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Education, Technology

21st Century – The New Buzz Word?

Athena Digital Wish children working

cc flickr photo by Dell Inc.

The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Drawing by Peter Reynolds

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.


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


One thought on “21st Century – The New Buzz Word?

  1. Great post azjd. I also find that each time I use the well coined phrase “21st Century Education”, people make the assumption that i’m referring to technology rich and technology reliant learning. Like most things, it’s the tangible aspects that attract the most attention. In this case, it’s the iPads, the smartphones, interactive whiteboards and anything else that would make an appealing press release image of a school “moving into the 21st Century”.

    I have a feeling that the more disruptive educational practice spreads throughout our systems, the less we should hear this phrase because what we now consider to be 21stC will simply become the norm in our classrooms. We don’t tend to hear the same buzz phrase when we refer to business and the corporate world because 21st Century Business is simply…business, because innovation, new technologies and disruptive thinking is what’s expected.

    Maybe we should just call it….Education for the very same reason.

    Posted by Dan | March 29, 2012, 3:01 am

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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