What is 21st century curriculum?
Twenty-first century curriculum is the “abandonment, finally, of textbook-driven, teacher-centered, paper and pencil schooling”. It means a new way of understanding the concept of “knowledge”, a new definition of the “educated person”. A new way of designing and delivering the curriculum is required. Twenty-first century curriculum is: “interdisciplinary, project-based, and research-driven. It is “connected to the community – local, state, national and global. Sometimes students are collaborating with people around the world in various projects. The curriculum incorporates higher order thinking skills, multiple intelligences, technology and multimedia, the multiple literacies of the 21st century, and authentic assessments. Service learning is an important component”. The curriculum is not textbook-driven or fragmented, but is thematic, project-based and integrated. Skills and content are not taught as an end in themselves, but students learn them through their research and application in their projects. Textbooks, if they have them, are just one of many resources. Knowledge is not memorization of facts and figures, but is constructed through research and application, and connected to previous knowledge, personal experience, interests, talents and passions. The skills and content become relevant and needed as students require this information to complete their projects. The content and basic skills are applied within the context of the curriculum, and are not ends in themselves. Assessment moves from regurgitation of memorized facts and disconnected processes to demonstration of understanding through application in a variety of contexts. Real-world audiences are an important part of the assessment process, as is self-assessment.
How should education be structured to meet the needs of students in this 21st century world? How do we now define “School”, “Teacher” “Learner” and “Curriculum”? Schools in the 21st century will be laced with a project-based curriculum for life aimed at engaging students in addressing real-world problems, issues important to humanity, and questions that matter.
We offer the following new definitions for “School”, “Teacher” and “Learner” appropriate for the 21st century: Schools will go from ‘buildings’ to ‘nerve centers’, with walls that are porous and transparent, connecting teachers, students and the community to the wealth of knowledge that exists in the world.” Teacher – From primary role as a dispenser of information to orchestrator of learning and helping students turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom. The 21st century will require knowledge generation, not just information delivery, and schools will need to create a “culture of inquiry”. Learner – In the past a learner was a young person who went to school, spent a specified amount of time in certain courses, received passing grades and graduated. Today we must see learners in a new context: First – we must maintain student interest by helping them see how what they are learning prepares them for life in the real world. Second – we must instill curiosity, which is fundamental to lifelong learning. Third – we must be flexible in how we teach. Fourth – we must excite learners to become even more resourceful so that they will continue to learn outside the formal school day.”
The 21st century curriculum classroom is expanded to include the greater community. Students are self-directed, and work both independently and interdependently. The curriculum and instruction are designed to challenge all students, and provides for differentiation. The 21st century classroom is a global classroom – see its web site, ePals, is a site where teachers and students can go to join or start a collaborative project with anyone in the world. According to ePals, Inc., “Our Global Community™ is the largest online community of K-12 learners, enabling more than 325,000 educators and 126,000 classrooms in over 200 countries and territories to safely connect, exchange ideas, and learn together. Award winning SchoolBlog™ and SchoolMail™ products are widely used and trusted by schools around the world.”