Ryan Petersen is Editor in Chief of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education.

Sep 23 2011

A Closer Look at 21st Century Learning

The idea of 21st century learning is not that technology trumps other learning tools or methods. Instead, technology can enhance teaching and learning processes.


We're only a decade into the 21st century, but it seems like the term "21st century campus" has been with us for much longer.

Those three words together now seem a bit confining, given how virtual learning and providing students, faculty and staff with access to collegiate data assets anytime, anywhere has taken hold during the past 10 years.

To bridge that gap, in this issue, we take an in-depth look at what we call "21st century learning" in three feature articles:

  • In "Chain Reaction," you'll discover how technology supports collaborative learning and the beneficial domino effect that a single deployment can have.
  • "The Right Mix" reflects on how colleges are blending brick-and-mortar and virtual classroom experiences to create highly flexible learning environments.
  • In "Making Math Magical," we explore a teaching program at Tennessee Technological University that relies on a host of technologies to compel K–5 teachers to rethink how young students learn math.

The idea of 21st century learning is not that technology trumps other learning tools or methods. Instead, technology can enhance teaching and learning processes. "If you can learn something in more than one way and represent knowledge in more than one way, you're more likely to retain it," points out Dr. Jane Baker, an instructor at Tennessee Tech.

And the Tennessee university appears to be on to something with its teachers-teaching-teachers approach to technology.

"It's important to have colleagues in the same discipline talk about their problems, so they can work together," says Alicia Russell, Northeastern University's director of educational technology. "They don't always want to hear from us. They want to hear from each other."

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Also in this issue, you can learn about several additional ways to enhance and expand teaching and learning. We take a look at the latest trends in the use of student response systems; we reveal how the Culinary Institute of Michigan uses video streaming when training would-be chefs in its demo kitchens; and an expert from the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education offers best practices for digital storytelling.

When it comes to revitalizing education through technology, the articles in this issue make it clear that involving a wide variety of users is essential.

"You have to interact and collaborate with people all over campus to understand what their needs are and to share new innovations to consider adopting," Russell says.

She offers this five-point to-do list for technology adoption:

  • Innovate through collaboration.
  • Address student expectations by getting their feedback.
  • Provide multiple ways for faculty to learn tech skills.
  • Turn your website into an educational resource.
  • Create incentives for faculty to adopt technology and incorporate it into their classes.

By showcasing what's working on campuses from coast to coast, we hope this issue inspires your efforts to create model 21st century learning environments too.

Help Your Faculty Catch Up

Even though 81 percent of colleges provide professional development, some faculty still struggle with technology.

Faculty, students and campus administrators say the biggest challenge to campus technology integration is faculty's lack of technology knowledge.

To improve training, those polled for the CDW•G 2011 21st Century Campus Report said campuses need to have tech-savvy faculty teach their peers, and that colleges need to provide training that is discipline-specific.

According to the report, training professors with a general approach to technology is often not helpful because it doesn't apply to their disciplines.

Boston's Northeastern University, for example, holds an annual conference where professors speak about their successes and strategies with classroom technology. Northeastern's Educational Technology Center also invites faculty from individual departments to meet to discuss their needs and to collaborate.

Ryan Petersen,
Editor in Chief

<p>Matthew Gilson</p>