What am I going to do as an English teacher to engage with the 21st century skills?
Times have changed; in education system there have also been number of changes. As we move further into the information technology age, it becomes clear that the role of the teacher of the 21st century is very different from the one in the 20th century. The new role of the teacher requires changes in teachers’ knowledge and skills. What am I going to do as an English teacher to engage with the 21st century skills? What are these new skills, and why have they become so important? These are some of the questions I ask myself when thinking of my role as a teacher of the 21st century.
I’ve been working at school for 24 years. I started my career of a teacher in the 20th century. Now I’m a teacher of the 21st century. Honestly speaking it’s very difficult to teach nowadays. The learners have changed radically. Today’s learners are the representatives of the digital age generation. Teachers are working with students whose entire lives have been immersed in the 21st century media culture. Today’s students are digital learners - every day they use the cell phones, handheld gaming devices, and laptops they take everywhere, plus computers, TVs, and game consoles at home. The new learners are transforming themselves from passive actors into active, are becoming conscious leaders of their personal lifelong learning path. According to Marc Prensky (2001)1, today’s students are referred to as “digital natives”, and today’s educators as “digital immigrants”.
As teachers, we need to be thinking about how to teach our learners. I think to change myself is the only thing I have to do. I completely agree with John Dewey, who said “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” We constantly strive to prepare our learners for the ‘real world’ that exists around them. We teach them how to read, write, and calculate. But, there are the more tangible skills we should teach; such as how to work in a team, think critically, and be curious about the things they encounter each day.
Yesterday teachers used to be the major source of knowledge, the leader and educator of their students’ school life. Nowadays, teachers should not just transmit knowledge to students. Teachers should teach the students how to gain information and how to select and use it. Teachers are thought to be guides, facilitators and learning advisers in the learning process. They are supporters rather than educators. Their main task is to set goals and organize the learning process accordingly.
According to Dr. Tony Wagner of Harvard University (2010)2, who identified the top seven survival skills needed for the 21st century, they are the following: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurship, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, curiosity and imagination.
I think developing all these skills in the 21st century is crucial because the world is becoming more complex. Teachers should never stop learning themselves. To be an effective teacher of the 21st century means to possess the same skills that our students are expected to have and also to help students to obtain and to develop all these skills. Being an effective teacher involves staying current on new issues and developments in the field.
In conclusion I want to say, that the role of the teacher has expanded greatly and therefore in order to teach effectively we have to think laterally and utilize not only different tools, different methods but also to alter our perceptions of ourselves and those we teach. The 21st century educators are student-centric, and they are teaching about how to learn as much as teaching about the subject area. They must be 21st century learners as well. And one of our goals is to help students become iKids and truly global citizens.
Marc Prensky, (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.
Tony Wagner, (2010) The Global Achievement Gap.
Marc Prensky, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants / On the Horizon //MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001
Tony Wagner, The global achievement gap: why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need – and what we can do about it / Tony Wagner // Basic Books, 2014 (revised and updated edition)
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