Education in the 21st-century has undergone a dramatic shift regarding learning styles and teaching practices. When asked to conjure an image of a classroom, there are innumerable people that would describe a scene wherein desks are in rows, and the teacher is in the front of the room lecturing as students take notes. While this may have been considered best practice in the past, those in education have come to understand that that type of education was never appropriate for all learners and, even more important, today’s students learn differently than even the generation or two previous (Edutopia, 2012). According to Ian Jukes (2013), students of the digital generation do not merely learn differently due to interest, but rather because their brains are physically and chemically different. “Screenagers”, as Jukes named those of the digital generation, are among the first to grow with the experience of being digitally literate before acquiring a recognized language.
With an understanding of how today’s digital natives learn, educators must work towards restructuring the classroom to fit their needs. Despite having this information, the educational system still focuses on standardized testing to evaluate student success. While our best and brightest student may shock and awe those state and national boards, the dilemma remains regarding students graduating with practical skills for the 21st-century (Crockett, Jukes, & Churches, 2011). It is not enough to have students memorize information in class to regurgitate on a test later on, but we must cultivate their critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills as well. Each of these skills will allow our students to be successful in a society that demands creativity, ingenuity, and digital literacy.
While traditional communicative proficiencies are still critical in today’s society, the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn is now seen as a new type of literacy as well (Crockett, Jukes, & Churches, 2011). As with learning to read and write, the processes remain the same, but the tools we use to perform these tasks evolve over the years. This occurrence does not mean that we must eradicate our society of all irrelevant means, but instead, we must ensure that we are teaching proficiencies in a way that ensures they are not lost to the development of a new tool. The difficulty with developing this new literacy is not merely that it is still seen as foreign to educators, but also it entails a mindset shift for all stakeholders such as administration, families, and students alike. To thoroughly address our students needs, we must teach them to unlearn, learn and relearn constantly.
This type of learning requires a great deal of higher order thinking fluencies, which are also essential to success in the workforce and higher education. As students learn to unlearn and relearn, they are battling the preconceived notions of learning built by society and within their minds (Ritsema, Krukemeyer, & Knecht, 2011). By opening our minds to these fluencies, we are encouraging self-awareness and deep reflection in education. In return for these efforts, students will be able to take ownership of their learning, have pride in their work, and develop skills and fluencies that are relevant to their lives (Edutopia, 2012). We are not only advocating for more effective and meaningful learning environments, but we are working towards ensuring our future generations will be successful in a society that continues to change every day.
Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough: 21st-century fluencies for the digital age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Edutopia. (2012). David Thornburg on the evolving classroom (Big Thinkers Series) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/david-thornburg-future-classroom-video.
Ritsema, M., Kruckemeyer, K., & Knecht, B. (2011). Learning to unlearn: Transformative education in the city. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 20, 87-102.
Tanan DG. (2013, July 9). Ian Jukes understanding of the digital generation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kDt55RTTHo.