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Teacher newsmagazine

BCTF Advantage

Teacher Newsmagazine   Volume 23, Number 4, Jan./Feb. 2011  

What does 21st century learning look like? 

By Nicol Suhr  

After viewing Susan Lambert’s presentation at the fall Representative Assembly voicing concerns about the Ministry of Education’s plan for 21st century learning, and listening to the comments of my fellow educators, I was deeply concerned about several factors. Technology and social isolation are at the forefront of my concerns. I would classify myself as a proponent of technology; I use it everyday in my math and science classes, both as a primary teaching tool and as a supplementary aid. However, technology is a tool to use, not something that excuses us from the thinking process itself. “The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.” – BF Skinner

Further, I am extremely concerned over the drive to “individualized learning,” which seems to be used as a euphemism for “sitting at a computer terminal and spewing out the answers so that one can say, I’ve learned something!” Education is more than just spewing information. It includes learning to communicate, think critically, and work as a team. Today’s students need communication, leadership, and teamwork skills more than ever. The lack of proper interaction, etiquette, and language expectation in today’s society isn’t giving our children the skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s workplace or society as a whole. Almost everyday, new research unveils that teambuilding and social interaction help to foster intelligence, language acquisition, community, and citizenship. So, why is our new education system being designed to go in the opposite direction, isolating students, and limiting their exposure to ideas to whatever is put on the screen in front of them?

The “21st century learning” model needs to be about communication, information, and technology—how to use it sustainably, rather than solely in an industrial model based on efficiency. We need to ask the questions: What does our ideal education system look like? What will our education system look like in the future?

As teachers, we are in a unique position to understand what our students need and what we need to get them there. I, for one, would love to sit on a committee with the BCTF working with the ministry—let’s show them what teamwork looks like—to develop this new system that works for all of us. Let’s see what we can create!


Nicol Suhr teaches at Nakusp Secondary School, Nakusp. 


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