A 21st Century Learning Environment

It’s the last day of 2013 and time to “out with the old and in with the new”. My name is Gary McGovern and I am a …………….. Digital Immigrant (Prensky, 2001). Sounds like I’m admitting to a problem, and maybe so!

I thought I was fairly tech savvy having being around when the internet was established and already using pc’s from the days of old (who remembers a 286?). Coming from the pre-pc age it is easy to assume new technology will stay current a lot longer than it actually does. Also, it doesn’t seem that long ago that relatives were sending audio cassettes between Australia and Scotland to keep in touch  (okay, maybe it does!). Real-time communication (phone calls) was a lot more expensive back then.

Nowadays it seems like we are in an ever increasing rush to reach the point of I don’t know what, and the only constant is change but one thing seems certain, if your not on the techno train it doesn’t take long to get left behind. Children of all ages now have a myriad of technologies at their disposal and are captivated by the variety of ways to communicate.

Both my sons got a tablet for Christmas this year and if I’m being honest, it was really only so that I could get my laptop back, …thank you Santa! However, other benefits of having their own mobile technology are quickly becoming apparent. A couple of nights ago the 9yr old stayed with his gran and instead waiting until he was home to have a chat he sent me an email. He has also downloaded quite a few apps and helps his 4yr old brother do the same. He sometimes wanders off to his room (usually to watch a youtube video with his brother so that they can practice their dance moves) and comes back later to proudly show what he has learned. He’s also creating his own catalogue of dinosaurs, gleaming facts from various websites, and plays Jurassic Park Builder, deepening his knowledge of concepts such as extinct animals and their habitat, infrastructure and economics.

I guess this reflects some of the features of my ideal 21st century learning environment…. engagement, personalised learning, variety, collaboration, and mobility through physical and virtual worlds (and me with my own laptop!). In my KLA of Design and Technology and Engineering Studies I would like the physical environment to be comfortable, flexible and fun. It would need to be complimented with a mixture of equipment and resources (chairs, lounges, desks, meeting tables, flipcharts, whiteboards, IWB’s, pc’s, cameras) to enable integration of the students physical and virtual worlds. This will allow them to self-direct their own authentic learning, both as individuals and as collaborators and to deepen and express their learning, using a variety of resources.

Looking over my 9yr olds shoulder, I seen him type that this was “the best Christmas ever”. Probably a bit too optimistic to expect this level of joy in the classroom but it shouldn’t be too much to expect that the students are happy when they arrive and also when they leave.

On a cautionary note, always remember to assess digital learning, not everything is interpreted accurately. About 6 months ago I asked my 4yr old where he lived, …”Australia”, and where does Grandma and Grandpa live? “in the computer.” He wouldn’t have made that mistake in the pre-Skype days!


Prensky, M. (2001) Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf


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