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Eric Sheninger believes student agency is one of the most powerful aspects of learning that can be aided by technology. But getting there, and setting the stage for the consistent, effective use of technology, requires a pedagogical shift.
“What we need to do is prepare students for anything, for a future that’s currently fuzzy but coming their way,” says Sheninger, author, and senior fellow with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). “This leads to the question: How do we improve students’ ability, with all the gadgets available today, to think and use technology in ways to learn what they couldn’t learn without it? To future-proof education, we need to empower students to think.”
But how can educators teach thinking?
Here are Sheninger’s suggestions for developing what he calls “21st century critical thinkers:”
1. Learning must be rigorous. The work should be thoughtful in the eyes of the students, integrate high-level questioning and include academic discussion. Students need – and want – to understand why they are learning something and how they are going to use it. And they need to be able to not just tell us what they know, but show us that they understand – that’s rigor. And getting there may mean redesigning learning in your classroom.
Sheninger points to the Rigor Relevance Framework as a resource to help redesign the learning experience, moving away from having students tell us what they know and instead having them show whether they actually understand.
2. Learning must be relevant. Students should see the work as meaningful and be able to use authentic resources and make learning connections from one topic to another and to different disciplines. Learning from mistakes should be acceptable and so should finding multiple solutions to a problem and identifying how solutions can be transferred to different situations. “This is all about creating meaning,” Sheninger says.
3. Students must be actively engaged in the learning process. To get there, students should be active participants in a learning environment that fosters engagement and empowers students to use formative processes and tools. Here, it’s about making learning more personal. The litmus test: Would you want to learn under the same conditions and in the same spaces as the students in your school?
Sheninger and colleague Brian Seymour share other ways to personalize learning for students in their recorded ISTE Expert Webinar, “Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today,” which covers:
- Ways to redesign the learning space to increase personalization.
- Keys to transforming learning in the digital age.
- Tips for redesigning the learning experience to prepare students to solve world problems.
Julie Phillips Randles is a freelance writer and editor with 30 years of experience writing about education policy, leadership, curriculum and edtech.
This is an updated version of a post that published on Feb. 2, 2018.