21st Century Literacies and Evolving Pedagogy

“If we teach today the way we were taught yesterday, we aren’t preparing students for today or tomorrow.”

Curriculum and educational pedagogy have been rewritten innumerable times from age to age, but the essential skills students have been taught have remained the same since the beginning of human civilization. Schools around the world have always taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as an appreciation for history, culture and science and the natural world around them. Learning in the 21st Century is not any different; students still need these essential skills, perhaps more than ever. What has evolved is the need for additional skills which have emerged with the dependency on technology. Students now also need to be digitally literate and socially literate, while also having the ability to collaborate with others and critically think towards identifying and solving problems.

Worldwide, the school systems of today are built upon an Industrial Revolution model where all students are taught the same curriculum, at the same pace. Success is measurable through testing which also serves to separate the high achievers for the purpose of moving children into professional roles or industrial roles. This system was effective back in a time when families were moving from farms to cities to work in factories and children needed to be supervised or educated during the workday. Curriculum was built around the basic “reading, writing and arithmetic” literacies through rote learning. Today, there is a need to revisit learning strategies to include critical thinking, inquiry, and application of skills.

A shift in educational theory and values has been unfolding for several years now, evident in the way teachers move towards more project-based learning models to engage students. Analysts continue to stress the need for more critical thinking skills and creativity in future leaders. It has frequently been suggested that the 21st Century is propelling industries into the “Golden Age of Entrepreneurship”; another reason why children need to be prepared for a future that they can design themselves and adapt to an ever-changing economic landscape.

Most recently, Michael Fullan worked with the Ministry of Education in Ontario to determine that there are certain 21st Century Competencies that students need to prepare them for success in the 21st century: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, Citizenship & Character Education. This document also recognizes that “A broad repertoire of pedagogical strategies is required to support the emphasis on deep learning and new learning partnerships.” Consequently, it is our responsibility as parents and educators to provide a learning environment that will not only facilitate the learning of these skills through a multitude of scenarios and methods but will also inspire our children to future greatness.

With so many emerging literacies and new opportunities to learn and collaborate with technology, it has become increasingly important for teachers and schools to keep pace. Education cannot be expected to remain stagnant in a changing world. Parents need to ask themselves if they want their children learning the same way they themselves were taught, or if they want their children prepared to face the challenges of the next century.

Oak Learners is dedicated to supporting parents on their journey to prepare their children for the future of the 21st Century. By adopting a variety of educational pedagogies that empower learners and encourage hands-on exploration, we are flexible to teach new skills as well as the foundational aspects of learning. The Ontario Curriculum guides us to understand the minimum that children need to learn, but we always have an eye on alternative curriculum developments and the individual needs and interests of the children. Our full program at Oak Learners is derived from the study of multiple curriculum documents from around the globe which incorporate the developmental skills children need to learn as well as the emerging literacies. This multi-modal approach is designed to best prepare students for a future of flexibility, empowerment and success.

Learn more about our innovative approach to curriculum and learning at Oak Learners by visiting Alternative Day School

<Originally published on August 15, 2018>

Kelly Farrell

Kelly Farrell is the Founder and Director of Oak Learners. She is dedicated to supporting learners of all ages and abilities reach their goals and love the learning journey. Kelly’s philosophy of education is based in the understanding that every child has the capacity to excel and succeed when they are given the tools and taught the skills to help them on their journey.
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