By: Pascal Ashkar
Recent technological advances have affected many areas of our lives: the way we communicate, collaborate, learn, and, of course, teach. Along with that, those advances necessitated an expansion of our vocabulary, producing definitions such as digital natives, digital immigrants, and, the topic of this post -- "Innovation in education"
Phrases such as "20th-century teacher" or "19th-century teacher" have never been used. Quick Google search reassures that there is no such word combination. Changing the "20th" to "21st" brings different results for it changes the meaning itself: a 21st-century school, 21st-century education, 21st-century teacher, 21st-century skills… etc.
Obviously, teaching in the 21st-century is an altogether different phenomenon; teachers today are using different approaches. These new approaches are universal, allowing them to support any possible learning style or preference.
Even though this term has been thoroughly used, some sides of it remain ambiguous. The most important is the following: What does being a 21st-century teacher really mean?
Listed below are four main characteristics of a 21st-century teacher:
- Learner-Centered Classroom and Personalized Instructions
Students, these days, have access to any information possible, so there is certainly no need to "spoon-feed" the knowledge or teach "one-size fits all" content. As students have different personalities, goals, learning styles, and needs, offering personalized instructions is not just possible but is also a must. When students are allowed to make their own choices, they own their learning, increase intrinsic motivation, and put in more effort -- an ideal recipe for better learning outcomes!
The ultimate goal is to teach students how to be responsible for their own learning.
The International Baccalaureate Curriculum enables innovation in education and favours the Learner Centred Classroom.
- Students as Producers
Today's students have the latest and greatest tools, yet, the usage in many cases barely goes beyond communicating with family and friends via chat, text, or calls.
Even though students are now viewed as digital natives, many are far from producing any digital content. While they do own expensive devices with capabilities to produce blogs, info graphics, books, how-to videos, and tutorials, just to name a few, in many classes, they are still asked to turn those devices off and work with handouts and worksheets. Sadly, often these papers are simply thrown away once graded. Many students don't even want to do them, let alone keep or return them later. When given a chance, students can produce beautiful and creative blogs, movies, or digital stories that they feel proud of and share with others.
- Learn New Technologies
In order to be able to offer students choices, having one's own hands-on experience and expertise will be useful. Since technology keeps developing, learning a tool once and for all is not an option. The good news is that new technologies are new for the novice and experienced teachers alike, so everyone can jump in at any time!
- Go Global
Today's tools make it possible to learn about other countries and people first hand. Of course, textbooks are still sufficient, yet, there is nothing like learning languages, cultures, and communication skills from actually talking to people from other parts of the world.
It's a shame that with all the tools available, we still learn about other cultures, people, and events from the media. Teaching students how to use the tools in their hands to "visit" any corner of this planet will hopefully make us more knowledgeable and sympathetic. At the end this is the International Baccalaureate Organization’s core mission and philosophy.
Additional characteristics of a quality classroom, (intelligence, compassion, flexibility,innovation, creative thinking, critical thinking, training, discipline, respect) will be later on shared and published, so that teachers along with parents can clearly understand the philosophy that I believe is the best approach to a better school system.