Tony Gurr

So…are we going to mention 21st Century LEARNers?

In Classroom Teaching, Technology on 12/03/2012 at 9:31 am

As soon as I finished up yesterday’s post on the human literacies we need to have as teachers and educators, I realised that I have not paid much attention to the kids and young adults that are at the sharp end of all our teacher literacies and fluencies.

I got up super-early this morning to draft a post or two on 21st Century LEARNers themselves. This was hard going – and after several cups of “kahve”, I still did not have much. I almost gave up!

Tweet-tweet –  @AnaCristinaPrts to the rescue!

Ana Cristina suggested that I drop by a site run by Sarah Elaine EatonLiteracy, Language and Leadership (three of my favourite “L’s”)…

Sarah is based in Canada and she had done an amazing list of characteristics of the 21st Century LEARNer – and where I had only managed to come up with 10 or so (even when I was on intravenous Nescafé and filtered Java), she had turned out 21!

So, I dropped her a line and asked if I could re-post the list – here it is (and Sarah, you are a “star)!

  1. Want to have a say in their education. They’ll respond better when their voices are heard.
  2. Often have higher levels of digital literacy than their parents or teachers. They don’t know a world without computers.
  3. Expect transparency in their parents, teachers and mentors. They’ll see right through you. (Makes it really hard to plan a surprise birthday party for them!)
  4. Want you to tell them when you have messed up, apologize for it, and move on. Everyone messes up. No big deal. Just don’t try to hide it. If you do, they are likely to post it on Facebook.
  5. Don’t care as much about having a job as they do about making a difference. The very concept of a “job” has changed so much in the past decade, the future is about making a difference.
  6. Demand the freedom to show their wild creativity. 21st century learners balk at rote learning and memorizing. They’ll do it if you make them, but be prepared to let them loose to be creative, too.
  7. Want to connect with others in real time on their own terms.They want their social media, their phones and their mobile technology. They want to be connected. All the time. In a way that makes sense to them (not necessarily to you).
  8. Collaborate amazingly well. They love teamwork and figuring things out with their friends.
  9. Really can multi-task. To do other wise is… yawn! Bo-ring!
  10. Appreciate a “trial and error” approach to learning new skills. Thank you, video-game industry.
  11. Learn by doing. Just try making them sit down and learn from you by watching. See what happens.
  12. Have a “can do” attitude. Of course, they can do it, silly! There is nothing to be afraid of.
  13. Thrive in an atmosphere of controlled challenge. They must be challenged or they zone out, but they need structure, too.
  14. Have multicultural awareness and appreciation. This generation is more aware of a variety cultures, countries and ways of life than any generation before them.
  15. Open to change. Really, what’s the big deal?
  16. Are equal parts “consumer” and “creator”. Today’s learners download their own songs and apps from iTunes… and then they create their own stuff and upload it to share with others.
  17. Increasingly aware of the world around them. From the environment to politics, today’s learners are asking questions and demanding answers.
  18. Know where to go to find information. Google was first incorporated in 1998. 21st century learners have never known a world without Google.
  19. Are better educated than any generation before them. (See #17.) 21st century learners really do know more than their parents (but that doesn’t necessarily make them wiser!)
  20. Expect inter-disciplinarity. It is we, the older generation, who organize topics into “subjects”. The 21st century learner understands that subjects are inherently interconnected. Like, duh!
  21. Know that they are the future. They look at their parents and their peers and understand that the world’s future rests in their hands. (Wouldn’t it make you just a little bit cocky, too?)


What I liked about Sarah’s list (apart from the fact that it saved me a “pile” of work) was the way it brought together not only skills and abilities – but also many of the values and beliefs that our 21C Kids seem to haveIt got me wondering whether the characteristics we had been looking at (for the “21C Teacher”) were similiar – they were!

However, and Greg picked up on this, too (Cheers Greg), Sarah had developed her set of 21 characteristics in Canada – based on her work with schools and universities there. 

I wondered:

  • How do our 21st Century LEARNers (here in Turkey) stack up against these characteristics?
  • What are the similarities and difference (if any)? And…are these similarities / differences “only” linked to technology and the digital landscape we have today?
  • How do we know this?
  • And…what the heck are we doing to help TEACHers get ready for these kids?

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