Teachers' Challenges for 21st Century Learning by Leslie Wilson
I’m frequently asked if virtual learning and technologies will eliminate the need for teachers. Quite the contrary, I say. We need teachers! We need teachers who can successfully navigate from the traditional to a transformed venue. We need teachers who can rigorously set the stage for students’ self-directed, personalized learning - exploiting the power of technology.
Technologies, virtual and online learning, etc., are marvelous 21st century tools for engaged learning. BUT the wisdom, guidance, resource structures and personalization can come only from a human being.
Any technology tool I use is fundamental. Without strategizing and energizing with the device – it is simply ‘stuff’ in a room. Yes – technology can be not only boring but a waste of time in a classroom without being meaningfully integrated with relevant curriculum and experiences. The teacher is needed to make this happen.
I’ve witnessed many one to one environments where the portable, personal devices are used to replace binders, papers and pencils – in still teacher-centric settings. Technology tools need to harness the inherent power and opportunities for learning with a focus on the student. The teacher is essential to bring to life the myriad of elements that make up the enhanced classroom.
But – the teacher practice is different from the traditional model. Recreating and retooling the teaching practice is a must to well serve students in today’s 21st century learning ecosystem. The real question isn’t ‘will we need teachers’, but ‘what will teachers need to be able to do’ in the new environment.
Teachers’ retooling is not the only necessity. Today’s students need to adjust to a learning setting for which they are responsible. Many have complacently accepted the traditional venue where the teacher does all the work and the student ‘sits and gits’.
The teachers’ challenge is threefold. One – to change his/her own foundational beliefs and practices; two – to coach students to become self-directed learners where they do two thirds of the heavy learning lifting toward achievement; three – integrate technologies in meaningful, relevant ways. Each of these is a challenge that requires high quality employee-directed and employer-directed professional development.
I am a proponent of job-embedded professional growth experiences for employees (employer-directed). I also believe that professionals (teachers) have a responsibility to grow, know research and best practice and apply these to their work in addition to what can be provided on the job (employee-directed). Teachers who pursue both venues will more quickly acclimate and deliver for this century’s youth. These are the teachers who will thrive in an education technology enhanced education system. Others may become extinct.
Leslie Wilson is President of One-to-One Institute (OTO), a national not-for-profit serving schools, districts, states and countries in their implementation of 21st century teaching and learning. She is co-authoring the national research initiative, Project Red (www.projectred.org). Ms. Wilson’s consultancy, Wilson Public Sector Consulting, LLC, serves the education industry. She holds a BS Ed and completed Ed Leadership doctoral work from the University of Michigan, Sp Ed Administration endorsement from Eastern Michigan University and M. Ed in Instructional Technology from Wayne State University. firstname.lastname@example.org