Great Education in the 21st Century

By Whitney White

21st Century Education

Changing the Mindset of Teachers

In a digital age where students can access anything at any time, if we as teachers are merely ticking boxes by delivering content and facts, are we relevant to student lives anymore?


HOW2Learn is a framework which when adopted by educators, provides opportunities for students to be engaged in learning that develops themselves as lifelong learners. This is possible due to students being equipped with skills relevant to both the classroom and the work force when they complete their schooling and move to the next steps in their lives. HOW2Learn places a strong importance on changing the mindset of students. Educators have to guide students to the understanding that they are not 'bucket learners'. The don't learn a variety of facts, fill their 'bucket' and at this point be at a full capacity. Students need to generate the mindset that they are 'muscle learners', with the ability to continually grow their mind by expanding their understandings of the world they live in, and how to engage with it. For this to be possible, the mindset of teachers needs to be in this space also.


In a recent article by Guy Claxton (State of NSW DEC, 2015), it is stated that educators need to develop "supple and nimble minds" to supply students with the correct mindset to learn whatever they need to, in our everychaning 21st society whereby we cannot possibly predict every fact that students need to know to prepare them for life outside of school. For this to be possbile, it is imperative that we teach students skills that are relevant and purposefull. Teachers need to stop the 'schooliness' getting in the way, and use the four 'big rocks' that underpin the HOW2Learn framework to guide their pedagogy:


1. Creating a powerful culture of learning

2. Learning about learners

3. Habits worth developing, and

4. Practices that accelerate learning.

21st Century Learning

Technology in 21st Century Schools

Given the digital age we are currently living in, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that 21st Century learning is all about technology. There are many skills that students need to be exposed to, and given opportunities to develop to truly become global citizens. These include:


- Critical thinking and problem solving

- Collaboration

- Agility and Adaptability

- Initiative

- Effective written and oral communication

- Accessing and analysing information

- Curiosity and imagination


As previously eluded to21st Century learners need to be encouraged to ask questions about the world they live in, and actively seek answers to the questions they pose. Technology certainly does play an important role here, but it is important to ensure that the technology used is meaningful and supportive of curriculum outcomes, and that students are explicitly taught how to engage with various forms of technology to best find answers. This is achieved through teaching students how to identify the form of technology required, and how to effectively access the information they are seeking, as well as how to be safe users in the ever evolving online world.


The videos below demonstrate these ideas, and how technology can be utilised to support student learning, as well as helping educators understand their role as teachers of 21st Century learners.
21st century skills
Teaching in the 21st Century

Learning to Learn

Learning to learn is a key goal in a 21st curriculum. Students need to understand that they need to be prepared for the tests of life as opposed to a life of tests. Furthermore, they need to hold a belief within themselves that they are able to master new skills, and that the skills they currently hold are not isolated to their current situation - they are in fact transferable.


It is becoming increasingly clear that whilst students may differ in how literate or numerate they are, many are in fact illearnerate. This means that they are not thinking of themselves as effective real-life learners, and feel that school has failed to give them what they need and in addition, has not taught what to do when they didn't know how. This fact in itself demonstrates the importance of educators to teach their 21st century learners skills that are transferable to real life situations - skills that have relevance!


There is enormous potential for everyone to get smarter when our learnacy is developed. Jean Piaget first defined intelligence as "knowing what to do when you don't know what to do". Since this time, Lauren Resnick has morphed this definition to define intelligence as "the sum total of habits of your mind". It is important to point out here, that habits grow and change. We need to adopt this ideal ourselves, so we can pass the importance of this mindset on to our students. When we accept that we can constantly grow and change, we are admitting that we are unstoppable! Growing more intelligent in this way relies not only on skills, but developing attitudes, beliefs, emotional intolerances and values. These things are known to change more slowly that skills, but thanks to the systematic and cummulative influence that schools have upon them, when teachers encourage their students to talk more about the process of learning, student attitudes change and their achievements have the opportunity to improve within a term.


When teachers focus on the above processes, "students learn what to notice, what to ignore, what to laugh at, what to be afraid of and what's worth investigating". Additionally, they develop an understanding of how to respond to uncertainty - what to do and how to feel when they don't know what to do ... They learn how to learn!