21st Century… more than just technology

Photography by Kamla, Grade 5 at ISHCMC

I just had an interesting conversation with my colleague, Alicia. We were discussing  relaxation and concentration and the difficulty many students have with them. We drifted on to the topic of “21st Century teaching and learning” and how that immediately seems to mean TECHNOLOGY.

But, why should 21st Century teaching and learning only be about technology, and how do we break away from that limiting (and pretty scary) assumption.

What other things could be the ingredients of a 21st Century education? Here are some of my thoughts, please feel free to add more!

  • Mindfulness
  • Concentration
  • Open-mindedness
  • Compassion
  • Ecological intelligence
  • Self-awareness
  • Well-being
  • Aesthetic appreciation

That’s what I came up with so far, and… if we are honest with each other… technology is actually the enemy of many of those things. In fact, we can link the over-use or mindless use of technology to the exact opposite of most of those things. For example, most of the kids who struggle to relax or concentrate are that way because they are so used to devices being given to them to keep them occupied.

Of course, technology is going be a major factor in the 21st Century. But, unless people grow to see it as a tool and that actually they are more important than the technology, we could be doomed.


  1. annadelconte

    We had a similar convo this afternoon. Our 21st century lessons are building cooperation, collaborative skills and perseverance when they make mistakes and have to work out ways to fix them. Tech is involved but problem solving is a bigger emphasis.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Helen Mulligan

    I love reading this blog! I’m a big fan of technology and its potential for enhancing experience both within and outside of the classroom. But I think it is so important to be having an ongoing, critical discussion about how technology can be harnessed by us as opposed to the other way round. Michael Fullan has talked about this clearly in his paper The Wrong Drivers, in which he acknowledges the importance of technology as a driver for improvement but that it must be seen as a tool to be used to improve instruction and therefore learning rather than instructional end in itself. Coming from another angle, I’m in the middle of reading Daniel Goleman’s book Focus: the hidden driver of excellence, in which he discusses the implications of extensive presence of technology on childrens’ (and adults’) cognitive development, especially in relation to developing and sustaining focus, which in turn affects performance. In light of this, I think mindfulness (which you listed) would be a valuable addition to the educational agenda. To your list I’d like to aff: intentional focus, awareness of others and empathy, which is also apparently being affected by our hours online (see http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/21/press-record-when-someone-dies-empathy-young-people?CMP=fb_gu).

  3. Lori DiMarco

    There are many considerations for 21st Century Learning that go well beyond the Use of ICT for Learning. In fact there are also considerations for how ICT is used for Learning to consider it to be, in fact, 21st Century Learning, as opposed to just using technology. The TCDSB has developed self-reflection tools, called Project NeXt: The NeXt Lesson (based on work by ITL Research, funded by Microsoft) that assist teachers with ways to reflect on their current learning activities to implement 21st Century Learning (and incorporating technology when it’s appropriate). We have also been working to show the alignment between the 21st Century Learning Competencies, Report Card Learning Skills AND the Ontario Catholic Schools Graduate Expectations. The NeXt Lesson can be found here: http://tcdsb21c.org/

  4. concentricthinking

    I know it is onvious, so obvious that it is over looked. ATTITUDES! Without the right attitude at the right time how can anything ever actually happen? It’s all about knowing when to demonstrate the right attitude to ensure that you are looking at it with all the attention it deserves to bring out the best outcome for those involved.

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