What does it mean to be a 21st century teacher? You may have heard the term “21st century” being tossed around in the media referring to what’s cutting edge in education. Beyond being up-to-date with the latest in technology in the classroom, what does a 21st century teacher actually look like? Here we will take a look at a few of the key characteristics of a 21st century educator and some applicable teaching strategies.
Teaching Strategies: A 21st Century Educator Prepares for the Future
The 21st century educator looks forward to the future. They are aware of the ever-changing trends in technology and are in tune of what the future may bring to education. A good 21st century teacher is aware of the career opportunities that will be in the coming years for their students, and are always advocating towards forward thinking and planning to ensure all students will not be left behind. Lastly, the 21st century educator must use teaching strategies to ensure that the focus in education is on preparing today’s children for the future of where they will live and where they will work, not for our current world.
A Master of Technology in the Classroom
Technology in the classroom is ever-changing and moving at a rapid pace. The 21st century teacher is one that moves right along with it. Technology in the classroom, whether it’s for lessons, assignments, or grading, can help students learn better and faster, and help make a teacher’s time more effective. A 21st century teacher does not have to have a class set of tablets in every child’s hand, or the latest Smartboard. But they can have a nice balance of educational tools in their classroom. An effective teacher knows what technology in the classroom can truly help transform their students’ education. They know what the best tools are, and how and when to use them.
Knows How to Collaborate
An effective 21st century educator must be able to collaborate and work well in a team. Working with others is an important 21st century skill. Over the past few years, being able to collaborate effectively in the workplace has grown quite rapidly. Learning is deemed to be more effective when you can share your ideas and knowledge with others. Sharing your expertise and experience, communicating and learning from others, and being able to self-reflect is an important part of the learning and teaching process.
A 21st century teacher is able to adapt to whatever comes their way. Teaching is a career that has pretty much stayed the same over the past few decades. The tools have changed over the years (Smartboards have replaced chalkboards, tablets have replaced textbooks) but the practice has not. The 21st century teacher is able to look at their practice and adapt based on the needs of their students. They must be able to adapt their teaching style to include different modes of learning, adapt when a lesson fails, and adapt to new technology. They must be able to adapt to the curriculum and the requirements and be able to use their imagination to teach in creative ways.
Is a Lifelong Learner
The 21st century educator is a lifelong learner. They don’t just expect their students to be lifelong learners, but they too stay current and on top of what’s new in education. Even though they may still use the same lesson plan from years before, they know how to change it to keep up-to-date with what is current. A great educator will not only embrace technology, but be willing to learn more about it.
Advocates for Their Profession
It’s a critical time in education and how it and teachers are being perceived. With the common core being implemented and judged, the teaching profession is being met with a close eye now more than ever before. Instead of sitting back, a 21st century takes a stand for themselves and advocates for their profession. They pay close attention to the important issues and talk about them with their community. They keep parents and students informed on what’s going on in education and address on issues head on.
21st Century learning means teaching just as you have done in the past centuries, but with way better tools. Today’s teachers have a great advantage, they have powerful learning tools at their disposal that they didn’t have before. 21st Century technology is an opportunity for students to acquire more knowledge. Teachers have the ability to move away from being the dispenser of information to someone who can guide them and prepare them for their future. Ultimately, the 21st century learner will be “learner-driven,” where they choose how and what they want to learn. The teacher will serve as a facilitator and guide to help embrace 21st century learning.
What do you think a 21st century looks like? Do you think they must have a set of specific skills and characteristics? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us below. We would love to hear what you have to say.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.
I'm at the Association of Teacher Educators 91st Annual National Meeting in Orlando, Florida as part of my ongoing Classroom Ambassador Fellowship with the US Department of Education. I'm attending a session entitled "Redefining Teacher Education for Digital-Age Learners: A Call to Action" where Paul Resta, Director of the Learning Technology Center at the University of Texas at Austin, is discussing a report that summarizes the recommendations of an invitational summit exploring how teacher education can better serve students in the digital age.
What does it mean to be a 21st Century Teacher? These are the characteristics of a 21st Century Teacher:
- Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity so that all students achieve in the global society.
- Enable students to maximize the potential of their formal and informal learning experiences.
- Facilitate learning in multiple modalities.
- Work as effective members of learning teams.
- Use the full range of digital-age tools to improve student engagement and achievement.
- Work with their students to co-create new learning opportunities.
- Use data to support student learning and program improvements.
- Be lifelong learners.
- Be global educators.
- Work with policy leaders as change agents.
The full report gives additional information on each of these characteristics and provides recommendations for policies at the state and national level for this transformation in teacher education to begin.
As I listen to the characteristics of a 21st century teacher, I'm reminded of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Five Core Propositions from their policy statement "What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do", written in 1989, the 20th Century, so very long ago......
- Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
- Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
- Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
- Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
- Teachers are members of learning communities.
Have the characteristics of an effective teacher changed from the 20th to the 21st centuries?
I think good teaching is good teaching. I also like how the 21st century teacher characteristics outline how technology has provided more opportunities in education, and how insightful teachers maximize these opportunities for teaching and professional learning.
For example, if we are "committed to students and their learning," we incorporate the "formal and informal" learning opportunities our students have beyond school. We know how our students learn informally outside school either through their "real world" and online experiences. We know the books they read for personal interest, whether it be on hardcover, paperback, Kindle, Nook, or iPad. We know the sports and musical instruments they play. We know what they like to do on the computer, whether it is games, social networking, or watching instructional online videos on how to use technology on YouTube. We know their experiences with their families.
As effective teachers did in the 20th century, effective teachers in the 21st century will incorporate what they know about students in their formal instruction. The technology in the 21st century will allow the effective teachers to bridge these learning experiences more naturally and seamlessly.
As more digital tools become available and technologies that facilitate learning in multiple modalities through synchronous or asynchronous online environments become more prevalent and accessible, just as effective teachers in the 20th century maximized available resources for their classroom, 21st century teachers will continue seeking additional tools and avenues to improve student learning.
Effective teachers in the 20th century were lifelong learners, teacher leaders, and members of professional communities. Technology in the 21st century maximizes additional opportunities through online teacher networks such as the Teacher Leaders Network, Classroom 2.0, and any number of teacher groups and forums on the Internet.
And, while teacher engagement in policy in the 20th century continues in the 21st century, technology though the Internet and social networks bring a level of policy engagement on a much higher scale than previously possible.
So is effective teaching in the 21st century really any different from effective teaching in the 20th century?
The tools may be different, but the commitment, learning, enthusiasm, and student focus are the same.
Perhaps effective teaching is timeless and yet, evolves with the tools of the times...