One of the most important components of 21st century learning is re-thinking the interaction between student and teacher.
Student-centered learning and collaborative learning models have stressed that teachers need to move away from simply “delivering content” in a lecture format to instead become more of a learning coach or a “sage on the stage.” Teachers need to step away from the lectern and interact with students in a more organic manner as they oversee group learning as one of the most important best ways to create a 21st century learning environment.
The next step is for teachers and administrators to brainstorm about how they can reconfigure the pre-existing classrooms into more dynamic learning environments.
One useful approach is visualizing “What would you like your classroom to look like? What different areas do you envision?” From there, schools can decide if they want to replace the blackboard with a smart board, and what other structural adjustments can be made in order to make learning more engaging and collaborative.
Another approach involves creating an “idea space” where ideas are explored, a “visualization space” where ideas can be diagrammed, imaged and graphically laid out, a “fabrication space” where ideas can be constructed and tested and finally, a “presentation space” where ideas are shared throughout the process and at the completion of the process.
For each new space, teachers and administrators must decide how many students will use the space, what furniture is required and what digital technologies will be implemented.
Once the classroom’s design lends itself to more interactive and collaborative learning, schools must decide the best efficient and cost-effective method of integrating technology into the classroom.
Obviously, providing tablets or laptops to every student creates incredible opportunities to upgrade the learning experience, but for most schools, this is financially infeasible. Luckily, there are several alternatives.
First of all, if students can bring their laptops or tablets to school, curriculum can be designed around the B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Device) format and that is one of the best ways to create a 21st century learning environment.
Though some tech-based activities become complicated when students are using different brands, operating systems and devices, some crucial digital techniques (such as blogging, watching Flipped Class lectures, doing on-line research and watching YouTube videos) are still possible on a class-wide basis.
If nearly all the students have access to a device and only a few do not, the school is faced with a difficult decision; in this case, it is often in the school’s best interests to purchase a few tablets to bridge the digital divide, enabling all students to operate on an even playing field.
Access to these tech tools allows teachers to base lesson plans on the Flipped Classrooms concept, which is proving to be a crucial component of 21st century learning. In the flipped classroom model, students may be asked to watch pre-recorded lectures, read preparatory content, listen to audio lectures or view podcasts before the actual class.
Utilizing some fantastic new lecture capture or video recording software applications, teachers can either create their own content or simply curate content from an ever-growing pool of resources.
Other important details include making sure there are ample electrical outlets (or simply power strips); it is imperative to think about future power needs early in the design phase so as to avoid future problems.
In a 21st century classroom teachers are also responsible to deliver digital content; in order to be comfortable with their new role, teachers need a “smart” teacher lectern.
This “home base” should be equipped with USB ports, interactive whiteboard equipment controls and other controls.
As audiovisual technology becomes more integrated into the classroom, schools need to make sure the lighting can easily be dimmed or enhanced, to guarantee that all students can see the workspace clearly.
Beyond these important planning priorities, it is also important that schools continue to support professional learning communities that enable educators to share best practices, collaborate together and continue to integrate 21st century skills into their classroom practice. By combining the principles and concrete strategies described above, schools can effectively create a 21st century learning environment that will create more dynamic classrooms, richer learning experiences and more informed and well-prepared students.
Adam Carter is en educator that seeks innovative ways of instilling Global Citizenship in students. His non-profit Cause & Affect Foundation has been assisting on children-related projects around the world for years. He created the Academic Social Action Collective to assist schools develop their social action programs and global citizenship efforts. He is also an expert in best ways to create a 21st century learning environment.