During a time of significant educational change, as educators we are forced to address the contemporary question: "What is the real role of the teacher?". Teachers acknowledge that they continue to be central to learning and students still need to develop real skills and real knowledge, however 21st century learners also need to be self-reliant, resilient, and fully capable of re-inventing themselves, meaning that students must learn how to self-direct their learning.
Contemporary teachers establish and design lessons to cater for all student abilities, remaining flexible to adjust their schedules to support individual student needs, while providing opportunities and resources for students to access new knowledge, and facilitating individual learning pathways and learning. Modern-day teachers support collaborative learning in teams, while providing opportunities for real-world, connected, contemporary and practical learning rather than isolated academics. Teachers become proficient in how students learn, not only in teaching.
21st Century teachers should strive towards being co-learners - not just teachers. They should allow themselves to fail often, not avoid areas of weakness and not being afraid to invite mistakes into their lives. This notion is particularly true and relevant when it comes to the use of ICTs in the classroom - older teachers are quite likely to 'fail' at times using ICTs and it may be quite likely that the contemporary students may possess a better knowledge about some of those ICTs than the teacher him- or herself.
Modern-day teachers should embrace change - stepping outside of their comfort zone - not wait until being an expert to introduce something new and they should not be scared of the unknown. Considering the rapidly changeable nature of modern-day technology, the aforementioned statement is particularly true and important for both teachers and learners. To maximise the use of technology in the future, educators need to embrace these technologies that can change the world and make things better. Moving forward into 2017, it is not the technology itself that needs to change, but rather people's attitudes, particularly in education where there is still often stubborn resistance.
Furthermore, teachers should feel secure asking colleagues for help and they should dream big, asking "why not?". One effective way to acquire assistance, gather and share information and knowledge is through professional learning networks (PLNs) and digital curation applications like Scoop.it, and to this end teachers are strongly encouraged to establish their own and join the PLNs of others.
Effective 21st century teachers question everything and model resilience and perseverence while believing that they can learn anything. They move into the student's own worlds and allow learners to work collaboratively, learning together and sharing knowledge. It is wise for teachers to continually consider and accomodate the pedagogical significance of the so-called 'Four Cs' (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity) as discussed in my blog reflection elsewhere and identified on the NEA website. Of particular pedagogical importance is the consideration of how the four approaches meet the modification and redefinition levels of the SAMR-model and how those ideas could be further developed to enhance digital pedagogies.
The above also aligns well with the notion of encouraging a growth mindset in both students and teachers, and how it relates to students' learning and academic development. According to Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, the idea of a growth mindset is related to our understanding of its impact on our abilities and learning, and it is agreed that the notion of developing a growth mindset is as equally applicable to staff and teacher performance as it is to students, particularly relevant to the implementation and application of ICTs in the 21st century classroom.
According to Vygotsky (1978) and Masters (2013), students' learning is optimised when they are provided with complex tasks stretching and challenging just beyond their comfort zones while reinforcing their understanding of the effort-success relationship. For students to develop healthy attitudes towards risks, challenges, mistakes and failure, they need to be exposed to challenging tasks and expectations. Furthermore, to support the previous statements, Dweck (2006) states that "unchallenging tasks are a waste of time".
According Masters (2013), students need to understand the relationship between effort and success to develop a growth mindset and to avoid demotivating messages and student disengagement. Similarly, advanced or gifted students need to be extended with more challenging, complex material while setting high expectations for all learners (Masters, 2013). To this end, Masters (2013) and Wiggins (2016) agree that students' self-confidence is reinforced by their observation of the progress they make, appreciation of the improved quality of their work and succeeding with challenging tasks.
One way to encourage critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity and to promote a growth mindset by providing learners with challenging tasks while employing digital technologies, is for students to develop their own web calculators where the code for the web calculator runs in the browser. Web browsers enable truly world-changing digital technologies that a lot of educators and students have not taken sufficient note of - building a truly universal computation machine. Such a machine consists of a set of code that adheres to the basic standards for what the browsers all can read.
In contrast, the "app" world has developed around all the various hardware where the software often runs natively on Apple computers, iPhones, Android and Microsoft phones, PCs or embedded machines, which are often not cross compatible. Furthermore, in the case of phones one often has to pay to get digital material shared in a useful way and some of the applications may cease to work properly if the phone is not constantly updated to follow the latest changes in the OS.
Masters, G. (2013). Towards a growth mindset in assessment. Retrieved from https://www.acer.org/occasional-essays/towards-a-growth-mindset-in-assessment
Wiggins, K. (2016). Exclusive: Carol Dweck - 'A growth mindset is even more important after Brexit’, August 8. Retrieved from https://www.tes.com/news/tes-magazine/tes-magazine/a-growth-mindset-even-more-important-after-brexit