Learning in the 21st century

In the last decade the world we live in has changed at such speed that we don’t even realise we are moving. Things we take for granted nowadays, mobile phones, social networking, Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace, Blogs, didn’t exist 10 years ago. The Internet has made information and communication available almost instantly almost everywhere, it has changed the way we relate to one another, we can share information, opinions, and ideas with people we have never met who may live next door or 2,000 kilometres away. It has changed the way we work, the way we play, the way we buy products or plan journeys.

Has it also changed the way we learn?
How has the internet changed the role of the student? or the role of the teacher?
In this video created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University, they summarize some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime.

What do you think? Do you agree with them?


10 thoughts on “Learning in the 21st century

  1. Adri

    I don’t agree at all with the students in this video, because, although some of them say things that are true, like “only 18% of my teachers know my name” which, in my opinion, is very bad because it’s nice that teachers know your name so they can talk to you using your name, or that older people think that we are “multi-taskers” because they think that we can do everything and that’s not true. However, I must say that it’s not necessary to spend two hours talking on your mobile phone or spend two hours eating. I think it’s impossible!
    Technology and the Internet are very useful to help us to study, to search for information if we have to do something for school or University or simply to use them in our free time.

    I like spending my free time talking to my friends on the Messenger, surfing the web or listening to music because, in my case, I find it highly motivating For instance, I met a boy from Germany and, when we talk, we talk in English, so I can improve my English by talking to him (we talk in Spanish too because he wants to come to Spain this summer).

    I don’t understand people who want to buy a new laptop (although I’d like to have one myself). They say that it is very good to have one because you can carry it wherever you go. However, I disagree. I prefer having an “ordinary” computer because you don’t have to charge its battery (which can last more than 5 hours) and you use it for a long time. Laptops are more “easy-to-break”. I mean that you carry it wherever you want (which is OK) but you have to be very careful with it.

    I think that the role of the student has changed a bit. Technology, especially the Internet, has changed the way we study. If we miss a lesson, you can search for information on the Internet (you will agree with me if I say that it is not the same but…) about that lesson but it’s necessary to go to class in order to ask the teacher about the doubts you may have while studying.
    In my case, I can’t live without computers or without mobile phones, because both are “part of my life”. I spend 2 or 3 hours a day online so it’s something very important for me because “I wouldn’t be the same person” without my computer.
    There is a lot of time in a day but we have to organise it. If we do it well, we will be able to do everything we want.

  2. jesus

    How can technology change our life?

    Nowadays, life changes very quickly. Technology is maybe the most important factor in these changes.

    The way we learn, for instance, is changing too. Few years ago when we hadn’t got computers we had more problems to get information, it took us longer to get it. For example, we spent a lot of time getting information to do our homework. Nowadays it’s easier, because you can find whatever you want on the net. But it could be a disadvantage because we can become lazier. We only have to turn on the computer, and you find a lot of things without any effort.

    Technology helps us to develop but, it also creates lonely people; people who are in touch with each other only on the net, people who hardly ever go out or meet other people..

    I think we have to use technology to facilitate education, but not to substitute it. Teachers have to use it to help students to improve but it will always be necessary somebody to teach people. Maybe, you won’t have to go to the classroom to learn the lesson, but you’ll need somebody to teach you.

    I read last week in a newspaper that students of a Spanish school didn’t use paper in the classroom they had “a tablet pc” to write and study. I think this is an intelligent way to use technology in education and to save the environment at the same time. It could be a good idea in the future to learn. You are in contact with the teacher and other students and save the environment.

    Goals, dreams and hopes for people in the future will be the same as in the present time, I think. Technology can help us to get these goals and dreams, but if you don’t do your best, nothing helps you to get them.

  3. Bel

    Nowadays we can use the Internet, mobile phones, social networking, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs… that technology didn’t exist some years ago but now it lives with us.

    I think that Internet is very important for everybody but especially for students because we can manage all kind of information easily and almost instantly so we can do our homework better and quicker. In this way students have more time for studying, reading, doing exercise, going out with their friends, sleeping… Students also spend a lot of money on books and photocopies that sometimes they never use so if they can study on the Internet they can save some money for other things. I also like the Internet because we can share information, opinions and ideas with people we know or with people we have never met, who live near or far away. But the less responsible students can use it for other things so they use much time in these things and just a short time studying.

    My opinion is that if we know how to use the new technologies well they can make our lives better.

  4. rut

    Education is something that has changed a lot in the last years. The principal difference is that nowadays, a lot of people can study if they want to, and it is not important if you are a man or a woman, the only important thing is that you want.

    When I started my university course, the average class size, was incredible. There weren’t enough sits for us in some of the classes. It is true that most of the teachers didn’t know your name. But in the last year, things changed, and a lot of sits were empty in most of the classes. Why?? In my case, the main reason was that I was in another class, in a in a private class I paid for, because some of the subjects were incomprehensible at university. But I must accept that the real reason we paid for classes was the comfort, we found the easier way.

    On the other hand, the Internet has changed the traditional l class, and it allows us to do a lot of things at home. For example you can use it to solve a lot of doubts; you only have to write an email to your teacher. However it can make you spend a lot of time with your computer…so it’s important to combine both things, the new technology and traditional ways…

    I didn’t cause these problems, but they are my problems… it’s true that we have to make an effort if we want to have a job, independence…but this is something that has always happened. Young people have a lot of problems o find a job, and sometimes we have to leave our family, but is emigration something new???

    In conclusion, I can say that we have a lot of obstacles in our life, in our studies… but what can we do to change something which is unfair?? While young people in France where defending our rights we were sending emails to prepare “botellon”!!!

  5. Ana

    Our educational systems have changed so much in the last ten years that perhaps none of us would have believed that the Internet could get to play such an important role in our schools.
    As a teacher I was really shocked by the last results of the Pisa report, in which our students were the worst of Europe in Math and Language. Some days later, there was an interesting article in a magazine; in it, education experts analyzed the success of the educational system in Finland, whose students got the best results in the Pisa report. Most of the Finnish teachers and students agreed that one of the reasons for the good results was the use of Internet as a resource for teaching and learning.

    It is true that using new technologies can be a risk in many ways: students are more isolated, perhaps more individualistic, but on the other hand, Internet can open new ways of learning, improve the students knowledge of the world, make them more autonomous and, of course, it lets them share their ideas with other students throughout the entire world.

    Internet is used in Finland as a useful resource in almost all the subjects, even in those that traditionally are unlikely to be taught on line, such as History, Literature…Our society is in a growing and permanent development, we have changed our clothes, our political systems, our economy, our traditional family roles … and education needed to be changed at the same time through the use of new technologies. The more we use it in our classes, the better students we will have.

    As Chesterton wrote in the nineteenth century:

    “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another”.

    And the soul of our society must include the Internet, because the web is an open window to the world.

  6. lorena

    It is said that the internet is one of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of communication and in fact, this amazing way of exchanging information at real time, has changed almost everything including the way we learn.

    I work as an e-learning producer, so my daily work consists on preparing courses that will be studied on the Internet. I actually believe that internet-based learning is a very good way for getting and improving many skills.

    Studying on the Internet allows the students to study wherever (having a computer connected to the internet is all they need), whenever (with time flexibility) and almost whatever they want (it is very easy to look for related information).

    Important educational authors believe that the only way to learn something is making the student responsible for what he learns. I think that if you decide the place, the time and what you want to learn, you are the owner of your learning process, the main responsible for your learning achievements. But this freedom means consistency and responsibility, so the most common reason for failure among e-learning students is lack of self-organization and will.

    One of the most popular disadvantages of e-learning is the distance between the teacher and the student. I actually think that it is absolutely on the contrary. I have a very close relationship with my students; I am eight hours per day available for helping them in their learning process.

    I usually say to my students: “You are not alone. You should think that there is a professional team working for you at the other side of your computer”.

  7. DIEGO

    In my opinion, most of the things that appear in this video are true. As these students said, the education and in particular university studies are very impersonal and a lot of things they have to study aren’t useful for their future job or for their lives. I think that teachers should explain less theories and demonstrations and they should teach students more real things, practical things for their future jobs. I am talking from my own experience, when I finished my studies and started working, I really noticed that most of the things I had studied weren’t useful in any way while I was lacking practical skills. But it’s also true that students only study to pass their exams and a lot of them cheat at exams in one way or another and they aren’t interested in learning good and useful things for their future, they are only worried about getting a degree.

    About new technologies, I think they are good as a tool for the students, in order to search for information to do a project or something like that or to download class information and not having to photocopy everything. But on the other hand, lots of things that are published on the Internet aren’t true at all, and you must have the ability to recognise which is reliable and which isn’t. In addition, many people does projects using information from the internet without reading it, they copy and paste and that’s all, and in my opinion this is very bad for their education.

    Talking about new technologies used by teachers, in my opinion there are two sides to it.
    It’s all right when they use the Internet to upload the things they have explained in their classes, and allow the students who couldn’t attend access the contents. They use it as an aiding tool for their subjects and also to answer the students´ questions by e-mail or in a chat or blog.

    From my point of view, what I don’t like is the way that some teachers use Power Point presentations or similar as the only tool for their classes. This is completely useless because students pay attention only for the first 10 or 15 minutes and then they fall asleep, start talking to each other or lose interest, and the students are there as if they were pieces of furniture. I prefer classes with he blackboard where the teachers make their pupils participate in their classes, making people think and trying to do real exercises and teaching things that could help the students to face up to problems that will appear in their future jobs.

  8. carone

    First of all, I would like to say that I don’t have so many difficulties as the students that appear in the video. For instance my classes are not crowded. We are 30 people at class more or less, which is a good thing!

    And we can see the blackboard and hear the professor perfectly. I think that most of my professors know me and I know them, which is very important. To get this is recommended to go to tutorials where you not only learn a lot but you get to know the professor too.

    I have to say that going to classes where you do not learn anything is a waste of time. In this case is better try to learn on your own through books or the Internet.

    It’s obvious that new technologies have influenced the way we learn.

    The Internet has made studying easier

    Nowadays, surfing the net you can find a lot of good information about some topics and you can learn by yourself. But you have to know how to look for it because there is also a lot of rubbish information.

    From my point of view this is an improvementfor students. Nowadays education is trying to introduce itself in the new technologies.

    For example, in most subjects I don’t have to buy a book, instead I can download the notes from the Internet and if I have doubts I can ask them by email.

    It’s been suggested to do the classes in a virtual way. I mean, from home using your computer. But I have to say, that I prefer the ordinary ones. Maybe because I don`t get on that well with computers.

  9. Nicolas

    “if only I had had all this” We have all heard this, said by someone older referring to all the possibilities we have nowadays at school and university (PCs, Internet connection, hundreds of books…). They seem to say that everything is easier now with all this technology than it used to be in the past. Maybe it is not easier, just different, quite different.

    Some years ago nobody could imagine the impact Internet was going to have on society, specially, workers and students and therefore, education.

    Laptops, PCs and the Internet have changed they way teachers teach, and students study: Handwriting doesn’t exist now in school projects, full lessons are on the net waiting to be downloaded, as well as exam marks. Some of these exams are done from home and even communication with teacher is by e-mail.

    Nevertheless all this is a double edged sword. On the one hand it obviously helps to make study a bit easier, with millions of websites with interesting information that would take hours to check in books (that can be downloaded too). As well laptops give us the possibility of forgetting about pens and doing the same job in less time, and quite cleaner. In short: we can access many resources from all around the world, easier and instantly.

    But on the other hand the net can be a paradise for practical jokers. Not all the information is contrasted and it is easier to get access to some wrong information. As well it let some students get projects done like book reviews and many other things without any effort.

    Education has changed, is changing and will change in the next few years, whether we like it or not, with the development of new technologies nobody can predict how or when, but we can be sure it will continue. Maybe there will be just some changes that will make students’ life even easier or big changes like attending a lesson from home.

    We just have to be aware of all these and try to keep up with new developments so we won’t be in the future the ones saying “If only I had had all this…”

  10. Raquel


    The truth is that Education has changed a lot during all these years but the thing is, has it been for the better or for the worse?

    Well actually, I am fed up with hearing that it has changed for the worse. Nowadays everybody thinks that the education was better before because they used to learn more about Maths, Spanish and things like that but in my opinion education is more or less the same as it used to be. We even study more things like English or French.

    We know, in general, a lot of things about new technologies because of the changing modern times. Moreover learning how to use a computer is very important. Today most people have a laptop in which you can find all the information you need so that studying is easier.

    I can’t imagine my life without the Internet, how could our parents live without it?

    But on the other hand I also have to say that there is something that has changed a lot: students. They used to consider their teacher as a person you have to respect in every moment, a very intelligent person you have to listen to. Nowadays the students are really bad mannered and that, in my opinion is their parents fault. They should teach them how to behave and respect other people. The knowledge you get from the school is not enough.

    So to sump up, from my point of view the most important thing we have to change is our manners. Moreover, what I would like to emphasise is that education has changed a lot but it doesn’t mean that education today is worse than before.


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