The first few weeks of Issues and Advances in Education Technology class gave us opportunities to think of ways in which to use technology. We considered collaboration as we brainstorm web 2.0 technologies to make our lessons more engaging and to tap into different styles of learning in our students. Yet this week’s readings and theme allowed us to stop and reflect on the purpose of the implementation of these different technologies. As a result, it becomes obvious that we must access 21st century learning because it will allow our students to be prepared for a dynamic, skills based workplace.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills created a resource and policy guide that clearly define the reasons why these skills must be accessed in our students. They outline their first reason as the change in job changes and direction of the economy. “Today, the United States is more than 15 years into the information age. It was in 1991 that U.S. spending on information technology ($112 billion) first surpassed spending on production technology ($107 billion)” (Stewart, 1997). To further the point, the group presents a pie chart showing that 86% of jobs are now in the service sector. Students will not be able to get by any longer with physical, manual labor skills. The jobs just aren’t out there.
In many ways, teaching 21st century skills align perfectly with the reasons for making sure teachers are pedagogically sound before utilizing technology. As the Partnership states, “the net effect is that companies – particularly those with heavy ICT investments – are hiring workers with a higher skill set, particularly expert thinking and complex communication skills” (Partnership). In order for teachers to access the complex communication skills in students and create critical thinking opportunites, they must be sound and quality teachers. It can’t simply be a matter of sticking laptops in a classroom and presto! Ann Thompson, director of Iowa State University’s Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching, agrees in her comment in THE Journal’s article on technology and pedagogy. She expresses her feelings on focusing too much on technology: “we all did at first: ‘If we just teach teachers how to use technology, they’ll figure out how to teach with it.’ Although it was an understandable approach, it really wasn’t the approach we should be taking’” (Journal). Glen Bull, co-director of the Curry School of Education Center for Technology and Teacher Education at the University of Virginia, outlines it even further. He states:
“You first have to know the content. It’s going to be hard to teach calculus if you don’t know calculus yourself. You also need to know the pedagogy associated with that content – the instructional strategies that will be effective. Finally, you need to know the innovation or technology that you’re going to then use” (Bull).
The reality is that teachers need to do it all. This isn’t an either or answer. Teachers must know how to access creativity in their students and to tap into critical thinking. They must also do this in a manner in which students utilize web 2.0 technology so that they are ready for the workforce. Allowing students to practice these skills will allow them to construct and create knowledge instead of simply reciting it. This is what will be the key to the future of our students and our own economy. Economist and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman describes it best. He states:
“Your ability to act on your imagination is going to be so decisive in driving your future and the standard of living of your country. So the school, the state, the country that empowers, nurtures, enables imagination among its students and citizens, that’s who’s going to be the winner” (Friedman).
There is no more time to wait for 21st century learning. It must begin now.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2008). 21st Century Skills, Education & Competitiveness: A Resource and Policy Guide.
Schaffhauser, Dian. (2009). “Which Came First – The Technology or the Pedagogy?” THE Journal.