Senior Kylie Schalz sits in her class.
She hears the dull hum of a monitor. The click-clack of the sea of keyboards enveloping her, accompanied with the occasional ‘ding’ of the student beside her receiving a Facebook chat message. Looking around, she sees the dimly-lit, illuminated faces of her peers, eyes locked on the light before them, drawing them in. A loud bell interrupts her hypnosis. Class is over. This is the future of education. And the future is now.
As we move further into the 21st century, society is faced with a multitude of advancements in technology. These changes come through technological prowess as well as technological ability. In other words, we can do much more, with much greater ease, than we could decades ago.
These new abilities also herald new and greater expectations.
The world of job-hunting is an entirely different landscape, according to Dr. Allan Luke, a research professor at the Queensland University of Technology with a Ph.D. in education, co-founder of the Four Resources Model of educational literacy, and world-renowned expert on 21st Century Learning.
“New workplaces and employers are often looking for a range of capacities that weren’t necessarily part of the old industrial economy,” Luke said. “These include creativity in solving problems, working in teams … elements of 21st century life are requiring different skill sets from those of a 100 years ago.”
Origins of the trend
Luke discussed the origins of 21st century learning as we know it in Michigan.
“In the early 20th century, schools evolved to prepare people to be workers and citizens in an industrial economy,” he said. “This involved preparation with print and with the kinds of job skills, dispositions and beliefs to participate in an urban industrial economy. The new economy and culture mixes traditional print with digital and online culture and work.”
Many institutions, including Oakland Community College, and even local area public school districts like Birmingham Public Schools, are becoming increasingly digital schools, and thereby better preparing their students for an increasingly digital world.
Some of the changes are small, like getting rid of things like a designated manila file-folder on the teacher’s desk for turning in assignments, and instead turning assignments in to a digital file-folder on turnitin.com. But some are not, such as having classes that are led by the students, or classes that are conducted via the Internet.
Cons of the system
This opens up the possibility of a quandary. What if the professor knows less about the technology than the students? Dr. Judith Ableser, director of the center for excellence in teaching and Learning at Oakland University with a Ph.D. in curriculum, wonders the same thing.
“A possible con to (technologically-oriented education) is if a professor isn’t trained and comfortable in using technology and they rely on it and it doesn’t work, they’re stuck,” Ableser said.
But becoming a 21st century school is not done with a flip of a switch, it is a long, detailed process, which requires a lot of effort from everyone involved.
“The task for schools, teachers and students is to rethink, remake and reform the world around them,” Luke said.
Ableser is working to incorporate what she calls exemplary teaching practices into OU.
“There are a multitude of ways of teaching and a multitude of ways of learning,” she said. “To me, it isn’t the technology that is being used … but to me it is all about making connections with students, making the curriculum relevant, meaningful, and purposeful and engaging the students in the learning process.”
With an increasingly digitized world, there are many schools that are slowly trying to make the leap into the new age of teaching, in order to better prepare their students for the next stages of their lives.
“I would hope that in 10 years, all professors are using exemplary teaching practices,” she said. “My hope is that more and more, if not at all, professors will (use Exemplary Teaching Practices) … the focus is on having students be successful in their classroom experiences and graduating from the University.”
Follow staff intern Dylan Dulberg on Twitter @dyldude64