How do 21st century skills impact your instructional design?

The modern digital, knowledge-based world in which we now exist is changing everything: from the highest level of business and commerce, to the tiniest details of everyday life.

Education is part of this too. Indeed, it’s possibly one aspect of society where this is most keenly felt, and where the skills that people have now, and will need in the future, are having the most impact.

As teachers, we don’t just need to understand these changes. We need to be at the forefront of leveraging them: for the benefit of our sector, and our students.

Here are five key 21st century skills and behaviors that teachers need to think of when designing assignments.

Learning is no longer a solo activity…

The biggest change is that learning has moved: from something students did mostly by themselves, to something they do together. It’s now about collaboration.

For teachers, this means you need to be designing learning in ways that make the most of collaborative activities, such as problem-sharing, discussion and reflection.

The teacher is no longer the only person teaching…

This idea of peer collaboration also means – of course – that students are no longer learning just from you, they’re learning from each other as well.

Teachers also need to be aware that this extends far beyond just peers in the same class or school. In the 21st century, a student’s network is – in effect – the world, thanks to blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels.

Switched-on teachers are those who actively incorporate these into their instructional design.

Learning is no longer passive…

Learners also no longer means just taking down notes, or listening to teachers talk. Students now have a different set of expectations, and while they may still turn to their teachers, this will very probably only be to seek guidance.

Indeed many may actually want to have a say in your instructional design. As a teacher in this new world, it’s important you embrace this, and empower students in it: you’re giving them the skills they will need, not relinquishing your control.

Books are just the start…

The new era also means that traditional textbooks are increasingly outdated, because education is no longer limited to text and pictures.

However this doesn’t mean teachers should automatically make a complete swop. Firstly books still have a role to play. And secondly, the best contemporary ‘textbooks’ often link to web-based sites that include assessments, animations, additional materials, videos, and other materials.

The fact that teachers therefore need to balance all these media is a key part in how they design their lesson plans.

Teaching extends beyond the classroom…

Before the 21st century, students used to only learn in the physical classroom. Nowadays, they learn when and where it’s convenient and appropriate for them.

Technology facilitates your ability to extend the classroom community. You can use platforms to discuss homework, post assignments, and interact with your students as they work on projects.

While this may make the job (and commitment) of a teacher more demanding and fluid than in the past, it also makes it more exciting. You’re no longer just imparting knowledge ‘within working hours’, you’re genuinely shaping lives for the future.

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