Digital Education Part 3: The 21st Century Classroom

Digital education has earned a reputation recently. At first it was the new kids on the block which made it interesting and unique. We became excited about using digital video and students having access to information 24 hours a day from anywhere. Digital assessments could save us so much time on grading while giving instant feedback to students. Then it grew and became more complex and more powerful. We have adaptable learning environments that can alter questioning or instruction based on correct or incorrect answers. Assignments can be given digitally, handed in digitally, and shared among peers. Today, the apps have taken over the digital learning landscape. Everything is about new and better web application or iOS applications used on classroom iPads. This obsession with new software, new apps, and new devices has disrupted the real progress that educators are seeking.

The 21st Century Classroom

Besides what many might think, the 21st century classroom does not look like this:

Elementary students in a computer lab

When kids are plugged in to an online or software based learning tool it is just that, a tool. We are using a different medium to teach the same concepts and get the same results. Some students may retain information better this way, although I doubt it. The real 21st century classroom looks like this:

robotclass            IMG_7909

The “new” classroom should be about creating, presenting, collaborating, and synthesizing complex information in ways that go beyond showing basic sets of skills. Teamwork, innovative thinking, and learning across disciplines is what 21st century learning is about. So when you see they newest app or software program, ask yourself, “is this making our students better thinker and citizens or are they doing a worksheet on a computer?”

– Lance


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