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21st Century Educators: What Does It Mean?


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I was thinking the other day about what it means to be a 21st Century Educator .  What does that look like and what are the characteristics?  For one, they do not use the worst phrase in education “but we’ve always done it that way”.  Education has evolved and will continue to evolve; it is our job as leaders and educators to adapt and change with the times.  I believe as educators we must change as education changes or risk being irrelevant.  Here is my list of what 21st Century Educators do or look like (would love and welcome any feedback):

  • Integrate Technology Seamlessly and have a growth mindset- 21st Century Educators understand SAMR and want to use it to redefine education.  Notice I said want to use it to redefine.  SAMR is a growth model; as leaders we need to understand this, meet teachers where they are, and then grow them through this model (relevant PD, effective feedback, model what we want).  Not everyone should be expected to start at redefinition or even modification; it is our job to help them get there.
  • Their students create content: students do not sit in class and play the game of school.  They do not pass due to compliance and students are not just consuming content.  Students are seen as creators with a vastly wider audience to share to their creations.
  • Learn New Technologies/Teaching Practices- Teachers take the time to improve.  They personalize their PD to get what they want, when they want it.  They seek out new technologies/teaching practices to become better educators.  Eric Sheninger says about time ” You have to look at time differently if you really want to grow, improve, and enhance your professional practices. My mantra is: I make the time to get better; I don’t find the time. We all have 24 hours in a day. We need to critically look at how we use that 24 hours.”  21st Century Educators make time to get better because our kids deserve it.
  • Collaborate- They not only collaborate with teachers in their school and district but with teachers in their Global PLC.  They use Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and Pinterest to reach out to other educators and grow their Global PLC.  They take part in Twitter Chats, FaceBook Groups, read blogs and write their own, and search Pinterest for ideas.
  • They make content available for students: Their students can access their class and content outside of the designated school time and outside of the 4 walls of their classroom.  They understand they are not the sole proprietor of content and they want their students engaging with their content beyond the classroom.  They move beyond the mindset that learning only occurs in their classroom and only from them.
  • They model and practice Digital Citizenship: They have conversations about proper use of technology and they model appropriate use for their students.  They integrate this into their lessons.
  • They gather student input: Students have a voice in their classroom; students work with the teacher on formulating questions, rubrics, and projects.  Students are valued members of the classroom.
  • They form relationships: this one isn’t new but I believe all of the previous bullet points cannot happen or will not be as effective if teachers are not forming relationships.  This aspect will never change.  James Comer has said “No Significant Learning Can Take Place Without A Significant Relationship” and all teachers need to embrace this.  Students work harder and better for teachers they like and respect; this is not saying a teacher has to be a pushover, but they do need to know their students, set specific rules/expectations, and work from day one to form relationships.

My list is not perfect and I’m sure I have left off characteristics.  If we expect teachers and educators to be 21st Century ready, then this same expectation must hold true for leaders.  Leaders must risk-take and model/use technology.  I fully believe and embrace the term “Lead Learner”.  How can a leader expect teachers to use and integrate technology if the leader does not model this and have conversations with staff.  How can we expect teachers to seek out improvement outside of work hours if we are not doing the same?  If teachers are expected to stay relevant and current with new technologies and new teaching practices, then leaders must do the same.  We must seek out continuous growth so that we can be better for our staff, students, and stakeholders.  Please leave me any feedback because I love the conversations; this is how we grow and become better educators.  Thanks.

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