21st Century Teaching and Learning
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As a 20th century kid, I was awed by the mere mention of the twenty-first century. The optimist in me envisioned a 21st century that was sleek, modern, and bursting with gadgets that stretched the imagination. Although my dreams of flying cars and room-cleaning robots have not been realized just yet, the gadgets have not disappointed. The impact of abundant and ever-changing technology—particularly information and communication technology—frequently dominates conversations in and about modern society. The same holds true in the field of education, where technology integration and emphasis of the disciplines most closely associated with modern technologies (i.e., science, math, and engineering) are seen as vital. These are important considerations, but 21st century teaching and learning goes beyond technology integration and STEM content; it is also about fostering ways of thinking and promoting dispositions that support success in an age driven by rapidly changing and expanding technologies. Responsive 21st century teaching and caregiving requires educators to create environments and provide experiences that encourage exploration and inquiry, and nurture creativity and curiosity.
The July 2016 issue of Young Children celebrates and explores this 21st century approach to teaching and learning. The cluster articles provide a snapshot of the developmentally appropriate ways the needs of young children growing up today are being addressed.
Some of the most prominent components of 21st century education—problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, authentic learning, appropriate use of technologies, and cross-disciplinary teaching—are the focus in “Integrating the Curriculum to Engage and Challenge Children.” Geared toward practice in kindergarten through third grade, the article by Barbara A. Bradley discusses the ways in which educators of primary school children can incorporate these components in their teaching.
Information and communication technology is changing the way we get information and interact with each other. This is particularly true about social media. In “Are You (P)Interested in 21st Century Teaching and Learning?,” Rachael Huber and C.C. Bates provide an introduction to this popular social media platform and explore one of the new ways teachers are locating and sharing information.
Tracey Hunter-Doniger demonstrates the power of creativity and arts infusion in “Snapdragons and Math: Using Creativity to Inspire, Motivate, and Engage.” Tracey describes the successful efforts of a kindergarten teacher and art educator who designed a cross-curricular collaboration aimed at promoting children’s engagement and enhancing learning.
One of the benefits of the ever-increasing availability of new technology is a shrinking world. In light of our global society, it is essential that crosscultural understanding be fostered in 21st century early childhood education settings. In “Classroom Contexts That Support Young Children’s Intercultural Understanding,” María V. Acevedo explores the efforts used to bridge gaps between a group of preschool teachers’ existing practices and the needs of the children in their classrooms.
In “Beyond Bouncing the Ball: Toddlers and Teachers Investigate Physics,” Eric Bucher and Marcos Hernández show us how topics that were once considered beyond the bounds of early childhood classrooms are now being introduced in developmentally appropriate ways. Bucher and Hernández position teachers as reflective co-investigators, a departure from the more traditional view of teachers as disseminators of information. The authors describe the educators in their article as teacher researchers and present a process that was implemented to promote reflective practice.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children has long embraced teacher research—teachers’ systematic inquiry of their practice—and its potential for advancing the profession and promoting high-quality early childhood education. Since 2004, NAEYC has published Voices of Practitioners, the only teacher research journal dedicated to early childhood education. To bring teacher research to a wider audience, a new Voices of Practitioners article will be published regularly in Young Children, beginning with this issue. We are excited to continue promoting teacher research and to make this valuable resource available in print.
Finally, we are pleased that this particular cluster coincides with the debut of Growing in STEM, a new column focusing on developmentally appropriate practice related to early childhood science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Reflecting a 21st century-minded pedagogy premised on inquiry and integration, the column promises to support early childhood educators at all levels as they seek to enhance STEM teaching and learning in their classrooms.
We hope you find something in this exciting issue that inspires the 21st century educator in you!
– M. Deanna Ramey, Editor in Chief
Photograph: © iStock
M. Deanna Ramey was formerly editor-in-chief of Young Children.