With the ever growing world of internet and technology, one has to wonder what this means for the current and future classrooms. Students have a vast world of information on the web, so the past classroom model of memorizing facts and being assessed on them seems out of date. Therefore as educators, we need to reinvent what this 21st century classroom looks like so that we can help students to think more deeply within the emerging digital learning environment.
So what does that look like?
As we move forward, we need to provide more opportunities for students to think in a metacognitive manner. In abstract content areas like mathematics, students struggle. They need to understand the facts, but also have the ability to make and apply connections to the real world. When I think about creating this environment, I think about two parts of this metacognition: part I, establishing a safe, learning environment with content that is driven by the teacher and part II, giving student the opportunity to question and test their curiosities.
Establishing a safe learning environment, or metacognitive part I, requires a hard-working, motivated educator. You need to be willing to take your content and tailor it so that every student succeed. Especially with a “difficult” subject like high school mathematics, students need lessons designed with them in mind. Do they need more time on this topic? Do they need you to give them an opportunity to explore the real world applications? What about those students that need an additional challenge? Teachers need to take the textbooks they are provided and simply use it as an outline or resources, and instead create innovative and new lessons with their students’ needs at the forefront. You would be amazed at how much your students will grow and learn.
Through project-based learning, or metacognitive part II, students have the ability to shift their understanding of skimming the surface to diving in deeply. Simply gathering information from the web will not suffice anymore, 21st century learners need to synthesize the vast knowledge available, make connections dispute their findings and apply it. With project based learning, students have the ability to take the curiosities from the world around, question them, experiment, and most importantly, reflect. I firmly believe that grades that a student receives on a report card only tells you on aspect of a student. How do you know what kind of person a student is based solely on their grades? I will not know if a student is able to think abstractly, knows how to collaborate with people, or can articulate what they have learned from over their schooling careers. With project based learning, I will know those answers.
Without giving students a safe learning environment where they can feel free to explore their curiosities, I believe that we are not educating our future generations.