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 Teaching and learning in the 21st century:
Teachers lead the way 

The Ministry of Education and media pundits often speak of 21st century learning as a totally new concept in education. It is implied that teachers have to be forced into recognizing the need for change and innovation.

We know that teachers are continually demonstrating how deeply they are involved in examining their practice and utilizing, to the fullest degree possible, technology and the limited resources available in designing a diverse range of creative teaching and curriculum projects.

Teacher leaders from around BC share their experiences with innovation in the arts, Smartboards, wikis, literature, First Nations culture, social justice, video cameras, and poetry slams.

I have created a wiki that my students and I collaborated on to co-create. In terms of some of the 21st century learning “Cs” promoted by the ministry; students collaborate and communicate with me and each other. In terms of some other even more important “Cs,” they connect and create community with each other. They do it in an in-person and online environment using tools and processes they may encounter as they continue on in the world and transition into higher grounds, post-secondary education, and the world of work.        Clay McLeod, Local 23 (Central Okanagan)


One feature of the 21st century is the emphasis on, and celebration of, cultural diversity, including a renewed appreciation of the importance of First Nations cultures. I try to reflect these values in my practice by reconfiguring my classroom and activities to create space(s) for a diversity of approaches and perspectives, e.g., with sharing circles, seminar-style classes, presentations, outdoor experiences, etc.                                                Jonathan Dyck, Local 35 (Langley)


My drama, film, and video production students write, shoot, edit, submit, and upload their films for my course and other collaborating courses from a wide variety of off-site locations, including homes, other cities, and even other countries. They’ve been working on social justice themes, collaborating with other student groups, targeting government contests, and other opportunities for exposure. So far, they’ve won awards from Worksafe BC (money!), and the Privacy Commission of Canada (iPods!).                                                Paddy McCallum, Local 46 (Sunshine Coast)


At my school, my colleague Lindsay Rowley and I co-plan to teach English II. We study the novel Night by Elie Wiesel. As a final project, we have students prepare group research projects (delivered as PowerPoint) focusing on human rights violations from recent decades around the world. This year we also had a former student and her friend (the current Miss Canada) come speak to our Grade 11s about slavery and human trafficking. This was very successful and really touched the students, enlightening!                                                 Elen Nikas, Local 37 (Delta)


  • Student-directed research and peer teaching 
  • Cross-grade leadership teams with a focus on social justice 
  • Greater number of literature resources online and in print 
  • Small research groups and presentations using digital filming, computer research, and Smartboard presentations 
  • Digital storing of novels and texts 
  • Use of Kurzweil for special needs students                               K. Kilbride, Local 36 (Surrey)

As a learning support teacher, I would like my students to be able to use assisted software to improve their writing skills, to be read to when the text is too difficult, and to become comfortable using the Internet to do research and to study. However, due to lack of resources such as computers, assistive programs, and scanners, I am unable to utilize 21st century technology. For me, technology is essential to the survival of my students in their future education and lives. My one and only laptop is constantly being used, but there are 30 students who deserve and need to use it. The change needs to take place at the ministry in funding special populations appropriately before they try to enforce anything else.                                  Neovi Patsicakis, Local 36 (Surrey)


  • Smartboards with interactive literary games and skills 
  • With multiple IEPs in a classroom, there are many creative adaptations going on every day                                                                             Carole Berube, Local 80 (Kitimat)

 I use an online classroom in all of my courses on a Moodle server that I set up. I provide for my students virtual desktops on my server. It gives students an electronic desktop—so often students are not given technology. We as teachers might be given an electronic blackboard, but what is given to students. Finally, I feel that we are moving to virtual worlds soon as “Second Life” or “Open Cobalt.” I have taught my students on a virtual beach in the virtual world of “Second Life.”                                                                                 Jennifer Gill, Local 42 (Maple Ridge)


  • We use a class wiki to answer critical-thinking questions, post comments, and upload assignments. We have even created talking avatars. The students post questions and communicate with each other on our wiki. 
  • We use a flip video camera to assess our progress in PE, with literature circles, and to reflect on our participation, discussions, and experiments. 
  • We use a document reader for students to get feedback from the class and to have on-the-spot examples. 
  • The Smartboard in our classroom is the student’s tool to brainstorm and manipulate objects. We created an e-folio (electronic portfolio) to show their parents all of their progress. 
  • I am a part of an inquiry project where we are using learning styles. We call it our “Technologies tic-tac-toe.” The students love it!                           Hilde Dietzel, Local 23 (Central Okanagan)

Sponsoring a live poetry slam competition by the Writing 12 class. Slam poetry is increasingly popular as an urban art form.                                        A. Lehmann, Local 881 (Terrace)


Teacher-librarians in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows have examined the issue of eBooks and eReaders and are attempting to find a way to incorporate their use in our school libraries.                                                                    Lucinda Tooker, Local 42 (Maple Ridge)


Personalized learning: Student choice in my classroom is paramount. Project-based learning engages kids, and it is personalized and can be done at different levels. 

Differentiated learning: At my school we also platoon for reading instruction at the kids’ levels vs. their actual grade level. Next year we hope to do this for Math, too. 

Embracing technology: I have a web page, use a Smartboard, and know how to find educational applications for an iPad to use in my class.                            Janine Fraser, Local 51 (Boundary)

 
Editor’s Note: 

Please tell us about a project or teaching strategy/method that you or your colleagues are involved with that demonstrates how your work reflects teaching and learning in the 21st century. 

Responses will be featured over the next months in the Teacher newsmagazine and on bctf.ca

Thanks for your help. 

Send your description of a successful practice that you, or a colleague, are doing to:
David Denyer, editor, Teacher magazine, at ddenyer@bctf.ca

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