Captivating the 21st Century Learners

Captivating the 21st Century Learners

By Jason Silverstein
CIS Department
Delaware Technical Community College
George Campus

In my educational career I have been enlightened on how education is perceived in comparison to how an effective educator engages their students. Many educators teach with the philosophy if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. We are in a different day and age than we were in even 5 years ago let alone the days 20 – 30 years ago of good old skill and drill.

As the times change so must we as educators adapt to the new learner, technologies, and ideologies that come with it. Education is not just a field where we share information anymore, but one in which we must create a productive and engaging environment that cultivates learning.

Along my journey I have come up with 3 epiphanies that drive my instruction to increase engagement in the classroom:

1. Engage them in real world applications and not just theoretical concepts.

Entice them, interest them, and involve them. These are the concepts that I believe should be at the forefront of instructional design.

I have had a plethora of instructors through the years that beat theoretical concepts and terminology and then it was my job as a student to figure out the application of the concepts in the real world. To captivate students, immerse them in application problems from the beginning. Students desire to learn how the content knowledge translates into applicable skills that they will need for the real world.

2. Just because it worked yesterday does not mean it works today.

Too many times in peer discussions do we here the phrase, “it worked for me, it should work for them”. We did not have the resources back then that we do today. If this approach would suffice in any other industry, we would still have lead based paints, non-energy efficient cars and would still be walking as our main source of transportation.

In computer science one of the first programs that is taught traditionally is one that displays the text, “Hello, World!” on the screen. With the amount of technology that our students are immersed in prior to an entry level CIS course, this no longer excites them. We need to abandon the traditional approach that worked 20 years ago and create more innovative ways to captivate students. There are always new technologies, approaches and ideologies emerging and it is our job to constantly evolve to become better, stronger educators.

 3. Create a thinker and not a follower.

Logic and problem solving skills are innate to just about all careers today. Cultivating problem solving skills in the classroom will give students the abilities necessary to solve problems on their own rather than constantly having no clue where to begin.

Instruction is not about having students regurgitate terms, or replicate labs that you illustrate to them but are more about creating self-sufficient students who can go out into the world and know how to use the information from the classroom, combined with how to look information up and apply that as well. We as educators need to cultivate a culture of self-reliant proactive problem solvers. They need to leave as doers and not followers.

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