23 Oct 21st Century Learning at Montclare
December 2019 will be the third consecutive year that Montclare joins millions of people around the world to participate in The Hour of Code, prompting many discussions about what it means to be a 21st-century student and educator. More specifically, what does a 21st-century early childhood classroom look like? While we are always staying up-to-date on current educational trends, as an administrative team, we need to evaluate these new initiatives and determine how and if they are appropriate for our preschool students.
Technological literacy is no doubt at the forefront of 21st Century skills. Most of our preschoolers already have access to technology at home and as educators and parents ourselves, we are cautious and well-versed in the current data on young children and screen-time. Whether it be an iPad, TV or a parent’s phone, children know their way around devices. For this reason, we have researched and developed some of our own coding-without-screen activities for our young students. We discovered that reaping the benefits of the fundamental skills acquired through coding does not, in fact, require screen time.
As more and more leaders in the field of education are advocating for teaching code, even at the preschool level, we as educators and school leaders need to understand the deeper values and learning associated with coding. How does coding support reaching our educational, developmental, and social-emotional benchmarks, and does coding fit into our curriculum in a way that enhances our student’s learning?
What we have discovered is that, yes, coding can be an incredibly meaningful part of early childhood education! The following are some of the researched benefits of learning to code:
- Coding teaches children that learning is a process and not a product
- Children learn how to take complex ideas and break them down into simpler parts
- They work collaboratively
- Coding teaches children how to persevere in the face of frustration when things are not working well
- Coding teaches determination and risk-taking
- Early exposure to coding demystifies the process
- Coding is another way to be creative and problem-solve
As we continue developing coding as a curricular activity, we wanted to dig a bit deeper into the skills that should be highlighted in a 21st Century Classroom. This is how we uncovered what is called the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning:
- Collaboration (and teamwork)
- Creativity (and imagination)
- Critical thinking (problem-solving)
While, in different forms, these are skills we have always nurtured in our students, we have begun looking at more intentional, meaningful ways to reinforce these skills in our curriculum.
Beyond coding, we assessed how our children work in the classroom, looking to create more opportunities for collaborative play and critical thinking activities, including design challenges using design thinking. Furthermore, by scaffolding conversations and asking open-ended questions, our educators encourage children to communicate in-depth with one another. In doing so, children learn to articulate their opinions and to hear and accept the often different perspectives of their fellow students.
Just like our students, educators and administrators are always learning at Montclare. The world seems to be moving so quickly around us as technology develops at lightning speed. Yet, our role as educators is to be thoughtful and thorough. We must ensure that, while we keep up-to-date with the latest developments in education, we are always focused on the individual growth of each of our young students.
We will be excited to share with you our future Hour of Code experiences and look forward to continuing to innovate and discover meaningful ways of supporting our students in becoming life-long 21st Century learners!
Jenny Bruce is the Director of Communications for Montclare Children’s School and is currently enrolled at Teachers College, Columbia University in the Education Technology Specialist MA program. Jenny and Sasha Wilson, Associate Director, have enjoyed presenting at various workshops including FETC in Orlando, NAEYC in Westchester, and NAY