When I envision a 21st century teaching and learning environment, I see something completely different than the classrooms that I grew up learning in and a lot of the classrooms that I have seen through volunteering and placement. To me, 21st century teaching and learning incorporates collaboration and inquiry into the learning environment. This means that teachers utilize the vast amounts of knowledge available to them by creating Personal Learning Networks and collaborating with other educators; whether these are with teachers in their own school community, school board, province, country and even the world. Social media now allows teachers to connect with different educators across vast space which provides them with even more learning opportunities and ideas for the classroom. In my own experience, I have seen how Twitter and Google+ can be used to create vast bodies of knowledge for me as a teacher; whether it is gaining insight on websites that have resources on particular subjects or topics or just having someone to connect with that shares the same values and passions that you have. If teachers are collaborating, they are more likely to see how valuable this can be for the classroom. To prepare students for the 21st century, they need to be able to actively work in groups. This means that we, as teachers, need to teach the necessary skills to students so that they can function in groups. Collaboration means more knowledge for students because everyone brings something with them and more learning for students because they can build off one another and may be able to explain things better through discussion. Inquiry is a necessary part of the 21st century classroom because it allows students to engage and be interested in what they are learning about. Although it is a more difficult type of learning for teachers to facilitate and plan for, the overall benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Students are able to expand their learning based on something they are interested in and are therefore more likely to engage in learning outside of the classroom as well. I think inquiry based learning allows for better integration across subject areas and creates a more favourable classroom environment not only for the students, but for the teacher as well. When I see students genuinely interested in what they are learning, asking questions and making their own discoveries, it makes me realize why I want to be a teacher. My vision of 21st century teaching and learning is creative, ever changing and has a deep focus on critical thinking. I was not introduced to these concepts until my third year of university where I enrolled in a class with a professor who is passionate about 21st century teaching and ever since then I have been hooked. He showed me how to make learning engaging and fun but still rich with content. He was the first teacher that taught me how to effectively critically think and ask questions to divulge the truth. He was the first teacher to ever show me that it was possible to make a differentiated assessment that catered to everyone’s individual strengths. From my experience I discovered that 21st century students need to be made aware of all the information they are being bombarded with and how to critically think about it before making decisions. It taught me how to make tests accessible to all students but still ask the same questions. My experience in his classrooms were filled with creative assignments that allowed me to critically think, reflect, problem solve and develop my own learning and this showed me how to do the same for my future students. I also believe that 21st century teachers are passionate and truly engaged in their classrooms; they are the teachers that make a difference in students’ lives. If teachers do not have these qualities, I believe it makes it more difficult to facilitate 21st century teaching and learning because passionate teachers are the ones that keep students engaged and interested in their learning.
When I think of 21st Century teaching and learning I think of this video. It encompasses everything I think needs to change in today's classrooms in order to teach the 21st century student!