21st Century Learners

How are 21st century learners different than when I was in school? (20th century learner here!)

I received my first big shock of how much technology is used in schools when I did my first teaching placement in a high school. Students did not take any notes, rather, they took pictures of the notes that were on the board with their phone and then uploaded all of the pictures to their laptops. Most of the students never even showed up with a pen or pencil, just their phones. Some students chose to type out some of the notes into their phones, which always boggled my mind on how they could every concentrate on such a small screen. When I was a student, my classmates and I were constantly heard whispering “Do you have a pen I can borrow?” or “Do you have any extra paper? I ran out in my BINDER”. A binder – probably a foreign concept to many students these days.

I was a student that learned by writing and I never understood how looking at a picture you took on your phone in order to study constituted as actual studying. When it was my turn to teach, I tried using more technology in order to engage my students more, I used interactive notes which were hard to take pictures from in order to have the students pay actual attention and perhaps taking a note or two. I’m a firm believer that writing is the best way to begin to retain information and snapping “a pic or two” won’t cut it.

It’s important for teachers in the 21st century to recognize how much students are in touch with the use of technology and to try and incorporate the use of technology into as many teaching opportunities as possible. Pen to paper is a foreign concept to most but having a mix of the archaic way of learning with the new age technology used to learn, I believe teachers can come to a healthy balance of teaching and learning with their students.


One thought on “21st Century Learners

  1. Hi Melissa,
    I too have noticed how much students take pictures with their phones. When I teach English in the summer, I have a journal topic on the screen every morning; it is on there for about 20 minutes for students to complete as they come in. Often, students took a picture of the topic on their phones and spent the time socializing. When it came time to hand in all their journals at the end of the month, so many were scrambling because they hadn’t actually spent the time doing the journals in the time provided. Those who actually used the traditional method of writing (or some even typing on laptops or phones) during the 20 minutes allotted each day were right on task. This is where technology can sometimes hinder learning, so we’d have to teach skills and strategies to use the technology appropriately.
    I agree that it is something we need to take notice of and integrate more into our teaching, but we also need to teach the responsibility of the tool.
    Great comments!


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