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21st Century Education Trends
A discussion of some of the important 21st Century Trends in education.

Added By: DADAD Staff

November 28, 2018

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As we nestle into the 21st Century it’s clear (to me at least) that our domestication of the electron in the 20th century has resulted in a hyper-connected digital world in the 21st Century.   

This digital revolution is having very disruptive affects on our cultures and societies.  Fortunately we have a model in history to use, the Printing Press.

I, and many others, believe the “Reformation” and “Age of  Enlightenment” were directly and positively influenced by the Printing press.  Digital Technologies, ushered in by our learning how to control individual electrons, are, like the printing press in the 15th Century, creating disruptive affects on our cultures and societies.

Here are 8 important 21st Century education trends that are a direct result of this digital revolution.

  • A deeply student-centered learning experience
  • Soaring numbers of digital learners
  • Need to build higher-order thinking skills
  • Realizing benefits for teachers and students
  • Context-Sensitive instruction to personalize learning
  • Personalized learning accompanied by a lean, blended, iterative approach
  • Productive gamification
  • More Wireless and Wireline Bandwidth for more data at a lower cost per bit
  • BYOD is here and key to active three-screen days


A deeply student-centered learning experience

This is an interesting 21st Century trend in Education.  One of the important drivers of this 21st Century Trend in education is the innovation of the TV a remote control.  In the old days we would pick a channel and watch that channel. 

Today, we select from 100’s if not 1,000s of choices. People today want control over the information they get.  It used to be education as about the Sage on the Stage, now it is more about the Guides on the Sides.  

The idea of some Educator in some administrative office deciding what is the best learning plan for you specifically is not in harmony with our knowledge that there are a lot of other options out there.

This actually can be connected to Libertarianism.  Libertarians are against Big Government.  They are against big government because “Central Planning” doesn’t work.

F. A. Hayek wrote in his essay, “The use of knowledge in Society,”

“The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess. …Or, to put it briefly, it is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality.”

Given the assumption I know better what is best for me than any “Central Planner.”  For example, I’ve gone back to school.  I’m attending Georgia State University.  As a requirement, I have to take a foreign language.  I understand that in general, Educators want students to learn another language, but I don’t want to take up my valuable learning time to something that I’m not getting a return on.

So, this particular trend is consistent with the overall tend on the part of end users to want much more control over the learning experience.


Soaring numbers of digital learners

There are many reasons for this trend.  The most fundamental driver of this is cost.  The cost of digital connections is approaching $0 when you compare the cost to; housing, food, health insurance, transportation.  As a result everyone is getting connected.  

And everyone is getting comfortable with our hyper-connected digital world.


Need to build higher-order thinking skills

In the old days, learning how to kill a lion, or butcher a cow were the important skills we needed to master to thrive.

Today, we learn basic skills fairly early in life.

The skills we need now are based on a higher-order thinking. We need logic, programming, engineering, medical, and legal skills that require the ability to seek information, evaluate that information, and develop an action plan as a result.  This is going to different in very specific situation.  


Context-Sensitive instruction to personalize learning

The use of digital symbols have created the ability to rapidly search the digital information to focus and filter our ability to process that information.


Personalized learning accompanied by a lean, blended, iterative approach

In digital technology terms we call this “mass customization.”  In the old days, it was said of the Ford Model T, that you could get it in any color as long as it is black.  

Today, I can order a specific car with my personalized colors and features.  It is commonly expected today to have a lot of control of the personalization of information.

So, naturally we want this in our educational platforms.


Productive gamification

I’ll talk more about this later. Essentially it is that because of the advances in digital technology we can capture information from the users and use that information to create fun and entertaining ways to learn.


More Wireless and Wireline Bandwidth for more data at a lower cost per bit

The cost of moving a bit of information continues to go down.  This is an important 21st Century trend in education because it means more and more information can be distributed to the learning community.


BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is here 

In the old days Schools had to provide the books, the desks, the chalkboard, and the libraries. The 21st Century Trend in Education is that students will bring their own learning devices to the classroom and expect the school to accommodate the student.

Users make their devices personal to them.  So, educators can enhance the learning experience by accommodating the end users devices.


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