Since the creation of the education system, we, as teachers, have been working towards preparing our students for success outside of the classroom and in the working world. While this fact has not changed, the turn of the century has brought some new characteristics for the skill set required for success.
It’s hard to believe that we have already lived 20 years in the 21st century! In that time, the art of teaching has morphed and transformed numerous ways. I’ve always tried to view these changes as challenges, and worked towards weaving 21st century learning into my lessons on a daily basis. In this ever-changing world that we live in, students will need to be capable of reinventing themselves often and navigating through constant change as well, and part of our goal should be to prepare them for what lies ahead.
What qualifies as 21st Century Learning?
According to P21.org’s Framework for 21st Century Learning, students should obtain the following learning and innovation skills through practice in the classroom: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Creativity and Innovation, Communication, and Collaboration. These “4Cs” are the focus of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s framework. They are interconnected, and are a strong foundation to work from when preparing students for the future. Providing students with ample opportunities to brainstorm and conduct valuable discussions with their peers, creating a safe learning environment that allows risk-taking, and encouraging the analyzation of alternative points of view are just a few ways in which the “4Cs” can be incorporated into any STEM classroom. In addition to the “4Cs,” fluency in the use of current technological tools is very important as well. Thoughtful planning of assignments and assessments can promote these skills daily, embedding students’ minds with the 21st Century Skill-set that they require.
How can I integrate 21st Century Skills into the STEM Classroom?
I never thought I would see a time in which teaching in the classroom could change to educating through a virtual platform in the blink of an eye. Although this challenging time has brought a great deal of uncertainty, it has also provided us with the invaluable opportunity to try some of the many digital resources that are out there! Since digital literacy and 21st Century Learning go hand-in-hand, the possibilities are endless when it comes to integration into the STEM Classroom! Some excellent examples include:
- Quizlet.com: A flashcard-style question and answer study tool in which both teachers and students can create cards. This tool can be used to help students review and practice important information.
- Kahoot.com: An interactive assessment tool with a game-like feel. Students have a blast using this program to help them understand academic content!
- Padlet.com: A quick and easy “whiteboard” through which students can post responses to discussion questions and view their peers’ responses in real time. This outstanding resource can be used as an entrance or exit ticket in which students apply what they know.
- Mindmup.com: A free online mind-mapping tool. Students can create flowcharts that show their analysis of a subject, and they can even be easily converted to a Google Doc!
- Polleverywhere.com: An informal assessment tool which allows large groups to respond to a question and instantly analyze the results. Encourage students to evaluate data using this resource!
- Prezi.com: Create unique and engaging presentations using this valuable tool! With the use of Prezi, students can collaborate on an idea, creatively demonstrate their knowledge, and even convert their presentation to PowerPoint, if necessary!
As 21st Century teachers, we understand the level of flexibility and adaptation to change that is necessary for success in the field of education. Critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration—these are all skills that model teachers demonstrate. Integrating these skills into our classrooms at each grade level and subject area will give our students the tools they will need to navigate life outside of the classroom and in the workforce.
Looking for STEM ideas? Check out these free downloads:
- Gaining Access to Water STEM Activity
- Blow Your House Down: STEM & Literature Lesson Plan
- Literary-Based STEM Activities