We hear a lot about the 21st century learner – but what about the 21st century teacher? Andrew Churches investigates what makes them succeed.
What are the characteristics we would expect to see in a successful 21st century educator? Well, we know they are student-centric, holistic, and they’re teaching about how to learn as much as teaching about the subject area. We know, too, that they must be 21st century learners as well. But highly effective teachers in today’s classrooms are more than this – much more.
Harnessed as we are to an assessment-focused education model, the 21st century educator must be able to adapt the curriculum and the requirements to teach to the curriculum in imaginative ways. They must also be able to adapt software and hardware designed for a business model into tools to be used by a variety of age groups and abilities. They must also be able to adapt to a dynamic teaching experience. When it all goes wrong in the middle of a class, when the technologies fail, the show must go on.
2. Being visionary
Imagination is a crucial component of the educator of today and tomorrow. They must look across the disciplines and through the curricula; they must see the potential in the emerging tools and Web technologies, grasp these and manipulate them to serve their needs. If we look at the technologies we currently see emerging, how many are developed for education? The visionary teacher can look at others’ ideas and envisage how they would use these in their class.
Blogger, Wikispaces, Bebo, MSN, MySpace, Second life, Twitter, RSS – as an educator we must be able to leverage these collaborative tools to enhance and captivate our learners. We, too, must be collaborators; sharing, contributing, adapting and inventing.
4. Taking risks
There’s so much to learn. How can you as an educator know all these things? You must take risks and sometimes surrender yourself to the students’ knowledge. Have a vision of what you want and what the technology can achieve, identify the goals and facilitate the learning. Use the strengths of the digital natives to understand and navigate new products, have them teach each other. Trust your students.
We expect our students to be life-long learners. Teachers, must continue to absorb experiences and knowledge, as well. We must endeavour to stay current. I wonder how many people are still using their lesson and unit plans from five years ago. To be a teacher, you must learn and adapt as the horizons and landscapes change.
To have anywhere, anytime learning, the teacher must be anywhere and anytime. The 21st century teacher is fluent in tools and technologies that enable communication and collaboration. They go beyond learning just how to do it; they also know how to facilitate it, stimulate and control it, moderate and manage it.
7. Modelling behaviour
There is an expectation that teachers will teach values, so we must model the behaviors that we expect from our students. We are often the most consistent part of their life, seeing them more often, for longer and more reliably than even their parents. The 21st century educator also models tolerance, global awareness, and reflective practice, whether it’s the quiet, personal inspection of their teaching and learning, or through blogs, twitter and other media, effective educators look both inwards and outwards.
Whether they are a champion of the process of ICT integration, a quiet technology coach, the 21st century educator is a leader. Like clear goals and objectives, leadership is crucial to the success or failure of any project.
ANDREW CHURCHES IS HOD INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AT KRISTIN SCHOOL IN AUCKLAND.
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