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The Classroom of the 21st Century

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ESSAY – The classroom of the 21st century

We live in the 21st century. Life around us changes every minute. We owe those constant changes mainly to technology. It has affected in every aspect of our lives. However, in my essay I will discuss the place of technology in the classroom of today.

Undoubtedly, the classrooms today are a lot different than they were a decade ago. A typical classroom would have students sitting in rows, doing assignments, reading a textbook and taking notes. The teacher is a respectful figure standing in front of the classroom, giving a lesson and even writing on a black board. Every student was presented with the lesson in the same way as everybody else in the room. Nowadays, however, most of those things are outdated. Today’s classrooms are equipped with different kinds of technology / would that be computers, iPads, smart boards, CD players and so on. Today’s approach to students has changed drastically – the old methods are no longer effective.  Technology has become prevalent in education and it was necessary that the theories are more up to date. Therefore, a new theory was needed to keep up with the changing technology and the diverse needs of the nowadays generations. As George Siemens argues, the current learning theories were limited ad suggested the need of a new teaching theory.  As the amount of knowledge in the world is increasing every day, the ability to determine what is important and what is not, is a modern skill worth developing:
“These theories do not address learning that occurs outside of people (i.e. learning that is stored and manipulated by technology). They also fail to describe how learning happens within organizations” (Siemens 3)

The change was inevitable.  The digital era is a fact and the world has so much to offer. The sources are endless and they reach more children than ever before. Because of its wide sprectre, technology meets the needs to everyone and it can be used to spark the interest even of the most unmotivated students.

There’s no need to say that teacher should always keep up with the development of technology. Digital technology is also a great tool for teachers to become better at their job. For example, they can exchange information and experience with other teachers, which may result in turning an ordinary class to an effective and engaging lesson. Connecting ideas and experience is one of the principles of technology, which lies in the foundation of the Connectivism learning theory.  Connectivism is a theory which emphasizes the role of the social and cultural context; it is the connection between work experience, learning and knowledge, as expressed in the notion of ‘connectivity’.

However, the role of the teacher becomes blurry as learing becomes increasingly self-directed.  The teacher of the 21st century is no longer the authority but a motivator or even consultant in the digital-era learning. It can be said that learing has become student-centric rather than teacher-centric.  Frank Furedi's book Wasted: Why education isn't educating (2009) defends the role of adult authority in education. (Savage 138)

As I have discussed earlier, learning nowadays is becoming rather a self-directed process. Unfortunately, with that being said, the role of the teacher has also changed. And as it can be seen as a positive outcome of the development of technology, according to Frank Furedi’s book Wasted: Why education isn’t educating (2009) adults are responsible for shaping the education that young children receive. Children nowadays are taught to mistrust teachers; this results in teachers themselves not being confident about their job and leads to what Furedi calls ‘the downsizing of the academic learning in the school curriculum’ (ibid.:8), a questioning of the term ‘teacher’ itself and the traditional authority that such a a figure ought to carry, a crisis in the socialisation of children and, perhaps the topic of greatest public concern, an undermining of ‘ authoritative forms of discipline’ (ibid.: 9). (Savage 139)

It could be argued that Furedi’s views are a bit conservative. I do believe that the teacher of the 21st century still has authority but what has changed is the communication between teacher and student. Boundaries have been lost, the teacher is more like a friend, one you could share experience with and share your thought. This is an outcome of the modern world we live in. The formal knowledge is presented in an informal way which leads to the better understanding of it. Teachers support students learning and sharing, they guide students to find information on their own which is part of connectivist learning.

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