Research and Theory
Are 21st Century Skills the Missing Piece?
by Coby Enteen
The introduction of 21st century knowledge and skills as a focal point for educational initiatives has reignited discussion as to the role of the teacher in the classroom. Educators have been attempting for years to initiate a ‘paradigm shift’ in terms of the role of the teacher with the classroom; from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’. However, very few have been able to turn this change into a reality.
When technology was first introduced into the classroom, educators believed that computers would speed up change and that teachers would finally let go of old habits and capitalize on digital resources as a means of transforming the classroom. This did occur on a very small scale, where forward-thinking teachers understood the value of the technology in terms of encouraging student inquiry and a higher- level of discourse in the classroom. However, for the most part teachers continue to serve as a single source of knowledge and the technology is used as a supplementary resource if at all.
One of the most significant trends of the past decade is the introduction of 21st century skills into teaching and learning. Although academia is still wresting with the most accurate definition of these skills and practices, they have become the cornerstone for nearly all educational endeavors. So, what are these 21st century skills? The partnership for 21st Century skills (www.p21.org) defines them as: Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation. The division of Assessment and Teaching in of 21st Century Skills (ATOCS) at the University of Melbourne (www.atc21s.org) further divides these skills into 4 categories:
- Ways of thinking. Creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning
- Ways of working. Communication and collaboration
- Tools for working. Information and communications technology (ICT) and information literacy
- Skills for living in the world. Citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility
Transformation of teaching and learning occurs when we begin to base our instructional practices on 21st Century Skills. Educators that integrate these skills into daily practice are unable to avoid more active instruction and begin to understand the importance of allowing student to construct knowledge through the development of these skills, at which point technology plays the ‘natural’ role of enabler. This process leads to a transformation in the teaching process or an ‘instructional paradigm shift’ as illustrated in figure 1 below.
Figure 1 – 21CTI Model
Enhancing Teaching and Learning through Technology
By Coby Enteen, Appleseeds Academy
The demands of modern day society and the shift from an industrial age to one in which information is a commodity requires the introduction of new skills and tools into the classroom arena. Teachers must learn to develop meaningful learning experiences for their students while exposing them to new and advanced technologies. To that end, technology must be introduced in support of the pedagogy and as a means to empower the teacher while creating viable learning experiences for their students. Appleseeds Academy is an example of an organization with a great deal of experience transforming education through technology and preparing teachers for the future.
The Process of Integrating Technology into the Classroom
While technology has been around for a long time, it has only recently been viewed as a viable educational tool. Many initiatives aimed at incorporating computers into the classroom have failed due the lack of understanding of the significance of the adoption process. Educational institutions must understand that this process is gradual and that it requires an initial investment in teacher training. Teachers are often unfamiliar with basic technology concepts and tools and therefore hesitant to consider utilizing technology in the classroom. Overcoming this initial lack of knowledge and the fear of “losing control” is a key ingredient in the overall process. This is accomplished through targeted workshops, instructional modeling and ongoing support. Through this process teachers begin to transform their understanding of the role that technology can play in enhancing instruction and providing students with opportunities to explore the world around them.
Teacher Technology Adoption
The selection and use of technology in the classroom will largely depend on three key factors: technologic knowledge, pedagogic knowledge and content knowledge. In many cases, technology is initially introduced into the classroom as an auxiliary tool, supplementing existing teaching practices and gradually increases in use and sophistication over time. Ruben Puentedura offers the SAMR Model (see figure 1) offers a taxonomy, which classifies the use of technology into four categories.
Puentedura’s SAMR Model
Figure 1 – SAMR Model
The application of this model is closely aligned with the teacher technology adoption process in which technology is initially used to replace common instructional practices and transforms the learning process over time.
The technology adoption process creates a fundamental transformation in teaching and learning as a whole; whereby teachers begin to see a shift in their role within the classroom, from the sole source of information to that of a facilitator responsible for guiding the students through the learning process. In order for this to occur, the teacher must feel comfortable both with the subject matter and technology. It is therefore imperative that the process be accompanied by an effective technical and pedagogic support mechanism. This practice will be frequent at first and will subside over time as the teacher becomes more skilled and confident in their ability to integrate technology effectively. The program consists of individualized teacher mentoring and implores the methods of classroom observations, instructional modeling and individual feedback sessions.
Appleseeds Academy Programs
Appleseeds Academy offers a Teacher Academy providing an instructional methodology for incorporating the use of technology into the school curriculum and for the enhancement of instruction and learning as a whole. The program is grounded in modern educational theory and practice. It is grounded in the model described in this article and aims to reinforce the role of the teacher as a facilitator, guiding the students in the construction of knowledge and the incorporation of key instructional tools and practices.
The Teacher Academy offers a hands-on approach in which the participants take an active role in the learning process. Throughout the academy, participants develop a solid understanding and process for developing technology enhanced instructional study units tailored to meet the needs of 21st century learners. The program focuses on five key areas:
- Technology and the Pedagogical Paradigm Shift
- Technology as a tool for Classroom Management
- Integrating Technology into Teaching and Learning
- The Project-based Learning Approach
- Teaching in Online Learning Environment
Kolb, D. 1984Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development.Prentice-Hall: New Jersey
Lee I and Reigeluth CM (1994)Empowering teachers for new roles in a new educational system, Educational Technology 9 (6): 8-9
Puentedura, R. “Digital Storytelling: An Alternative Instructional Approach”. NMC
Summer Conference Proceedings, 2008.
Available online at:
Traxler, J. (2009) ‘Current State of Mobile Learning’ (in Ally, M. (ed.), Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training, Edmonton: AU Press)