What is 21st century learners? Benefits of being a 21st century learner

What is 21st century learners? The 21st century is upon us, but are we prepared for it?

We all know that the world will change dramatically in the next few decades. Are you ready for this?

This blog describes how to prepare your students and yourself for what’s coming.

Why 21st century skills are essential for today's students – Empatico Blog
Why 21st century skills are essential for today’s students – Empatico Blog

What is 21st century learner?

The term 21 st Century Learner is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as someone who learns in the twenty-first century.

Credo Reference notes that in this day and age, in order to be successful learners must have critical thinking skills , team work abilities, resourcefulness, creativity, the ability to visualize, the ability to solve problems, lifelong learning skills , problem solving skills, collaboration skills , organization and time management skills.

Why 21st Century Learning?

Empowering Our Students with 21st-Century Skills for Today
Empowering Our Students with 21st-Century Skills for Today

What is this “21st century learning” about anyway? How does it affect my school and me personally? The best way to start this discussion is by asking, what are the characteristics of today’s learners? Let’s take a look.

Today’s learner has multi-literacies

  • Technology has become an integral part of life, even for the young
  • Learners are constantly connected to each other through digital networks (e.g., like Facebook)
  • Increasing access to information through the Internet has changed what people know and how they know it (now assume Google is in every classroom)

Today’s learner is a social critical thinker and problem solver

  • Constantly connected to each other and exchanging ideas and perspectives through digital networks (e.g., Facebook or Twitter, real life analog: how we communicate with our friends on the bus before school every morning)
  • Today’s learner must be able to problem solve and find resources in an increasingly complex world (e.g., wikipedia)
  • Today’s learners are individuals working collaboratively towards a common goal (in real life: we sit together at lunch and work on our project, but we still do our own parts because it’s fair that way)

Today’s learner is a creative and innovative thinker

  • Constantly generating new ideas and the ability to imagine possible futures (e.g., we want to make a website for our school and we came up with this idea of adding “21st Century Skills” but we didn’t know what they were so we googled it and found this website, cool)
  • Today’s learners must be able to innovate, invent solutions for contemporary problems (e.g., we didn’t have a working microphone so we just borrowed from the music department because it worked well enough)

Today’s learner is an active agent in a complex world

  • Today’s learners must be able to make informed and ethical decisions (e.g., we know it’s not “right” but we still think the teacher should give us some leeway because of our circumstances)
  • Today’s learners are continually learning about new developments, competing priorities, and changing contexts (e.g., we know that our project is not perfect but it’s a good starting point, with a little more time and effort, we can make it even better)
  • Today’s learners must be able to learn how to learn (e.g., if I need help with Algebra, Ill just ask the really smart kid, no big deal)

21st century skills are the essential abilities young people need to create, connect, and contribute in today’s world. They also happen to be highly employable skills for the workforce of tomorrow that is already emerging today.

How to become a 21st century learner?

The future of learning and teaching: Big changes ahead for education - RMIT University
The future of learning and teaching: Big changes ahead for education – RMIT University
  1. Treat your time online as a limited resource, frequently monitor how much time you’ve been spending surfing the web so as not to waste too much time.
  2. Keep in mind that the Internet is not everything, there are other ways of learning which can be just as effective. You don’t always need a computer or the Internet for learning; you could get your way around it and achieve by reading, writing and speaking.
  3. Focus on long-term goals, not what you can do right this minute.
  4. Be patient about the time it takes to find good results when searching for them online. Think before you click on a link, is it worth it? How does that link relate to my search terms?
  5. Don’t be afraid to use Wikipedia as an initial source for your research, but remember that Wikipedia contributors are not necessarily authorities in the field they’re writing about.
  6. Always save to a reference manager like Zotero or Mendeley so you know what websites you used and where the information came from.
  7. Don’t just read what you find online; think about it, process the information and do something with it.
  8. Don’t be afraid to speak up about your ideas or opinions on what you are learning. There may be others who share your interests!
  9. Remember that how you learn is as important as the end result of your research. Learning should always be enjoyable and rewarding.
  10. Remember that it is good to break away from the computer screen every once in a while.
  11. Be wary of clicking on exciting links that pop up on your screen without doing any further research or checking of their credibility. You don’t want to be led down false paths!
  12. Don’t give yourself too many deadlines.
  13. Set yourself a reward for learning something new or acquiring difficult information; it will help you to stay motivated and continue with your research.
  14. If you catch yourself procrastinating, make sure you know what’s causing it (is it because of boredom? Tiredness?) and do something about it!
  15. Remember that learning shouldn’t be a chore; it should be an enjoyable and productive experience.
  16. Be patient when you are in the process of learning something new and difficult, and don’t beat yourself up if you do not learn it straight away!
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Why are we shifting from traditional learners to 21st century learners?

The term “21st century learner” describes a person who has the knowledge, problem solving skills and ability to learn independently we would expect in an educated citizen in the 21st century .

As we shift from traditional learners to 21st century learners , we must start thinking about:

  • How students use technology and what they know about using it to access information
  • How teachers use technology and what they know about its power to transform the learning environment
  • The ways that students work together outside of school to solve problems or create products.

We are shifting from traditional learners because the learner has very different characteristics, needs, interests, values, skills, knowledge and behaviours from learners in the past.

Benefits of being a 21st century learner

The Evolution to 21st-Century Teaching and Learning
The Evolution to 21st-Century Teaching and Learning

Whether it’s communicating with friends, binge watching your favorite show, or catching up on work you need to get done, technology has become a regular part of everyday life.

As the use of technology becomes more prevalent in society, people are finding ways to integrate it into their lives beyond using it as an entertainment form. Accordingly, many people are adapting to a ’21st century learner’ mentality, which includes hard-skills such as computer literacy and collaboration with others in a team setting.

Brand new technology is constantly emerging and becoming available to the general public. However, computers aren’t the only technological advances people should be using or knowing about. Another characteristic of people who have adapted to the 21st century learner mentality is the use of digital learning tools.

For example, interactive online programs can provide countless hours of instructional content, giving teachers more time for face-to-face teaching. This type of technology has proven helpful for students to brush up on skills they have learned in the past.

When learning in a digital world, students are also able to access countless sources of information with just an Internet connection.

This ability makes it easier for children to learn about subjects that interest them and connect with people around the world who share similar interests. The world is becoming smaller due to technology advancements, and students need to be prepared for this fast-paced environment.

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In addition, people who have adapted a 21st century learner mentality have come to know the benefit of being able to program a computer or tablet. This can help give children a leg up in a variety of future career paths by gaining knowledge in programming and digital literacy early on.

Challenges for educators in the shift towards becoming more of an educator and less of a teacher/instructor

5 Easy to Start Computer Home Based Business Ideas
5 Easy to Start Computer Home Based Business Ideas

The changing nature of our society

As we know, our world is changing faster than ever and things that once were only academic concepts are now easily accessible knowledge for many people. This can cause problems with students not just knowing facts, but understanding the meanings and implications behind these facts.

This leads to students knowing information, but not being able to apply it in a way that will lead them to new knowledge. As educators we must help our students become lifelong learners who are active in their own learning process instead of just memorizing things for exams before forgetting everything right after the test.

This is where the challenge comes in for educators who are used to teaching and instructing, because we might need to change our approach to knowledge and learning.

We can no longer teach or instruct as if we were talking or telling students things, instead we must work with them and help guide them through the process of discovering information for themselves and forming their own knowledge.

It is not enough to get students to memorize and retain information; we must help them apply that information in new situations and guide them through the process of learning. This requires a different kind of approach by educators, one that isn’t teacher/instructor like because it challenges us to think about our actions and how we do things in a different way.

Changing roles

This challenge is very similar to the one mentioned before it, but with slightly different implications. Many schools and school systems see educators as just teachers/instructors instead of educators who change with the needs of their students and communities they serve.

These teachers/instructors are often told what to do and how to do it, which can limit their thinking by forcing them into a particular role. If we are viewed only as teachers/instructors then we will always stay in that role and not be able to change or grow with our students because of this limitation.

For educators, the challenge is knowing when it is time for us to step out of our roles and reach out for help from others in the form of teachers/instructors or something different.

Of course there are some limitations, especially when we have a responsibility to students and their learning, but it’s important that educators know when they need support and put effort into building connections with other professionals in order to improve student learning.

This is where the challenge comes in as we try to help students and knowing when it’s time for us to grow and develop our skills as educators beyond just being teachers/instructors for our students.

The changing role of school

When we think of schools, we tend to think about simply sending students there to learn. Over time, though, school has become a place for socializing and formative life-skills training.

This change of focus from education to education plus other things is a challenge for educators because they have to cope with more courses that require different teaching styles. In order to engage students on multiple levels, teachers need to be able to switch their roles quickly and effectively.

The ideal teacher/instructor

Not only do educators need to be able to change with the changing role of school but they also need to learn new skills in order to fit the role of a teacher or instructor.

Even though teachers are expected to instruct students on how to perform tasks, students are also looking at teachers to be role models for how they should act.

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Teachers are expected to use multiple teaching styles depending on the situation. For example, a teacher instructing students on applying math skills is not doing this in the same way that they would teach them about the importance of helping one another or how to accept others who are different than them.

In order to be effective teachers, educators need to learn how to become more open-minded and objective so that they can apply a multiple range of teaching styles according to the situation.

FAQs

Conclusion

The 21st century learner is a student who expects to learn through technology, social media and by collaborating with others. They are also more likely to be an entrepreneur or want to work for themselves at some point in their life.

This digital native has the ability to think critically about what they read online and use that information as knowledge.

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