Discover the 6 Qualities of the 21st Century Teacher
The refined teacher of the 21st Century is a classroom collaborator who is entrusted with the enviable task of facilitating learner acquisition of knowledge and skills. He is also tasked to stay up to date with the advancements in technology and emerging global cultures, in order to implement relevant teaching/learning models.
The learning environment in the 21st Century has also become interesting now that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are entrenched deep in the digital ecosystem. Computer hardware and software forms are evolving at amazing speeds and are being re-designed to co-exist with, and independent of human ‘input’ and ‘interference’.
According to a March 2019 UNESCO working paper,
AI has started producing new teaching and learning solutions that are now undergoing testing in different contexts. AI requires advanced infrastructures and an ecosystem of thriving innovators
It is incumbent upon the teacher, therefore, to delve deep into the world of AI and all tech-related sciences in order to prepare Generation Alpha and Z learners to coexist with the future smart computers and culture. He must equip himself with the right skills-sets to sound the least relevant today.
The Skills to Teach in the 21st Century
In a UNESCODOC file, Tony Wagner (2010) and his team at Harvard University identified a set of 7 competencies and skills that learners need for life, work, and citizenship, in order to survive in the 21st Century:
- critical thinking and problem solving
- collaboration and leadership
- agility and adaptability
- initiative and entrepreneurism
- effective oral and written communication
- access to and analysis of information
- curiosity and imagination
So, what makes a 21st Century teacher?
There are no comprehensive guidelines as to the ultimate educator in the 21st Century, and neither are there clear-cut teaching methodologies that go with implementing them. This probably explains why the antiquated ‘data dumping’ methodology is still popular in many parts of the world.
But a lot is changing – and pretty fast for sure. Following the birth of Generation Z at the turn of the Century and Generation Alpha kids, inside the new Century, the modern teacher is compelled to make digital adjustments in order to sound RELEVANT!
Does it sound too much to ask? Yes and no.
Fortunately, there is no need to panic. After all, humanity has learned to evolve for Centuries and somehow people always find ways to blend in with emerging realities of life! Still, a few guidelines are being experimented around the world and should suffice for the curious teacher.
1. Adaptive & Flexible Teacher of the 21st Century
The challenges the new teacher faces begin by acknowledging the emerging teaching/learning realities in the 21st Century. Teaching has evolved by moving away from the classroom, into the learner-centered environment. The teacher needs to flow with the new wave which is being made necessary by the proliferation of computers and new learners.
Learners today utilize mobile gadgets and applications as their primary sources of information, knowledge, and social discourse. However, despite these advances in educational technologies and the way learners have adapted to their changing environments, many classrooms today still employ teaching methods of the past: lecture formats, unauthentic assessments, and rote learning.UNESDOC
The reality above means the educator must change the mindset and embrace new knowledge base and skillsets. Of course, the acknowledgment may come with its boons or banes. The 21st Century is loaded with innovations and dependencies, that keep changing constantly, and the teacher must follow the trends.
An increasing number of learners are also capable of acquiring and challenging incorrect information from a teacher who fails to keep up to speed with information.
Also true is the explosion of FAKE data and information. The educator has an uphill task to sort between what is right and wrong.
The adaptive and flexible educator will most definitely create an adaptive learner, ready for the new Century.
2. The Lifelong Learner
Whereas the teacher focuses on facilitating knowledge and skill acquisition – and most of the time BASED on what he too acquired from previous teachers, the evolving trends in technology require he stays on top of the knowledge curve with new information. He must be an ardent follower of global trends in education, assess their relevance, and implement them in collaboration with the learners.
The drive to remain current becomes a motivating factor, which trickles down to the learner.
The educator, therefore, is a persistent learner and a greedy one at that, of emerging knowledge and smart trends.
He should also be:
- aware of civil literacy
- ready for challenges
3. Tech Savvy Educator for Smart Learning
Technology is the fulcrum upon which productivity and socio-economic existence are based. It is used extensively in science, finance, manufacturing, the labor market, social-economic environment, communication, and domestic installations.
At the heart of the listed environments, technology is designed to explore and store data, and improve productivity, even as new innovations keep happening. New technology means new ways to affect productivity, communication, and teaching.
For the Teacher, it calls for the right balance between old learning models and emerging technologies.
A case in point is the implementation of the Smart Learning Environment (SLE) to ensure learning remains relevant.
smart learning is founded on two different types of technology: smart devices and intelligent technologies. Smart devices refer to artefacts that exhibit some properties of ubiquitous computing, including (although not necessarily) artificial intelligence; for instance, the Internet of things, wearable technology in the form of an accessory such as glasses, a backpack, or even clothing’ (p. 3). Intelligent technologies refer to learning analytics, cloud computing and AI capabilities, and are vital in capturing valuable learning data that can effectively enhance the development of personalized and adaptive learning
Regardless, the teacher has to evolve with the advancements, experiment with new hardware and software, and sort out relevant components for an improved learning experience.
Below are areas where the tech-savvy teacher could spend some time:
- Track learner progress as an attribute of SLE
- Analyze and explore technology smartly and extensively
- Discover and recognize new learning environment
- Integrate apps, multimedia, and e-learning tools
- Promote the use of online virtual and other smart tools
- Get to understand Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning better
- Bridge learning communities and environment
A deeper look into the workings of technology will motivate the tech-savvy teacher to shape even better syllabi for future educators and learners.
4. Team Leader & Collaborator
Unlike the traditional modal of learning where knowledge was a reserve of the teacher, inside the classroom, in the library or prepped learning facilities, information today is no longer a monopoly.
Only a few years ago, all a teacher had to do was walk into the classroom with a textbook and get the job done. He reproduced his notes for students to copy. Understandably, the students consumed whatever was given superficially as gospel truth. This approach produced many great men and of course, not so great men.
But times have changed since information is no longer a reserve of any one person. Learners today acquire information from multiple sources and collaborations. These notably include internet repositories, collaborations, and public libraries. Information is available through a click, a swipe, a tap on mobile screens, and audio-visual interactions with voice assistants.
With new innovations and variant lines of thoughts, the teacher of the 21st Century should get out of his shell and
- become literate about global matters
- encourage learner-centered education – cooperative learning
- is inclusive of every learner
- promote smart communication skills
- preach accountability and responsibility
- encourage digital citizenship
- create new learning avenues
- enable critical thinking and problem solving
- become visionary and inspirational of what is coming next
- encourage career learning and guidance of the learners
- promote hands-on knowledge and skills
- integrate the family, community, and leaders to enhance learner experience
- invite subject professionals or science experts
- cultivate sensitivity/tolerance to different cultures and religious affiliations
5. The Creative & Innovative Educator
It is incumbent upon the teacher of the 21st Century to instill creative and innovative intelligence in young learners. Creative teaching is helpful in promoting original thought and action and challenges the mind to look for NEW solutions and ideas that were previously no-existent.
The antiquated education system prepared learners for static job markets they would meet once they graduated. Whereas the strategy worked for decades, the dawn of technology and globalization is dented the status quo in the second and third waves of digital transformation. The job market is evolving remarkably with open spaces and evolved work skills.
Out of the many, the teacher can participate and encourage some or all of these:
- flipped learning
- playful learning
- critical thinking in solving problems
- creative collaborations
- imaginative games
- cooperative learning
- design tests
- instructional scaffolding
Established and startup firms are constantly looking for new ideas to create better products and new devices for the emerging smart markets. Likewise, the modern-day life challenges arising from urbanization and globalization are a cue for creatives to come up with smart ideas that help to solve 21st Century challenges.
6. Role Model & Mentor
Today, more than ever, children and learners find themselves at crossroads in the journey towards adulthood. The extremely competitive and divergent cultures present challenges on parenting, morality, and of course education! Matters are made worse by urbanization, street violence, substance abuse, and of course cyber criminality. The youth have to endure unbearable challenges if they are to grow into responsible adults.
For this and many other factors, the teacher of the 21st Century is obliged to set a good example by becoming a good role model.
The teacher should be:
- sensitive to learner real-life challenges
- reflective of leaner emotional challenges
- sensitive to learner challenges in children
- teach ethical values
- appropriately religious and aware of divergent views
- a mentor on cyberbullying
- aware and mentor on inappropriate content online
- appropriately sociable
- a champion of physical wellness in the tech era of a sedentary lifestyle
Additional characteristics of an aspiring teacher of the 21st Century:
- Personalized instructor
- Enthusiastic about teaching-learning experience
- The storyteller of the 21st Century
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- Generation Alpha Predictions | What Grown-up Alphas Will Become posted on July 5, 2018
- Generation Alpha Kids: Who Are They? posted on June 29, 2018