21st century skills: Teaching or Learning

In Trent Baston’s June 2011 article for Campus Technology, “The Problem of “Pedagogy” in a Web2.0 Era”, he describes the difference between Pedagogy, or thinking about teaching, and learning.  He emphasizes the importance of learning in this time of constant production of new content and ideas, and minimizes the need to focus on teaching.  This has me thinking about how we all plan our lessons and curriculum and determine what will make students good learners of 21st century skills.  


Shifting the focus from teaching learners to the actual learning is an exercise in semantics, however I believe it has a crucial role in the understanding how to approach the 21st century skills that all learners require to be successful in both their professional and personal lives.  I believe there is a lot of struggle right now for teachers and administrators to determine how to approach 21st century skills because of their focus on teaching.  The emphasis in 21st century skills is not on how the teacher presents the content (it’s everywhere!), but on evaluating what the students does with the content, ie. learning.   


Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that best practices are still best practices in education, but we need to emphasize the student focused best practices.  21st century skills are not as concerned with you, the teacher, providing content for the student as they are in the student critically evaluating content and determining the quality or authority of the content.  21st century skills are not as concerned with you showing the steps to solving a complex problem as they are with the students collaborating in the classroom, online, and globally to determine a reasonable solution.  21st century skills are not about the teacher, but about the student’s involvement with the content.  Bloom’s Taxonomy is still applied to evaluate effective teaching, because it describes what students are doing with content.


For some teachers, 21st century skills are obvious and have been addressed in their best practices for a long time.  In fact you can argue that most of the key elements of 21st century skills have been addressed in education standards decades prior to the 21st century.  The fundamental difference between then and now is the ubiquity of content and tools that allow students to manipulate content in ways that were just impossible before.  With exponential growth of content, teachers need to be model 21st century learners, not content providers.     

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1 Response to 21st century skills: Teaching or Learning

  1. Timothy Smith says:

    “21st century skills are not about the teacher, but about the student’s involvement with the content.” – Jake this comment is very telling of the 21st Century Learning Skills we get to work with on a daily basis. The skills of creativity and innovation need to be practiced by the student. The students need to be critically thinking and solving complex problems. Our students are a collaborative and communicative group and express their views in a variety of ways (on and off line). Students MUST be engaged with the content NOW if they are going to be successful in the professional and private lives outside of their academic life.

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