21st Century Teaching

The following is from an article that appears in the NCA Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement Journal of School Improvement, Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2002 by Gary Marx:

Twenty-first century technology is having a profound effect on every person, every organization, and every nation on earth. Those who have it and know how to use it are moving forward at an unprecedented rate. Those who don’t are declining at the same dizzying pace. New technologies will not only help schools deliver a sound education, but they will also play a central role in helping today’s students shape tomorrow’s world. The Internet and other technologies will continue to bring an expanding world of information and ideas into the classroom. Because many students have more technology in their bedrooms than some schools have in their classrooms, they will come to class armed with more information on some subjects than their teachers. Some will have spent hours mining that information from the Internet and other sources. That means a new role for teachers. Great teachers will not only serve as subject matter specialists but will also become partners with students, helping them learn how to turn information into usable knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. Rather than simply dispensing information, 21st century teachers will become orchestrators and facilitators of learning.Increasing numbers of “connected” schools and school systems will use their web sites, e-mail, and other technologies to become the learning centers of their communities. They will virtually open the classroom to the world, help students use communications and other technologies to deal with real world problems and opportunities, offer high-tech vocational education, engage students in continuous self-learning; and help those students understand the ethical dimensions of technology. At the same time, schools will use emerging technologies to help drive the restructuring of the system, the redesign of school facilities, and the shape of professional development. All will be faced with closing the digital divide that separates the technology rich from the technology poor. Educators will be challenged to help students discover how technological skills are essential in any walk of life, from building a bridge and conducting medical research to diagnosing an engine problem at a car dealership or designing a community park. With increased downsizing and career changing in the marketplace, technology skills are very much like a professional insurance policy. The automobile, highway system, air travel, space exploration, radio, television, computers, e-mail, the Internet, nuclear energy and weapons, and pharmaceuticals ranging from fertility drugs to the birth control pill and Prozac have brought exponential change during the 20th century. What will drive our 21st century economy? It will be nanotechnology, which refers to technology at the molecular level. Moving from macro to micro to nano will likely mean pharmaceuticals concocted to match our genetic makeup and megamaterials such as superconductors that will lead to quantum increases in computer speed and capacity, making Moore’s Law obsolete. In turn, these technologies will be driven by our accumulated social and intellectual capital. Who will develop nano technologies that will drive the economy of the future? Who will discover and develop alternative sources of energy and bring them to market? It will be the students who are in our schools today, and those schools need to prepare them for these monumental opportunities. Let’s face it. If we don’t do it,
someone else will!

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