education, but I am going to be a bit more discerning about my use of the term “21st century” and its implied meaning.