Thursday, August 11, 2011

The 12 Most Important Things to Know About 21st Century Learners

The 12 Most blog is pretty cool.  It asks writers to contribute the 12 most of anything.  This could be a great authentic opportunity in a writing class.  Angela Maiers put together a post identifying the 12 Most Important Things to Know About Kids Today.  In her post it becomes clear that when it comes to “kids today” (Gen Y or The Millennials) those who label them as entitled, directionless, having twitter-sized attention spans— are the ones with the problems.  

Below are the five ideas that resonated most with me because these are ideas that are often left behind in classrooms driven by outdated data and instruction.  

4. They are global learners and excellent teachers.

  • Angela explains...“Kids today have redefined themselves as learners, teachers, and leaders. They are self-reliant and independent. They don’t wait for school to find out how or what.”
  • In the past...Educators were front and center holding onto the knowledge and power.  
  • Today...Teachers need to step off the stage and realize that in the 21st century the playing field is leveled and we all have access to information as long as we are not banned or blocked from doing so. 

7. They are challenge-seekers.

  • Angela explains...“These learners thrive on change and challenge that is authentic and fair. They are very adaptable, flexible and hate being asked to operate inside the box. They want to create, invent, and innovate.”
  • In the past...Students were expected to accept as a challenge sit and git instruction then take a test or read the chapters in a book and answer the questions at the end.  
  • Today...Being disconnected and tied to a desk doesn’t work for today’s young people.   I haven’t met a single kid who feels this need is met by filling in bubble sheets on a computer or paper.

9. They are question askers.

  • Angela explains...“The next generation is happy to question everything and anything and do so not to rebel or prove a point; but to forge change. They are asking questions and seeking to understand WHAT they believe and WHY they believe it.”
  • In the past...Teachers were the main askers of questions expecting students to answer with their pre-determined responses.
  • Today...Educators must be prepared to answer questions like “Why do I need to know this?” and allow young people to develop and explore questions and answers about topics they find meaningful. 

10. They value friends and relationships

  • Angela explains...“Today’s kids are deeply committed to friendships. Friends hold immeasurably influence and kids are willing to commit to these relationships.”
  • In the past...Children weren’t connected to their friends 24/7.  While friends were important they weren’t a constant presence in the lives of young people.  
  • Today...Educators must not ignore 21st century tools that students use to build and develop relationships.  They must recognize the strength of friendships and help guide students in helping those friends to become valuable members of their personal learning networks.

11. They are changing the world.

  • Angela explains...Children want to and can do work that is worthy of the world or as Angela calls it (WOW work). They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world and they are willing to lead the effort.
  • In the past...Work was often confined to a classroom and handed into a teacher with no relevance or connection to the world.
  • Today...Young people want to make a difference and be a part of change. In many cases the greatest help a teacher can provide is to remove the blocks and barriers that school often puts in the way from helping this to occur. 

Check out all 12 things Angela suggests you know about kids today along with great examples of each here.  


  1. Independence is what the 21st century learners want. They want the mini-lessons and scaffolding, but then they want the time to dabble and discover. An inquiry based classroom is where it's at. Finding out the passions of each student and allowing choices to reach the teacher's goals is important as well. Students recognize when their teachers know and care about them enough to provide just what they need to succeed. If a child can show the same information in a PowerPoint while another writes a poem, so be it. Let the many talents shine. If you treat students, even as young as second grade, as scholars, they will be scholars.
    Marcy Prager

  2. I agree!
    The world is changing, and the global education industry just isn't keeping up.
    Mainsttream education commonly tkes 5 years to go from identifying a need through plannng, funding and development processes, before any action is taken
    This is ludicrous in a world that is changing as fast as it is

  3. This is a great post! Main takeaway for me is "get over it!" I talk about this in my latest blog post here: