In Pursuit Of 21st Century Learning
contributed by Rosa Fattahi
The teaching paradigm of the traditional lecture is not only (mostly) outdated, but it is also ineffective in promoting the ideal learning atmosphere in today’s 21st-century world.
Before books were readily available to the masses—primarily due to the cost of production and the amount of time needed to manually transcribe educational materials— monologue-style lectures were instructors’ only option for transmitting the necessary textual information to their students. Today, however, students have access to their own copies of course materials, and, in addition, teachers now have a wealth of additional, effective pedagogical tools available for their use.
Nevertheless, some educators may choose to stand before the classroom and deliver a lengthy monologue. The end result is that, more often than not, the instructor is presenting to a classroom of quite unengaged and bored students who could gain a great deal more through an interactive pedagogical approach. Effective and active learning is fostered by those instructors who understand that teaching should not be a monologue given to students, but instead should be a dialogue in the classroom.
The concept of dialogue as a method for productive discourse is, in fact, not a new one. It began in ancient Greece with renowned philosopher, Socrates. His ‘Socratic Method’ of question-and-answer discourse, marked by a series of teacher-posed challenges and student responses, is recognized for its distinct ability to foster critical thinking and the development of new ideas needed for effective learning. By a dialogic approach to teaching, both the instructor and the student learn together as they explore specific topics, debate important issues, and discover new insights— notably, such educational enrichment cannot be achieved with monologues or lecture-style approaches to teaching.
New Kinds of Dialogue
With an appreciation of the benefits of dialogic pedagogy, the next question for the 21st-century teacher is: how do I maintain such a dialogue in a modern-day classroom, blended classroom? The answer involves modifying traditional approaches and understandings of ‘dialogue’ to include the new forms of technological and social media platforms available to students and teachers.
For the 21st-century student—the ‘digital natives’ of today’s modern generation— the concept of dialogue involves more than face-to-face interaction; it includes platforms like texting, social media, blogs, short videos, video calls, and virtual chat rooms. Thus, the contemporary teacher must work to include such modern elements in their classrooms. By doing so, they will provide students with not only additional ways to communicate but also a means of further encouraging classroom dialogue by using forms with which students are comfortable.
Promoting Dialogue Outside the Traditional Classroom
For teachers in the traditional classroom, technology provides a wealth of means by which to communicate with students and continue the educational dialogue, outside the classroom. By using modern digital tools, teachers can facilitate online discussions and peer-to-peer learning through a built-in social media hub where students can share ideas, work collaboratively, and extend each other’s thinking in virtual, written dialogue. Social media sites like YouTube and Twitter are also invaluable resources for teachers seeking to reach students through a familiar medium.
By setting up a Twitter feed for the class, teachers can encourage students to continue course-related dialogue and discussions and complement classroom learning. Edmodo and others offer similar possibilities in a more education-centered approach, while resources like SchoolTube can make video sharing between students and teachers easier.
Texting is another growing communication medium that can be a useful tool in promoting dialogue among students and furthering educational goals. Text chatting allows teachers to give personal attention to students both near and far, and it is a familiar and comfortable format for most students today. A well-designed LMS should enable teachers to text with students one-on-one as well as in group chats, providing a popular and familiar forum for students to use for asking questions, assisting each other, and communicating outside of the classroom.
Fostering Dialogue in a Virtual Classroom Setting
Today, more learning than ever is online or ‘connected’ in some way. In many online courses, teachers and students do not regularly see each other. (What Is Asynchronous Learning?) So, for instructors working solely in the online arena and teaching a virtual class without any face-to-face interaction, traditional concepts of dialogue must be entirely discarded. Instead, typical notions of ‘dialogue’ must be broadened to include the wealth of online tools available for virtual teachers.
As Stone (1998a, p. 361) emphasized, “If we are to make richer use of the metaphor, we must focus clearly on the communicational dynamics at the heart of successful scaffolding of children’s learning.” There is a clear interdependence between dialogic teaching and scaffolding (Bell & Pape; Bliss et al.; González & DeJarnette).
On the simplest level, the traditional classroom allows teachers and students to view the same material at the same time, and being able to do so is, without question, an invaluable instructive tool—it is from such demonstrations or examples that dialogue most often springs. Luckily, there are ways to navigate around this seeming limitation. Teachers can share PowerPoint slides, documents, web pages, and even their desktop with remote students in real-time. Even more, students and teachers can share YouTube videos synchronously, so that the class can view instructional material together during discussions. With a whiteboard app, teachers can also solve math equations and draw using the drawing tools while students observe.
With these tools and more, the dialogic art of teaching in the modern world is made easy.
Whether you are a traditional teacher working in a classroom setting, or you are an online instructor in the virtual realm, it is crucial to approach teaching as a dialogue between and among you and your students. For a 21st-century teacher, giving lecture-style monologues to students who merely act as receptacles for information is no longer acceptable, nor does it work.
Instead, learning is fostered through dialogue in the classroom—through an interactive exchange of ideas that engages students and promotes independent, original thought, all while using the available technology that today’s students know and love in order to really get students interacting and sharing ideas to enrich their educational growth.