Teaching High School in a 21st Century Learning Environment

The world demands new skills every year, yet our education system takes decades to change. When we hear “21st century classroom” many will focus on the use of devices. Although devices can be helpful, the revolution in teaching goes far beyond tablets and apps. New approaches, standards, and philosophies are gaining traction around the world that views education as a self-led experience, and not a standardized requirement.

The trend began with the No Child Left Behind program and now it’s starting to pay off. Most schools are adopting the Common Core State Standards to focus on competencies in Math and English. This means there are more opportunities for individual students because simplifying the standard allows students to explore more interests and, ultimately, be better prepared for college and university.

Motivating students to learn should not be hard

Probably the greatest changes in teaching come from the realization that the majority of students are motivated. While 20th century schools were modeled after discipline assuming students need to be forced to learn. 21st century schools are designed around the premise that students want to learn. Primary and secondary schooling is increasingly resembling post-secondary education.

Critical Thinking is more valuable than memorizing

Standards and curricula have changed to acknowledge student agency. Now, most Common Core standards ask for high-level critical thinking. Most activities involve students performing a task instead of memorizing material.

Provide students with responsibility in their education

The sooner students learn they are in charge of their own success, the sooner the need for education can set in. More and more teachers are allowing their students to determine their own projects and work structures. In some cases, students can even have a say in which books to read or units to complete. By encouraging students to take ownership of their time, we create more rounded, focused, adults.

Let online tools help the learning experience

Most students are smart enough to know that the answer to virtually any question thanks to a rudimentary understanding of how to search on Google. If the answer is not online, the students will work with friends to share answers. This is actually not a bad thing. Although in the past, it would be thought to be cheating, collaborating with others, both online and off, is a valuable skill in the modern world so long and the student understands their work will be reviewed for plagiarism. When grades focus on the process than the result, we encourage students to improve their processes and social reasoning skills.

Digital devices & modern teaching tools are useful

All this collaboration, responsibility, and activity works great by itself, but works even better with the proper tools. These can include tablets, and laptops with webcams that can help aid the modern learning environment.

Tablets and Laptops

Although expensive, many schools find that students benefit from an all-in-one note-taker, organizer, graphing calculator, and internet research aid. These can be laptops, but tablets are often less expensive and more portable. Wireless internet is a must to make these devices more useful.


Cannot make it to school? No problem! A video of what your class discussed can be posted or you can meet with your teacher digitally.