Technology and 21st Century Learning

You've probably heard of the 21st Century Learning Initiative. There's a good chance you think it is mostly about technology in the classroom. But that's a misconception.

The 21st Century Learning Initiative has more to do with applying a Constructivist approach to learning to the pedagogy of the classroom than it has to do with technology. If I had to describe the 21st Century Learning Initiative, I would phrase it something like this: It is the conceptual space where modern brain research, Constructivist learning theory, school reform, and the demands of the 21st Century workplace come together.

One of the fascinations that I have with the movement is this. On the one hand, I'm a special education teacher; special education, more than any other field of education, seems to cling to Behaviorist learning theory. On the other hand, I have a background in linguistics and a profound interest in reading education, and I know that language behavior is the place where Behaviorism is least useful in explaining or predicting learning.

Ultimately, the 21st Century Learning Initiative seems to be about promoting higher level thinking skills in the classroom and making the educational experience (particularly at the secondary level) relevant to life outside the classroom and after high school. That is where technology comes in. Technology is a tool for the 21st Century, it is a context for life in the coming decades. Students need to be able to cope with it and use it productively. But while productivity might imply familiarity with the tools, it places more emphasis on what students actually write when they use a word processor than on whether the students can use a word processer.

An example of this idea is a book I reviewed recently by Ted McCain. McCain is a technology person and an educator who writes and speaks about 21st Century Learning. I reviewed his book Teaching for Tomorrow: Teaching Content and Problem Solving Skills. To be honest, I was pretty hard on McCain. While he said things I didn't like, the truth is that chapter three of his book provides an excellent approach to teaching problem solving. And his book illustrates my point: he's a technology person who seems (in this book at least) more concerned with thinking skills than technology proficiency.

For any of you who have read McCain's book, I'll leave you with this question: Was I too hard on McCain?

Greg Cruey, Guest Blogger

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Apple, Amazon, and Uber are moving in on health care. Will it help?

Big tech is making its opening moves into the health care scene, but its focus on tech-savvy millennials may miss the mark.

Apple COO Jeff Williams discusses Apple Watch Series 4 during an event on September 12, 2018, in Cupertino, California. The watch lets users take electrocardiogram readings. (Photo: NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google have been busy investing in health care companies, developing new apps, and hiring health professionals for new business ventures.
  • Their current focus appears to be on tech-savvy millennials, but the bulk of health care expenditures goes to the elderly.
  • Big tech should look to integrating its most promising health care devise, the smartphone, more thoroughly into health care.
Keep reading Show less

Harvard: Men who can do 40 pushups have a 'significantly' lower risk of heart disease

Turns out pushups are more telling than treadmill tests when it comes to cardiovascular health.

Airman 1st Class Justin Baker completes another push-up during the First Sergeants' push-up a-thon June 28, 2011, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Participants were allowed 10 minutes to do as many push-ups as they could during the fundraiser. Airman Baker, a contract specialist assigned to the 354th Contracting Squadron, completed 278 push-ups. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Janine Thibault)
Surprising Science
  • Men who can perform 40 pushups in one minute are 96 percent less likely to have cardiovascular disease than those who do less than 10.
  • The Harvard study focused on over 1,100 firefighters with a median age of 39.
  • The exact results might not be applicable to men of other age groups or to women, researchers warn.
Keep reading Show less

The colossal problem with universal basic income

Here's why universal basic income will hurt the 99%, and make the 1% even richer.

  • Universal basic income is a band-aid solution that will not solve wealth inequality, says Rushkoff.
  • Funneling money to the 99% perpetuates their roles as consumers, pumping money straight back up to the 1% at the top of the pyramid.
  • Rushkoff suggests universal basic assets instead, so that the people at the bottom of the pyramid can own some means of production and participate in the profits of mega-rich companies.
Keep reading Show less