Humans of the 21st Century The Vision and the Reality

The Vision

Hemali Oza

"My vision revolves around the use of different teaching techniques, whether it’s visual, audio, hands-on, with the complementation of technology. So technology revolving around education, rather than education revolving around technology."

Elaina Sabatine

“21st century learning for me represents a transition from an economy of knowing, to an economy of doing. So I think historically, education has been about making sure that people accumulate as much knowledge as possible, and know as much as they possibly can, but now we’re in a situation where all of that information is accessible really quickly and easily, so it’s less necessary for you to be the warehouse of all that information. Now it’s more ‘how do you apply the information that you have and use it to think critically, or use it to solve problems, or identify gaps in the knowledge that exists?’”

Denise Woodward

“The big difference now of course it the internet. Everybody has the internet which has answers to everything in their back pocket in this country for the most part, so what we need to focus on is less teaching facts, and memorization of facts, and more teaching students how to think, and think critically. I think that the big thing in 21st century learning and what it looks like is teaching kids how to find and access good sources of information and think critically and analyze that information and gather information from multiple different sources.”

Elizabeth Chen

“When I think about 21st century learning, I think about technology, I think about a lot of teamwork, and problem solving. We need to do a better job of teaching problem solving and problem solving in groups in schools and also promoting skills like how proactive and resourceful students are so that if they do have the access to technology, they can leverage their technology.”

Dale Hammer

“A lot of people think 21st century learning means more tech-heavy, and I don’t think that’s true at all. I view technology as a very important component in 21st century learning because it is a more efficient and immediate means for communication and gathering information. At the same time, I don’t think we do 21st century learning justice when we focus too much on technology, because it is a means for information and a medium for communication, but we can easily lose some of the softer skills like collaboration, quality writing, people skills, etc.”

Aryana Bolourian

“There’s a lot more emphasis on the use of technology in 21st century learning. I think 21st century learning might also just be more inclusive. At the high school I graduated from, the kids all have their own personal laptops. Now that’s not a thing that happens in the majority of public schools, but I do think that the schools that have the resources to use that kind of technology are doing so. There’s obviously still a lot of systematic issues and racism within schools and things are still segregated, but I do think that within the 21st century, schools are attempting to be more inclusive of different cultures.”

The Reality

Hemali Oza

“I took up a job at a tutoring center, and the kids there were very bright. Their parents definitely pushed them a ton, they were all active and driven. They were all there for a reason, not necessarily because they needed supplemental tutoring, some of them wanted to get ahead. You could tell that they didn’t understand what multiplication was all the time, or addition, or subtraction, or division, because when they got to the end of the set, they had just memorized them. They had no idea where that number came from. When they got to the next set, it was like ‘oh tell me the answers, and I will memorize them,’ but that’s not what multiplication is. How are you supposed to build off that?”

Elaina Sabatine

“In my experience, [21st century learning] has often been a buzzword that’s been applied to really superficial additions to curriculum that look pretty much identical to what they’ve looked like for decades. For some people, it was as simple as saying ‘math is the same, and the mathematical principles are the same in every country. Look at this global perspective I just brought into my classroom,’ and I think that that’s like lip service to the idea of what it could be to cultivate a global perspective in your classroom.”

Denise Woodward

“When I would tell middle school students to Google something instead of just asking me or looking for an answer in a textbook, they would type their question into Google, but they wouldn’t click on any of the links. So they wouldn’t look to verify whether or not the website was a valid website, whether the bolded words from their question were being taken out of context. They just looked at the search results and thought that was an answer.”

Elizabeth Chen

“I think that the way that our schools are set up don’t necessarily facilitate the learning of 21st century skills. What I think happens a lot of times now is that people push the technology, don’t have a clear plan, and expect that the technology will then facilitate better problem solving and group work and that is not true from my experience.”

Dale Hammer

“I think that we’re increasingly becoming educated in a way that silos us, instead of brings us together. So I do worry about kids that are growing up with more information, but less ability to interact with each other. Also, less ability to speak in public, less ability to run a meeting, less ability to write. ”

Aryana Bolourian

“I think a lot of people that go into the field of education have that vision of inclusivity and diversity and a positive outlook on the education system. I think the divide comes from all of the bureaucratic things that are in place to keep that from happening. Education and schooling is definitely a local and state-run concept, but there are so many mandates coming from states and the federal government that keep schools from being able to move forward. People also just don’t like change because change is costly.”

Photos courtesy of ENC STEM

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