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Teaching and learning in the 21st century

Many teachers continue the tradition of teaching the way from the past 50 years. Traditionally
teachers have been the experts downloading their knowledge to the open minds of children. Technology
and the learning tools it provides access to forces us to change to being facilitators of learning. We have
to change the stereotype of teacher as the expert who delivers information and students as consumers of
information in order to meet the needs of digital students. Teachers not only need to learn to speak digital,
but also to embrace the language of Digital Natives.
Recent technological advances have affected many areas of our lives: the way we communicate,
collaborate, learn, and, of course, teach. Along with that, those advances necessitated an expansion of
our vocabulary, producing definitions such as digital natives, digital immigrants, and, the topic -- "21stcentury teacher."
Obviously, teaching in the 21-century is an altogether different phenomenon; never before could
learning be happening the way it is now -- everywhere, all the time, on any possible topic, supporting any
possible learning style or preference. But what does being a 21st-century teacher really mean?
Below are 15 characteristics of a 21st-century teacher:
1. Learner-Centered Classroom and Personalized Instructions
As students have access to any information possible, there certainly is no need to "spoon-feed" the
knowledge or teach "one-size fits all" content. As students have different personalities, goals, and needs,
offering personalized instructions is not just possible but also desirable. When students are allowed to
make their own choices, they own their learning, increase intrinsic motivation, and put in more effort -- an
ideal recipe for better learning outcomes!
2. Students as Producers
Today's students have the latest and greatest tools, yet, the usage in many cases barely goes
beyond communicating with family and friends via chat, text, or calls. Even though students are now
viewed as digital natives, many are far from producing any digital content. While they do own expensive
devices with capabilities to produce blogs, infographics, books, how-to videos, and tutorials, just to name
a few, in many classes, they are still asked to turn those devices off and work with handouts and
worksheets. Sadly, often times these papers are simply thrown away once graded. Many students don't
even want to do them, let alone keep or return them later. When given a chance, students can produce
beautiful and creative blogs, movies, or digital stories that they feel proud of and share with others.
3. Learn New Technologies
In order to be able to offer students choices, having one's own hands-on experience and expertise
will be useful. Since technology keeps developing, learning a tool once and for all is not a option. The
good news is that new technologies are new for the novice and and experienced teachers alike, so
everyone can jump in at any time! I used a short-term subscription to, which has many
resources for learning new technologies.
4. Go Global

Today's tools make it possible to learn about other countries and people first hand. Of course,
textbooks are still sufficient, yet, there is nothing like learning languages, cultures, and communication
skills from actually talking to people from other parts of the world.
It's a shame that with all the tools available, we still learn about other cultures, people, and events
from the media. Teaching students how to use the tools in their hands to "visit" any corner of this planet
will hopefully make us more knowledgable and sympathetic.
5. Be Smart and Use Smart Phones
Once again -- when students are encouraged to view their devices as valuable tools that support
knowledge (rather than distractions), they start using them as such. I remember my first years of teaching
when I would not allow cell phones in class and I'd try to explain every new vocabulary word or answer
any question myself -- something I would not even think of doing today!
I have learned that different students have different needs when it comes to help with new
vocabulary or questions; therefore, there is no need to waste time and explain something that perhaps
only one or two students would benefit from. Instead, teaching students to be independent and know how
to find answers they need makes the class a different environment!
I have seen positive changes ever since I started viewing students' devices as useful aid. In fact,
sometimes I even respond by saying "I don't know -- use Google and tell us all!" What a difference in their
reactions and outcomes!
6. Blog
I have written on the importance of both student and teacher blogging. Even my beginners of
English could see the value of writing for real audience and establishing their digital presence. To blog or
not to blog should not be a question any more!
7. Go Digital
Another important attribute is to go paperless -- organizing teaching resources and activities on
one's own website and integrating technology bring students learning experience to a different level.
Sharing links and offering digital discussions as opposed to a constant paper flow allows students to
access and share class resources in a more organized fashion.
8. Collaborate
Technology allows collaboration between teachers & students. Creating digital resources,
presentations, and projects together with other educators and students will make classroom activities
resemble the real world. Collaboration should go beyond sharing documents via e-mail or creating
PowerPoint presentations. Many great ideas never go beyond a conversation or paper copy, which is a
great loss! Collaboration globally can change our entire experience!
9. Use Twitter Chat

Participating in Twitter chat is the cheapest and most efficient way to organize one's own PD, share
research and ideas, and stay current with issues and updates in the field. We can grow professionally and
expand our knowledge as there is a great conversation happening every day, and going to conferences is
no longer the only way to meet others and build professional learning networks.
10. Connect
Connect with like-minded individuals. Again, today's tools allow us to connect anyone, anywhere,
anytime. Have a question for an expert or colleague? Simply connect via social media: follow, join, ask, or
11. Project-Based Learning
As today's students have an access to authentic resources on the web, experts anywhere in the
world, and peers learning the same subject somewhere else, teaching with textbooks is very "20thcentury" (when the previously listed option were not available). Today's students should develop their own
driving questions, conduct their research, contact experts, and create final projects to share all using
devices already in their hands. All they need from their teacher is guidance!
12. Build Your Positive Digital Footprint
It might sound obvious, but it is for today's teachers to model how to appropriately use social
media, how to produce and publish valuable content, and how to create sharable resources. Even though
it's true that teachers are people, and they want to use social media and post their pictures and thoughts,
we cannot ask our students not to do inappropriate things online if we ourselves do it. Maintaining
professional behavior both in class and online will help build positive digital footprint and model
appropriate actions for students.
13. Code
While this one might sound complicated, coding is nothing but today's literacy. As a pencil or pen
were "the tools" of the 20th-century, making it impossible to picture a teacher not capable to operate with
it, today's teacher must be able to operate with today's pen and pencil, i.e., computers. Coding is very
interesting to learn -- the feeling of writing a page with HTML is amazing! Even though I have ways to go,
just like in every other field, a step at a time can take go a long way. Again, is a great resource
to start with!
14. Innovate
I invite you to expand your teaching toolbox and try new ways you have not tried before, such as
teaching with social media or replacing textbooks with web resources. Not for the sake of tools but for the
sake of students!
Ever since I started using TED talks and my own activities based on those videos, my students have been
giving a very different feedback. They love it! They love using Facebook for class discussions and
announcements. They appreciate novelty -- not the new tools, but the new, more productive and
interesting ways of using them.

15. Keep Learning

As new ways and new technology keep emerging, learning and adapting is essential. The good
news is: it's fun, and even 20 min a day will take you a long way!

The Characteristics of the 21st Century Teacher

21st century teacher must embody every single one of these characteristics in order to be
considered. You (teacher) should understand, internalize, and be able to exemplify any of these skills at
any time.
What you do need to do, though, is be able to pull from experience and be a leader, a collaborator,
a communicator at a moments notice. Thats what (to me) a 21st century teacher does. They adapt to
their surroundings and can quickly figure out how to properly integrate something into their classroom.
Whether its technology, some professional development, a flipped learning model, or something they
learned at about Twitter, its all useful stuff. The key is to be able to figure out how every single one of the
new skills and tools works for you.
The mix of flexibility, intuitiveness, imagination and subject knowledge is complex but so necessary
for our new generation of learners. Education is so exciting at the moment with the technological changes.
It would be interesting to know how new teachers are being prepared for this ever-changing and
challenging role as do the current teachers trying to adapt. (the 21st century teacher/educator) must also
have a clear vision of the goals, objectives and end points he or she must reach. the 21st century teacher
who is meant to facilitate and enable all of this learning. Learners are expected to be reaching all levels of
Blooms taxonomy as well. We all think of ourselves as learners would enable us to have a wide
perspective, have huge tolerance and be able to adapt, manipulate, evaluate and create ? teacher must
also be a leader! We Model for teachers as well as students! They must also be Reflective although I
would put that characteristic within The Adaptor and The Learner rather than creating a new category. Self
assessment is key. Questioning of practice is essential.
The Adaptor
The 21st Century teacher is an adaptor. 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
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. As an educator, we must understand and
apply different learning styles. we must be able to adapt our teaching style to be inclusive of different
modes of learning.
The Visionary
Imagination, a key component of adaptability, is a crucial component of the educator of today and
tomorrow. 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
The visionary teacher can look at others ideas and envisage how they would use these intheirclass.
The visionary also looks across the disciplines and through the curricula.
They can make links that reinforce and value learning in other areas, and leverage other fields to
The Collaborator
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.
The Risk taker
How can you as an educator know all these things? How can you teach them how to use them
There are so many, so much to learn. You must take risks and some times 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 the students teach each other. The learning pyramid shows that the highest retention of knowledge
comes from teaching others. Trust your students.
The Learner
The 21st Century teacher or educator must learn and adapt. We expect our students to be life long
learners. The phrase life long learners in there mission statements and objectives from schools.
Teachers too must continue to absorb experiences and knowledge. We must endeavour to stay current.
People are still using their lesson and unit plans from 5 years ago. Information technology and
certainly in many of the sciences, especially the life sciences; knowledge, understanding and technology
are fluid and dynamic are evolving and changing. To be a teacher you must change and learn as the
horizons and landscape changes.
The Communicator
Anywhere, anytime learning is a catchphrase we hear often. Usually its paired with life learner.
To have anywhere anytime learning, the teacher to must be anywhere and anytime. It does not have to be
the same teacher, but the 21st Century teacher is a communicator. They are 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.
The Model
We must model the behaviours that we expect from our students. Today and tommorow more so,
We, are often the most consistent part of our student life. Teachers will see the students more often, for
longer and more reliably than their parents. This is not a criticism of the parentsratherareflection.
The 21st Century educator also models reflective practice, whether its the quiet, personal inspection
of their teaching and learning, or through reflective practice via blogs, twitter and other medium, these
These teachers also model a number of other characteristics. These are not necessarily associated with
ICT or the curriculum, but are of equal importance.
They model:
1. tolerance
2. acceptance
3. a wider view than just their curricula areas
4. global awareness
5. reflection

The Leader
Whether they are a champion of the process of ICT integration or the quiet technology coach, the
ICT Trainer and a teacher leading by example; A maverick or early adopter, the 21st Century Educator is a
Leadership, like clear goals and objectives crucial to the success or failure of any project.
Teachers For The 21st Century
Vision Statement
The vision of the program is to give every child in our schools the opportunity to live a quality and
rewarding life as a result of a quality Early Childhood through 12th grade education.
Mission Statement
The mission of the program is to prepare teacher candidates with the pedagogical knowledge and
skills/strong subject matter knowledge to make sure that no child is left behind.
Created a paradigm shift in the way we educate our children in Texas. The educational goals which
are mentioned below can now become reality, provided that teachers receive the appropriate training by
professionals. The professionals can model and guide the teacher candidates to acquire the knowledge
and skills that effective classroom teachers possess to:

Educate all children.

Provide for individual differences.
Create strategic readers.
Create strategic writers.
Create independent thinkers.

Create problem solvers.

Give students the necessary knowledge and skills to enable them to become independent

Through collaborative planning and goal-setting, it has been established that our Teachers For The
21st Century Program will achieve the following:
A high quality and ongoing mentoring relationship between intern and a master teacher. Strong
preparation in subject content areas, as well as educational and pedagogical methods. Collaboration
among high performing educators, partnering with area school districts, and intern teachers. Increase of
multicultural diversity and effective ACP teachers. Hands-on teaching and learning in realistic classroom
setting prior to permanent placement.

I agree with the statement you made about students as producers. I think we need to encourage students
to demonstrate and show what they know through active learning. We need to move beyond paper and
pencil activities. This is part of what 21st learning is about. Great post!
I agree with the characteristic of the 21st century teacher. Nowadays technology is useful especially to
those novice and experience teachers. Through technology we will be able to learn more about things and
this can also serve as the other source of our learning.

You may be right based on your experience, but I feel the 21st-century skills can be taught to the students
without using technology, but observing and measuring the progress would be very difficult without using
I agree with most of the points. I feel that as a Kindergarten teacher there are already skills of a 21st
Century learner that I am teaching my students daily. Technology can begin at a young age and is sought
through their entire educational career.
This is wonderful! I have been dragging my feet on technology use in the classroom. More due to the lack
of my knowledge and fear of the unknown. You really opened my eyes. Some of your points seem to be
common sense but you also have a lot of great ideas and I look forward to looking into I am
just starting graduate school and look forward to diving into the deep end of technology and learning
everything I can so I can bring it into my classroom.
Thank you for sharing, Joanne! I used to have that No Cell sign on the wall (something I am not proud of).
I have learned since then that it's not about if the phones are on or off; the key is that the students are
engaged in the lesson! Then, they use their phones to support learning and not simply get destructed.
Technology is now and the future we can not drag our feet to learn it or complain about not having
training, if we are to be effective engaging teachers preparing our students for what the
college/trade/business world require to keep us near or at the top we need to bite the bullet and invest in
ourselves and our students and learn. The more you can learn the better off everyone will be.
Our District are currently putting in a STEAM lab with 3D printers, zSpace 3D immersion technology and a
3D video system for a pretty reasonable dollar rate. Our students are some of the poorest in the State but
our admin made technology a priority. The struggle is empowering our teachers to use the equipment as a
tool and to help engage students success. I think the characteristics mentioned here are dead on and I
keep them in front of me to remind what my students, and I, need.
any academic references about these informations?
Hmm... this post covers a wide range of strategies. The research is likely to be all over the place.
If you're curious about Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning though, you may want to check
these research reviews: