21st Century Learning – As An Adaptation

Last weekend I had a conversation with Kevin Bird (Principal of Muheim in SD54) about 21st Century Learning.

The conversation went something like this:

“What if we thought of 21st Century Learning as just another adaptation1 to the curriculum?”

“An adaptation? What do you mean? Are you saying that all students need help? I am not sure where you are going with this one…”

“Well, I know…but what if we considered that all students are struggling…struggling to reach their potential. Instead of only using adaptions to help a struggling students reach a minimum level – we would provide adaptations that would help everyone – not just reach a minimum level, but to reach their highest level. That level would be their potential…and “21st Century Learning” would be the adaptation. This curriculum would be adapted to help students reach their potential. This would mean that it might look different for each and every student! A grade 8 student who can’t yet read might still be working on decoding – while a student in the same grade who is excelling in drama may be working on creating their own screenplay.”

“Ok…sounds interesting, but how could you possibly make this work? It sounds completely overwhelming! Let me guess…you are going to say technology…”

“Well…not exactly. I think there is still a place for the regular non negotiable curriculum…we would still have to teach that – it is just that as we teach it, we need to be looking for the opportunities to be flexible with the how we teach it, and maybe most importantly – how the students show what they have learned.”

“Show or prove what they have learned?”

“I think I like proved better…but that is for another conversation…”


Imagine the “bar” that we want students to reach is not a static bar that all students need to get over – instead there is just one bar for every student: their potential bar. The static bar is flat and fixed on average. If we think of 21st Century Learning as the adaptation – it could be the driver used to support students to reach their full potential.

1Adaptations are usually things that we do in the school to help students who are struggling. The adaptation can range from something small, such as more time, to something more. For instance a student who has a written output disability might have a scribe to assist in writing tests.



Leave a Comment

  1. Yes. I think that sometimes we can overcomplicate what we do in schools. There are practical and effective approaches to lesson design that do much to reach a majority of students – also known as a “level 1 intervention” to use an RTI term.

    I believe that our collective ability to reach students in a level 2 or 3 intervention is as much about philosophical beliefs as it is about structural blocks. I am wondering if the 21st Century Learning can be a springboard for a shift in educator thinking to help students with level 2 & 3 interventions?

    Liked by 1 person

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