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21st Century Teachers

Posted on May 12, 2008

We have heard alot about the 21st Century Learner. We know that they are:



Information, media and technology savvy


immediate and instant

require instant gratification

But what about the 21st Century Teacher, what are the charactoristics we would
expect to see in a 21st Century Educator. We know they are student centric,
wholistic, they are teaching about how to learn as much as teaching about the
subject area.

The Adaptor
The 21st Century teacher is an adaptor. Harnessed as we are to an assessment
focused education model the 21st Century Educator must be able to adapt the
curriculum and the requirements to teach to the curriculum in imaginative ways.
They must also be able to adapt software and hardware designed for a business
model into tools utilisable by a variety of age groups and abilities.
They must also be able to adapt to a dynamic teaching experience. When it all
goes wrong in the middle of a class, when the technologies fail, the show must
go on.

As an educator, we must understand and apply different learning styles. we

must be able to adapt our taeching style to be inclusive of different modes of
The Visionary
Imagination, a key component of adaptability, is a crucial component of the
educator of today and tommorow. They must see the potential in the emerging
tools and web technologies, grasp these and manipulate them to serve their
needs. If we look at the technologies we currently see emerging, how many are
developed for education?
The visionary teacher can look at others ideas and envisage how they would use
these in their class.
The visionary also looks across the disciplines and through the curricula. They
can make links that reinforce and value learning in other areas, and leverage
other fields to reinforce their own teaching and the learning of their students.
The Collaborator
Ning, Blogger, Wikispaces, Bebo, MSN, MySpace, Second life as an educator
we must be able to leverage these collaborative tools to enhance and captivate
our learners. We too, must be collaborators; sharing, contributing, adapting and
The Risk taker
How can you as an educator know all these things? How can you teach them
how to use them There are so many, so much to learn. You must take risks and
some times surrender yourself to the students knowledge. Have a vision of what
you want and what the technology can achieve, identify the goals and facilitate
the learning. Use the strengths of the digital natives to understand and navigate
new products, have the students teach each other. The learning pyramid shows
that the highest retention of knowledge comes from teaching others. Trust your
The Learner
We expect our students to be life long learners. How many schools have the
phrase life long learners in there mission statements and objectives. We too
must continue to absorb experiences and knowledge. We must endeavour to
stay current. I wonder how many people are still using their lesson and unit
plans from 5 years ago.
In my subject area, Information technology and certainly in many of the
sciences, especially the life sciences; knowledge, understanding and technology
are fluid and dynamic, they are evolving and changing. To be a teacher here you
must change and learn as the horizons and landscape changes.

The 21st Century teacher or educator must learn and adapt.

The Communicator
Anywhere, anytime learning is a catchphrase we hear often. Usually its paired
with life learner. To have anywhere anytime learning, the teacher to must be
anywhere and anytime. It does not have to be the same teacher, but the 21st
Century teacher is a communicator. They are fluent in tools and technologies
that enable communication and collaboration. They go beyond learning just how
to do it, they also know how to facilitate it, stimulate and control it, moderate
and manage it.
The Model
We must model the behaviours that we expect from our students. Today and
tommorow more so, there is an expectation that teachers will teach values.
We, are often the most consistent part of our student life. Teachers will see the
students more often, for longer and more reliably than their parents. This is not
a criticism of the parents rather a reflection.
What have I missed? What else is our 21st Century teacher?
This entry was posted in management, Professional Development, reflection by Andrew
Churches. Bookmark the permalink.


efreeman on May 12, 2008 at 9:59 pm said:

This is an excellent summary of the 21st Century Teacher. It is certainly a huge

role more so than its ever been. The mix of flexibility, intuitiveness,
imagination and subject knowledge is complex but so necessary for our new
generation of learners. They are far more difficult to engage and are superconnected. Education is so exciting at the moment with the technological
changes. It would be interesting to know how our new teachers are being
prepared for this ever-changing and challenging role.


andrewch on May 13, 2008 at 6:47 am said:

Hi Erin
I agree with your question what is being done to prepare the teachers of
tommorow? They have a huge job, as do the current teachers trying to adapt.
But what are the colleges of eduction doing to prepare teachers for teaching and
learning in a new mode?
Certainly the student teachers (pre-service teachers ) I have seen are not
particularly adept at the integration of these emerging technologies into the
classroom. Most can recognise a smartboard 9 times out of 10, but use this
thanks for your reply and for your very vaild question


Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on May 13, 2008 at 7:54 pm said:

I think 21st Century teachers are 21st Century learners first. They learn right
along with and from their students.


mscofino on May 13, 2008 at 10:02 pm said:

Excellent post! I think the 21st century teacher and the 21st century student
need to share the same qualities they are both the 21st century learner, right?
I wrotea post about this a while back and included both students and teachers in
the same understandings about 21st century literacy.
I also wonder about being content creators. Maybe thats included in one of your
categories above, though. I love Steve Hargadons idea of pro-sumers

producers and consumers of information in order to truly process and internalize

what were learning. What do you think?


andrewch on May 13, 2008 at 10:15 pm said:

I agree they have to learn with the students. They must learn and adapt, and
take risks and let the students take the lead role.
I suspect that one key difference is that they (the 21st century
teacher/educator) must also have a clear vision of the goals, objectives and end
points he or she must reach.
I can not see the assessment regimes most education systems have reaching
out from their 18th century origin and making it to the 21st century in a hurry,
so teachers will still be constricted by the exam/assessment pressures no matter
what pedagogoical appraoch they undertake.
Thanks for the replies much appreciated
If you like Steve, you will probably enjoy wikinomics and the world is flat if you
havent already


Brandi C on May 14, 2008 at 1:05 am said:

This is such a great insight. I train teachers about the digital native all of the
time. I would love to use this, and give you credit of course, as I talk with
teachers about their changing roles. Thanks for the post.


Nicole Lantz on May 14, 2008 at 8:12 am said:

I like what youve started here I realize youre coming at it from an ICT
integration perspective, but youve given me something to think about, even in
the general sense.
Also, Id like to get my hands on a reference (if you happen to have one) for the
6-item list you give for the 21st century learner. Id like to read more on this.


andrewch on May 14, 2008 at 8:49 am said:

Hi Nicole,
I dont have any references as I have written this one myself. I am coming for an
integration perspective as this is one of my areas of interest and responcibility.
There is much written about the 21st century learner but very little written
about the 21st century teacher who is meant to facilitate and enable all of this
I have seen with my own students that theya re very capable of learning and
operating the tools, but they often lack the insight (not suprisingly) to apply
these tools and technologies to learning.
I agree with Sheryl and Kims comments about 21st century teachers are 21st
century learners first. But teaching is more than just being a learner, learning is
essential, its crucial, but teaching is so much more. We must have a wide
perspective, have huge tolerance and be able to adapt, manipulate, evaluate
and create. Its very Blooms


mscofino on May 14, 2008 at 7:43 pm said:

So, just to keep the conversation going, would you say that a 21st Century
learner doesnt need to:
have a wide perspective, have huge tolerance and be able to adapt, manipulate,
evaluate and create?
I would say that they do and I would say that I expect learners to be reaching
all levels of Blooms taxonomy as well.
I wonder if thinking of our teachers as learners too will enable us to better meet
their needs (as tech facilitators/coordinators)? I wonder if teachers thinking of
themselves as learners is a very 21st century perspective? I wonder if we all
think of ourselves as learners would enable us to have a wide perspective, have
huge tolerance and be able to adapt, manipulate, evaluate and create?


David Truss on May 14, 2008 at 8:07 pm said:

I think that the teaching profession still has a shortage of 21st Century Teachers
as you describe them so such a teacher must also be a leader! We Model for
teachers as well as students!
They must also be Reflective although I would put that characteristic within The
Adaptor and The Learnerrather than creating a new category. Self assessment is
key. Questioning of practice is essential.
Essentially, Im not really adding anything new, just expanding on the thoughtful
ideas you have come up with great post!


andrewch on May 14, 2008 at 8:46 pm said:

Hi Kim and David

Thanks for the comments they are really useful and help to shape this. I have
taken the post and placed it on my wiki as well so that I can easily modify and
refine it, as these discussions continue.
The wide perspective is a comment shared by a colleague of Mine Rod Fee
who suggested phrased it as the inter-disciplinarian or the integrator. A wide
perspective is very necessary. I felt this would be an addition to the visionary
the ability to look at multiple subject areas and links them cross curricula
Adapt, evaluate and create the higher ends of Blooms taxonomy are inherent
in teaching and as both you and Sheryl pointed out are part of the 21st century
learner, which 21st century educators should be.
I do like and think there is value in reflection it could be part of the model. We
encourage our students to be reflective, do we walk the talk.
Leadership is I think another whole criteria, that I have neglected. The leader is
crucial, whether its a champion or the quiet facilitator supporting and coaching,
leadership is vital.
Great comments, thanks


Nicole Lantz on May 15, 2008 at 3:24 am said:

Having taught in a BEd program here, I had the chance to see a full range of
arising science teachers from tech gurus to cyberphobes. It was a huge learning
process for me because I had assumed that by default a science teacher in their
final term would by now already be adaptable and certainly at least aware of the
possibilities that technology could give them in their teaching. It seemed like a
no brainer to me.
Perhaps (I say perhaps because I am conflicted) perhaps I learned from my
students (who were now preservice teachers) that a great teacher in the 21st
century may not necessarily have to leverage 21st century tools, but he or she
still needs these other characteristics (i.e. adaptive, collaborative, visionary,
etc.), albeit in a different way.
So I agree that we need leaders but leaders in all creative aspects of great
One final thought. Where would you fit patience, resilience, and acceptance into
your model? With all of the non-academic, social issues that teachers face,
sometimes these come to the forefront. Is the 21st Century teacher everything
to everyone? Do we (society) expect them to be?

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katie on May 18, 2008 at 8:55 am said:

This is a great post with so much to share with my colleagues. To speak directly
to Nicoles question. Is the 21st century teacher everything to everyone? I have
personally felt that academics for a long time has assessed learning from a very
narrow standpoint. As we all know there are many different styles of learner.
Therefore we need to be broader in our assessments we really do need to be in
a world where we are nurturing and teaching to everyone in everything. It would

not make a great director of a fortune 500 company if all they could do was form
perfectly correct essays, record and formulate great mathematical problems
however, they couldnt speak in front of a crowd or quickly make a decision and
then see it is delegated and collaborated. Lets open the box and learn,teach and
be taught through our students. By using the tools of technology and relying on
our students it cant be that hard can it?


Carolyn Foote on May 19, 2008 at 1:10 am said:

This post is a very helpful framework for thinking about a model for 21st century
And I agreeI wonder what schools of education (in general) are doing to support
new teachers in this sort of model. But I think its also important as new
teachers enter our own buildings, that we provide enough scaffolding and
modeling for them that they feel supported in this kind of role. We tend to resort
to the way we were taught when hurried or unprepared, and new teachers
have a lot on their plates, generally.
Kim, loved your questions
I wonder if thinking of our teachers as learners too will enable us to better meet
their needs (as tech facilitators/coordinators)? and this one I wonder if we all
think of ourselves as learners would enable us to have a wide perspective, have
huge tolerance and be able to adapt, manipulate, evaluate and create?
I think tolerance and flexibility are such important qualities for us to have. And I
do think leadership on a campus has a great role in creating a safe, creative
environment where teachers feel very supported in taking risks, and being
I also have been exploring this idea of cocreating curriculum WITH our students
instead of planning the curriculum and then covering it. I think an approach that

is more of a partnership, like Robert Fried talks about in The Passionate

Learner is intriguing in how it changes the structure of the classroom.
Thanks again for outlining this model!


andrewch on May 19, 2008 at 8:50 pm said:

Hi Carolyn,
Tolerance and Flexibility are hugely important for the 21st Century Educator, in a
world that is so rapidly changing and evolving, with knowledge growing
exponentially they are vital.
It is interesting that we are identifying these as key for 21st Century learners,
but they are no less valid or important for the 20th century teacher too. One
only has to think of our own students, to realise how flexible we have to be to
handle with care and consideration the teenage angst.
I like the partnership with our students, that sits well with me, but as teachers as
the director or conductor of the learning band we have to have the outcomes
and goals in mind.
Passionate learners a day where you dont learn something is a day wasted.
Nice reply thanks for that

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hosting service on October 22, 2008 at 7:28 pm said:

Every teacher should be like the teacher of mine. a very patient woman.

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kathy on May 5, 2011 at 4:37 am said:

There are at least two spelling errors you need to fix.

The comparison between the 21st century teacher and traditional teaching has
been called into question in the book, FOCUS, by Mike Schmoker. Effective
practices in education works, with or without technology. However, I believe
educators need to use technology with effective practices to meet the needs of
the future.


Julian on April 17, 2013 at 8:39 am said:

I concur with Sheryl. Every honest educator knows that the advent of electronic
education, and what used to be called the science of information retrieval, has
expanded/exploded at warp speed. If traditional digital immigrants like myself
are going to remain valid and relevant as educators of digital natives, we must
quickly re-enter the learning environment and adjust to the way they have
accidentally trained themselves to learn. The task is modifying the methodology
to be palatable and engaging to the digital native student.