Exactly How Should We Be Teaching 21st Century Children?

Many schools and parents are struggling to grasp the notion of 21st century education – what it is and what it means for them and their children.

30/06/2017 03:57 SAST | Updated 30/06/2017 03:57 SAST
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Two girls in a class, during their Maths lesson.

We cannot ignore that the world is moving at the speed of light and that new technologies are redefining the world as we know it. With the advent of 21st century teaching methods and amidst rapidly changing times, many schools and, indeed, many parents are struggling to grasp the notion of 21st century education – what it is and essentially what it means for them and their children.

Today's schools are tasked to produce children who will not only fit into this new world, but who will also be comfortable to un-learn, de-learn, re-learn and adapt with the changing times. It is our duty to ensure that we do not let our children down by clinging to old ways that may have worked during the industrial revolution, but which will certainly not be effective in the 21st or 22nd century. In addition, we should be very concerned about whether or not we are on the right track, and whether we are preparing our children adequately enough to thrive and excel.

To paraphrase Arthur Ashe, what is important is that we start where we are, using what we have to do what we can. This article is aimed at highlighting a few points that will hopefully steer you in the right direction.

Education is a continuous journey with upheavals and we must always consider contextual factors when applying new and exciting education improvements. There is no panacea and we must often adapt and change things to suit our unique situations. It may sound simple, but applying what you know is key. I have learnt over time that simply knowing is not enough, and that it is often quite difficult to implement your knowledge.

Different children learn differently. We have visual learners, others are largely auditory, whilst others are tactile and so on. So, how do we practically accommodate different learning styles in our classrooms to ensure that we captivate not just a few or the majority of the children, but all of them? We know that if children are not fully engaged in what is being taught, they are not learning. It is up to us then, to not only meaningfully understand how children learn and how to captivate them, but to apply and try out different methods to this effect.

There exists a range of teaching methods, such as project-based learning, self-directed learning, inquiry-based learning,blended learning, and experiential learningto mention just a few. All of these methods only find meaning within the context of knowing and understanding how children learn and having a good grasp of the different learning styles that exist within your classroom. Only then, will you be able to incorporate the most appropriate teaching methods to meet the varied needs of your children.

"We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems we don't know are problems yet." – Karl Fisch