Pencils, Backpacks, and Perspective: "Modern" Education

We use the term “modern education” or alternatively, “21st Century learning” quite often these days, but how many people can say that they know definitively what those phrases actually mean? Well, I can’t. So, let’s explore a few things that characterize education today.

One of the most prominent characteristics of modern education is that it is student-centered. Now, I don’t know about all of you readers, but this sounds strange to me. Shouldn’t learning have always been student-centered? Who exactly was it centered around if not the students? Evidently, student-centered learning simply (or, in fact, not so simply) that students are taking a more active role in their education. The days of being talked at and expected to absorb information are slowly but surely being phased out. Students are increasingly encouraged to think critically and gather information on their own. This places teachers in more of a guiding than, instructing per say, role. It’s taking learning from passive process to one of discovery.

Education is also moving towards becoming more collaborative. Finally, we are recognizing the fact that every individual has different strengths and that when students work together they use more of their potential. When a student goes out into the world, it’s fairly unlikely that they would be working on a completely individual basis. The world is incredibly interconnected, and collaboration in the classroom thus fosters skills for the future. Instead of a “survival-of-the-fittest,” competitive environment, students get one that is dynamic and always changing, in which to grow and develop.

Finally, what I see as a particularly high priority factor, is placing education in the context of society. With so much out there to do and to see, increasingly so, students need to understand what they’re learning in the context of a bigger picture. If they can’t see why something is important for their lives, it’s much harder convincing them to learn and retain skills and information. Students are being educated to take their place as citizens of the world. This means they need role models to look up to, lessons which inform them not only how to contribute to their local community, but also to the world at large.

How do you think modern education is being shaped? What other focuses does it need? Does it need to move forward?