I think the time has come to stop using the term 21st Century [education context] & become authentic #RIP21stC

It has been the passionate rallying call for change in education for more than a decade and has challenged many of us to rethink the context and culture of learning in this century as significantly different from the previous one.

Now that we are more than 10% into it, our use of 21st Century in terms of learning, education, schools, pedagogy now needs to cease. We can’t keep using it forever. One eighth of the 21st Century is behind us, it is time to move on.

Over the past 12 months I have been resisting using the term when I speak or write, yet succumbing from time to time as it succinctly describes what we are talking about.

21st Century learning


Pedagogy that has been designed with the current and future needs, passions and opportunities of the student deliberately embedded in both the learning activities and the environment in which they happen.

It has been particularly helpful to describe a number of areas:

  • the non-industrial era school
  • opportunities that web 2.0 brings
  • learning that is personalised to an individual student
  • collaborative and highly relational learning
  • the way teachers need to work to engage students
  • learner centred/driven pedagogy
  • prioritising student engagement
  • set of essential skills
  • helping students take personal responsibility for their learning
  • creativity and innovation in education

We could call it 3rd Millennial Learning or Future-focused Learning – but a catchy tag, still implies that it is still something different from the norm.

If we need a descriptor, then maybe all we need is ‘authentic’. By authentic I mean that the educational experiences and environment value engagement, relevance and meaning beyond just what the teacher, curriculum, government says the student needs to learn.

Authentic carries with it a deeper sense of being true to one’s self.

The key elements of authenticity recognise that the present and the future are vastly different from the past and include:

  • the dynamic period in history we inhabit
  • the learning needs of young people
  • the opportunities that technology brings and will keep bringing
  • flexibility to adapt to change
  • equipping and supporting teachers to embrace change

Here is the challenge I am presenting myself:

I am choosing not to use the term ’21st Century’. I will just talk about schools, spaces, learning, pedagogy and educators in terms of the culture we live in. If I do need to differentiate, then my preferred descriptor will be authentic.

Will you join me?


6 thoughts on “I think the time has come to stop using the term 21st Century [education context] & become authentic #RIP21stC

  1. I whole heartedly agree with you but have learned that to move the mass and ensure sustainable change, the hammer needs to fall for far longer than early adopters usually accept. I believe there is much work to be done and an eighth of the 21 C cannot yet account for 100 years of traditional teaching.


  2. Anne could not agree more, your blog was forwarded by a friend who we discussed this exact issue yesterday. My gripe is also about us knowing we need a different model/system but very little happening


  3. I greatly appreciate your thought to allocate the status of ‘RIP’ to this cliched term ’21st century’. We are in 2012 and the discussions on education for 21st centurt make it feel like -it is yet to arrive. it has arrived and it is time for focussed action. Authentic, Contemporary or purposeful would fit the bill than…21st…..


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