21st Century Learning

An idea on how to do things differently.

Education faces huge challenges today. To “just teach” is no longer enough. A number of new expectations have rissen along the way. We need to inspire, guide, support and all of this not only cognitively, but also (and ever more so) socio-emotionaly. Also, the world we live in is not static. We are being bombarded with new stimuli that influence our expectations. Being flexible in that kind of society is essential, but how do you learn this? How do you prepare students for a job that is inherently bound to constant change or that doesn’t even exist at the moment? Wat does a person require to actively participate in this world of constant change? The answer can’t be found in a few tips and tricks, but demands a clear vision on how to transfer knowledge and skills and what resources to use in that process.


Experts are looking for new ways to educate students. Not only do they look to the curriculum, but even more so to the way this curriculum is being implemented in the classroom. The rise of schools that adhere to some kind of educational reform is a clear example of this trend. Not only experts, but also parents and students themselves feel that new ways of learning should be looked into, to become proficient in a certain area.

Traditional education still uses a method that has been considered the norm for more than a hundred years. Usually this means that a teacher teaches the curriculum and students memorize this information. Throughout the years, this tactic has been tweaked here and there, but a profound, fundamental change in learning has yet to be considered.

The current model sends children through a linear system where they have to comply to the same standard, regardless of their innate talents. Discussions on the standardized curriculum versus a personalized curriculum is therefor more topical then ever.


In the search for a different model of learning, other needs surface that suggest that pure understanding of knowledge is no longer sufficient. Handling new information creatively or being able to find multiple solutions to a problem appear to be essential.


According to Bloom’s revised taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl 2001), remembering, understanding and applying knowledge is merely the start. Trying to analyze, evaluate and create new information stimulate higher order thinking skills that enable deep learning.

An overview:


This new interpretation of Bloom’s taxonomy clearly demonstrates their usefulness in the classroom. Pure knowledge is no longer the norm, being able to create original content, being flexible, is. This pedagogy also emphasizes working and thinking independently. Students drawing their own conclusions based upon the available information both inside and outside the classroom is important. This is also evident in the professional workspace. The importance of compliant workers that do as they are told is diminishing, but people who are comfortable thinking outside the box to find solutions for our 21st century problems are highly sought after.

This translates into the following skills and attitudes (source: Alberta Education):


The traditional values of pure knowledge gathering and conformity are clearly less prominent. They gave way to more flexible ways of cooperation and creative thinking, combined with digital and social skills. At the moment, these skills are less emphasized in the classroom, yet desirable if students are to be successful in our society.

Other resources

To support this new way of learning, we can use a vast array of different media. Computers, software, books, images, sound clips, newspapers, etc. The difference now is that all these resources are in our pocket. By means of numerous ‘smart’ technology one is able to access this flood of information.

Technology takes it even one step further. They offer interesting ways to create new information, insights based upon what you have learned (cf. Bloom’s revised taxonomy, Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001) and even accommodate teachers to differentiate between students working at different speeds.

These are inspiring times to live in, given the possibilities for education that lie before us. A kind of education that cultivate every individual and every talent.


A particularly actual technology is the tablet. It sets itself apart by its ultra-mobility, flexibility en user friendliness. They find their way into eduction by adding a collection of interesting apps to the equation.


The integration of new technologies demands new didactics. To simply introduce new technologie into an existing environment of education, will never work. The tablet is not a goal in itself. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to digitize a book and put it behind a glass screen in the form of a PDF. It demands a different way of teaching whereby the tablet is used in a supporting way, one that opens up the classroom to the rest of the world.

While thinking of 21st century skills, one can see that tablets lend themselves to developing these qualities. It is more than capable to take on said supporting role and even surpass it, using the proper apps and techniques.

Step by step

In spite of the many advantages of tablets, it is most important to create the proper setting to make this integration successful. Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK-model (2006) clearly explains the question of how to implement new technologies in the classroom.

They speak of three sorts of knowledge that, if combined, create the ideal circumstances for an proper and contemporary learning environment. The domains are: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge.

The overlap between domains demonstrate a combined knowledge that emphasize different aspects of different courses.

  • Pedagogical Content Knowledge combines the right set of didactics to every lesson contents.
  • Technological Content Knowledge explains how course subject can be influenced by the use of technology.
  • Technological Pedagogical Knowledge gives insight in what way technology can impact the method of teaching.

Finally there is the very hearth of the TPACK-model. It combines content, pedagogy and technology. Mishra and Koehler (2006) articulate it as such:

Quality teaching requires developing a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content, and pedagogy, and using this understanding to develop appropriate, context-specific strategies and representations.

Working with smart-technology demands a different workflow. In preparation of this integration one has to really consider all options. Where lie the advantages in using the device in the learning process? How can technology help achieve deeper learning? Which learning activities stimulate analyzing, evaluating and creating new knowledge. Start by looking for simple opportunities that can be enhanced by technology. These can grow (at a pace you are comfortable with) into larger class projects that can even differentiate between students of different speeds. Giving extra support those who are struggling and challenging students who are ahead.

It’s important that students receive proper support in this kind of endeavor so that they too can grow in use the technology for their assignments. Some like to work via audio-visual media, others love to pick up their (digital) pen. Providing freedom of choice of tools they work with can stimulate individual talents and reveal opportunities for personal remedial teaching.

Finally, remember to give parents a voice in the project. They too are eager to be involved in their child’s education. Where we used to have a primarily one-way form of communication from the teacher to the parents by means of notes, rapport cards, parent-teacher appointments, etc. current technology provides the means to let parents take a closer look at the evolution of their child. They  can have a front row seat to their educational career. Communications in dialog instead of a one-sided statement of facts.

Implementing technology in the classroom is no small step. Communication about what is going on, involves all the partners mentioned above. Everyone should feel they can have a say or ask questions. This involves being open to criticism and resistance, offering support in whatever shape or form is needed, but most of all building a solid vision of what it is your organization is trying to achieve.

Let this be an opportunity to look for a project that enables talent. Find the courage to do things differently. Not only because it’s fun and challenging, but also because it’s necessary!


  • ANDERSON, L.W., & KRATHWOHL, D. R. (EdS.), e.a. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York, Longman.
  • BLOOM, B.S. (Ed.), ENGELHART, M.D., FURST, E.J., HILL, W.H., & KRATHWOHL, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. New York, David McKay Company.
  • MISHRA, P. and KOEHLER, M.J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054.
  • ROBINSON, K. (2006). School kills creativity. [online]. Van TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
  • ROBINSON, K. (2010). Changing education paradigms. [online]. Van RSA Animate: https://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U
  • VOORWINDEN, R. (2016). Model van 21ste eeuwse vaardigheden. [online]. Van kennisnet.nl: https://www.kennisnet.nl/artikel/nieuw-model-21e-eeuwse-vaardigheden/

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