Friday, November 21, 2008

Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes

Many (notice I said many - not all) teachers have a fear/belief that technology could quite possible make their job obsolete. Could this happen? Doubtful! I am here to say, though, that if educators don't get on board with the changing face of education, they may become obsolete. They will not, though, be replaced by technology, but by educators who get on board with bring education into the 21st Century.

Teachers need to change from being the giver of knowledge (because with the Internet, knowledge about anything can be found), but the facilitator of learning. I've mentioned this in previous posts; however, today's topic of the importance of the Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes brings this point home.

Learning to read, write, and understand math, science, and history is still at the very heart of our students' education needs; however, the way our students learn these things is changing...and changing at a very rapid pace. Teachers are still a very important key in this learning process, but it is very necessary to help facilitate the learning as opposed to giving the knowledge and just expecting them to learn. That doesn't cut it anymore!

The additional component to this area of 21st century skills framework are the 21st Century Themes. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills:

...schools must move beyond a focus on basic competency in core subjects to promoting understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects.

Those 21st century interdisciplinary themes include:

These items may be taught in our school systems of today; however, as is pointed out in the quote from Partnership for 21st Century Skills they believe these themes should be woven into the core subjects. That means that the core subjects are taught using projects and ideas that promote the interdisciplinary themes.

For most, that is a shift from what is currently happening in the classroom. No longer is lecture followed by paper/pencil test enough. Really - it should never have been enough, but that has been the method adopted by most educators for many years now. No longer can a teacher sit back and watch the students learn. The teacher should be an active participant in guiding the students' learning - the keyword there being active. Giving a worksheet to the students while reading the newspaper at your desk will no longer cut it. That is a rather extreme example. Do I believe this is happening in most classrooms? No, but I know it does happen to some degree. There are still teachers who think that the most effective way to teach is to hand them a worksheet where they have to do 20/30 (or more in some cases) problems practicing the same concept. It doesn't work! Do you go home and do a worksheet to learn to bake a cake? NO! Why would we think our students learn this way?

Yes - I am quite passionate about this. Engaging our students in their learning is so important and the change needs to happen now. We can no longer sit back and see if this will work. It works! Engage your students. We'll all be better for it.