Teaching in the 21st Century
When we think of major changes in the 21st century, technology stands out by far. In current times, everything has to be “smart”. Everything has to happen “right now”. Research. Responses. Results. We have smart phones, smart TV’s, smart cars, basically everything is “smarter” than it used to be.
Advances in technology continuously out teaches the teachers. Students rely more and more heavily on information located on the internet, weather the information is factual and provable or not. We rely more and more on our electronic devises to record classes, take notes, remember and learn. This will continue to change, and we will be required to change with it.
Technology has impacted almost every aspect of life today, and we fail to realize that education is no exception. As a current student and aspiring teacher, I want people to know that, as technology has advanced, so have teaching practices and texts.
Technology has changed, thereby causing teachers to change their stylistic approach and their writing practices. Because everything has become based on technology in today’s world.
Here is a picture example of how students are using technology in the classroom. As you can see, these young students are using what appears to be iPads and/or tablets, instead of the traditional paper and pencil.
In order to understand how technology has affected the field of teaching, we have to know how it used to be.
What used to be chalk and a chalk board, is now a smart board. This change may seem minor, but classrooms have to be set up to mirror how students are taught, through their teachers’ approach. Chalkboards turned into smart boards and physical notebooks turned into laptops.
Here is a picture example of the before- and – after technologic transition in classrooms. As you can see, this change has taken place with young students, going from chalk and a chalkboard to a Smart Board.
These technological advances have allowed students more access to research and ways to obtain new information and complete assignments, but it also increases the stress on both the student and the teachers. Both are now expected to do better, be better, be smarter, be faster.
Due to the advances in technology and the new “normal”, classroom structures as well as the culture of teaching have changed.
While classrooms are still teacher centered and not student centered, technological innovations, like computers effect the teacher methods. According to, Anthony Rebora, a managing editor of Education Week Teacher and the Teacher PD Sourcebook, “Many experts believe that advances in information technology have the potential to transform classroom teaching, for example, by providing alternatives to the standard lecture format and by giving students immediate access to a wealth of high quality interactive resources and tools.” He continues to go on to say, “schools have been inconsistent in implementing instructional technology initiatives, evidence of effectiveness has been murky and some teachers, as I mentioned above, are resistant to wholesale efforts to re-orient instruction around computers.”
Here is another picture example of the before- and – after technologic transition in classrooms. As you can see again, like the previous picture, this change has taken place with young students, going from multiple students sharing a computer at a desk to students sitting on balance strengthening balls with their own personal computer.
While today’s classrooms look very similar to those of when my parents were in school, give or take a few upgrades, there are actually significant changes to both the learning environment, and the methods used to teach.
For example, according to Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, it is, “not just having computers in classrooms, but a seismic shift in the way things are done because technology is making the work easier and, in some cases, more efficient.”
In past years, when information was needed, one had to go to the library and research the item in books, or on the research computers provided. Today, we turn to Google and Wikipedia, and in a matter of seconds, we are provided with information contained in books, images, videos, and audio based on our search of keywords.
With today’s technology, students are allowed immediate access to and interaction with their peers and experts that may be able to provide additional information not otherwise readily available to them within the confines of their classroom walls, to enhance their learning, with a click of a button.
Here is a picture example of young students using a lap top computer, in class instead of the traditional pencil and paper.
According to Jake Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of General Assembly, ‘as technology advances, its limits will become clear”. But, with growth, will we ever know the true limits?
“Online” is not a cure all for education issues, but it can help provide great access to new skills training. “When combined with curricula and programming created and led by practitioner educators, today’s technology is powerful.” (Schwartz, 2015).
Technology increases, and so does debt.
With the availability of all things “searchable” on the search engines of today, it provides us with a more mobile learning ability, thereby reducing the need for brick and mortar buildings, and the supplies associated with it. It is now possible to obtain a degree with over 90% of the classes taken online. This was not possible in years past.
As Schwartz stated, “The growing amount of the population living with crippling student debt combined with the pressure to keep tuition costs down threaten the sustainability of tuition dependent institutions”. ( FC Leadership, 2015).
He also said that, “this will help to force an innovation drive with an unbundling of degree offerings… based programs and aggressive competition for students. The education employment gap will force higher educators to think creatively about how to make free the training students need for a workforce that desperately needs them.”
What does that mean to a brick and mortar classroom teacher? It appears that the progression in education, post high school, is becoming virtual, with an emphasis on creativity and free thinking. A High School diploma does not carry the weight it once did.
The possibilities offered in technology feed into the shift away from the classroom and into cyberspace. A new curriculum will eventually need to be created that builds on these possibilities, allowing students to move away from rote learning by way of instructor repetition, and taking on the responsibility of repetition, themselves, while tackling real world challenges and developing solutions for them.
Traditionally, education has been very top down, heavy handed, sit down and be quiet. That is no longer the class. Students are on their devices in class and most often required to expand on the instructor’s information on their own and making their own conclusions, while no longer accepting what the instructor recited, as gospel.
Here is a picture example of a traditional classroom setting. As you can see, the main focus is the teacher and not technology.
In an interview with Samantha Cole for Fast Company, Shannon May, cofounder of Bridge International Academies said, “By the end of this century in the year 2100, more than half of the world’s population will live in India, China or Africa. Global policy leadership and sales of education goods and services will be shaped less by issues and needs in the U.S., and more by the issues and needs of Africa, South Asian and China.”
These countries all have the same thing in common, they are all more technically advanced than we are in the United States, thereby, causing the shift away from our current structure and more towards the structures in place abroad.
“Market demand, and pressing policy issues related to urbanization and population growth, will shift the center of gravity of education provision.” (Cole ,2015). The U.S. is not yet stacking up to where the rest of the world is technologically and, consequently, feeling the pressure to be the world leader that we think we are, particularly in math and science.
What this means for schools, as we now know them, moving forward, neither content nor curriculum will be the core differentiator, but rather, the schools will be judged on how well they coordinate complex offerings of technology and curricula into a useful package for their students.
This will be an uphill battle for most, as technology continues to change and we continue to chase it. While the teaching environment today seems similar to how it has always been, it is slowly moving away from the “old normal” of yesteryear.
Teachers are now required to maintain stricter licensing and more rigorous curriculum, how will they be able to keep up with the continual technical shifts while maintaining their own lives? Simply up, they are human, and cannot do everything. However, this response doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Parental expectations for immediate responses to questions and non-stop communications, is the new normal. When people don’t get a response to their email, text, or notification, they become antsy. Everybody expects you to have your smart phone in your hand at all times and to be at their disposal, 24 hours a day.
According to, Dr. Mercelita Jandayan-Labial, a higher education teacher at Capitol University Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, “while teachers generally are committed to their students, enjoy their work, and are devoted to their profession and their content areas, 21st century students come to school with very different sets of experiences and expectations than their 20th century counterparts.”
These tech savvy, multimedia, multi-tasking digital natives navigate everyday life far differently than many of their digital immigrant teachers. “Connecting with them, relating to them, and motivating them now requires teachers who are open to new ways of teaching and supporting students.” (Jandayan-Labial, 2015).
With all of the new challenges in place, the revolving door that is teaching, is increasing. At one school that my younger sister attended, we saw four teachers and two office personnel leave during the school year during 2014. This used to be very uncommon, but now, is more and more prevalent.
The student life of today is virtual. Books are online. Research is only through the internet. Text messaging has replaced phone calls. There is a direct connection with the way students now learn and live. The students of today prefer electronic content to one on one engaging.
It seems that statement made in the U.S. Department of Education’s White paper, that “High quality teachers are the most important factor in child’s education”. ( U.S. Department of Education’s White Paper, 2003) no longer rings true to most, since the demand is now an instant “right now”, response, the teacher quality that was once looked upon as the most important factor is being replaced with a virtual one.
In Jefferson County, Colorado, they have sought to “develop a technology- enabled approach that would provide continuous, on-going professional development”, and, among their goals were “providing educators with more convenient ‘anywhere, anytime’ access to learning materials and online courses, offering more personalized professional learning opportunities, and creating online communities that would support individual needs and the sharing of best practices”.
If the schools continue to provide “anytime, anywhere” access to learning and online courses, what will happen to the brick and mortar buildings? Will they be reserved for advance degrees, like Medical Doctor or Scientist, or will those too once day be virtual?
In the “Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher” article by Michael Godsey on March 25, 2015, Godsey stated his opinion that, by the year 2035, his description of a classroom, is as follows “I describe what I think the public-school classroom will look like in 20 years, with a large, fantastic computer screen at the front, streaming one of the nation’s most engaging, informative lessons available on a particular topic. The “virtual class” will be introduced, guided, and curated by one of the country’s best teachers (a.k.a. a “super-teacher”), and it will include professionally produced footage of current events, relevant excerpts from powerful TedTalks, interactive games students can play against other students nationwide, and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record.”
Here is a picture example of a young student using advanced technology in a classroom. If you notice in these pictures, the technology is becoming more and more advanced, and the students using it are appearing younger than before.
This appears to be the wave of the future. According to Godsey, “In 2012, for example, MindShift’s Aran Levasseur wrote that “all computing devices—from laptops to tablets to smartphones—are dismantling knowledge silos and are therefore transforming the role of a teacher into something that is more of a facilitator and coach.” Joshua Starr, a nationally prominent superintendent, recently told NPR, “I ask teachers all the time, if you can Google it, why teach it?” And it’s already become a cliché that the teacher should transfer from being a “sage on the stage” to being “a guide on the side.”
If we are currently required to conduct our lives virtually and electronically, and all that we do is recorded, analyzed, recycled, transformed, and then spit out to be duplicated, how can we not believe that technological growth will, one day, in the not too distance future, replace most, if not all, of our instructors?
Here in a picture example of a more advanced classroom, including different types of desks and chairs.
Technology is causing everything we do to be smarter. Technology is outsmarting us. It can do everything we can do faster, better, more efficient, right now. It will continue to grow in its speed, depth and ability, which will cause us to continue to chase after it, in an effort to keep up.
Here in another picture example of a more advanced classroom.
In conclusion, technology has impacted every aspect of life today. When it comes to education, technology out teaches the teachers. Students will continue to search out information through and learn virtually, through the technology made available to us, and it will continue to change what was once normal and the new normal will be an infinitely changing dynamic. This cycle will go on and on until the end of time.
Sources and Research Material Used:
A, Nola. “The 7 Roles of a Teacher in the 21st Century L Teacher Training.” THE 7 ROLES OF A TEACHER IN THE 21ST CENTURY. Eton Institute, 19 July 2016. Web.
Cole, Samantha. “5 Big Ways Education Will Change By 2020.” Fast Company. Fast Company, 10 Mar. 2015. Web.
 FC Leadership, March 10, 2015
Godsey, Michael. “The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 25 Mar. 2015. Web.
“How Has Technology Changed Education?” Purdue University Online. N.p., 2015. Web.
Jandayan-Labial, Mercelita, PhD. “Sun.Star Essay: How Teachers Can Make and Unmake Learners.” Sun.Star. Sun Star Newspaper, 25 July 2015. Web.
Levasseur, Aran. “Does Our Current Education System Support Innovation?” Does Our Current Education System Support Innovation?MindShift, 17 July 2012. Web.
Madan, Vineet. “5 Big Ways Education Will Change By 2020.” 5 Big Ways Education Will Change By 2020. Junction Education, 26 Sept. 2016. Web.
Menezes Priyanka. “Teaching Then and Now: Has Teaching Changed Over the Years with the Introduction of New Technology? And Have Interactive White Boards Changed the Way Teachers Teach?” Educ 300 Education Reform Past and Present. N.p., 20 Apr. 2012. Web.
Palmer, Tsisana. “15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher.” 15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher. Edutopia, n.d. Web. 20 June 2015.
Rebora, Anthony, Karl Ochsner, Joel Malley, Marsha Ratzel, Robert Pronovost, Jennie Magiera, Nancy S. Gardner, and Bill Ferriter. “Editorial Projects in Education.” Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable – How Has Technology Changed Your Teaching? Archives – Education Week Teacher. Education Week, 05 Mar. 2012. Web.
Schwartz, Jake. “Jake Schwartz Bio.” Jake Schwartz Bio. General Assembly, n.d. Web.
Stronge, James H., Leslie W. Grant, and Xianxuan Xu. “The Changing Roles of Teachers: What Research Indicates. Part I of II – P21.” The Changing Roles of Teachers: What Research Indicates. Part I of II – P21. Partnership for 21st Century Learninh, 5 Nov. 2015. Web.
“Teaching History.org, Home of the National History Education Clearinghouse.” Changes in Teaching History Over the Past 10 Years | Teachinghistory.org. National History Education CLearning House, n.d. Web.
 U.S. Department of Education’s White paper, meeting the Need for High Quality Teachers: e-Learning Solutions, research including the 2003 report Teacher Quality; understanding the Effects of Teacher Attributes