We’ve decided here at Celebrate Kids, Inc., that there’s something more important than what methods teachers use and what skills they’re teaching. Yes, we’re excited about helping teachers and students understand, embrace, and use 21st-Century skills. We’re fans of authentic tasks and see benefits of project-based learning, especially when it starts with young children and they come to expect some of their learning and practicing of content and skills to be embedded in projects. This means they gain character qualities and skills necessary for successful project-based learning early on.

But, what’s more important? Teachers, administrators, parents, and others who care about young people must understand who they’re teaching. When we understand WHY projects, authentic tasks, and applying knowledge vs. just learning it works for our students (not us), we’ll know what type of teaching methods and assignments to use.

This generation of students is unlike any we’ve educated before because they have been raised in a world drastically different from their parents and most teachers. They are who they are because of the influence of video and computer games, other technology, and instant everything (e.g., email, messaging, cell phones, i-Tunes). Consequently, they have unique characteristics and learning patterns. Their uniqueness requires updated approaches so educators can be successful.

For these and other reasons, projects and authentic tasks work well:

  • Having been raised with drop-down menus, students don’t just want choices, they need them.
  • They’re used to learning by playing. When’s the last time you saw a young person read a manual to figure out how to use a new phone or to play a video game?
  • They need help learning how to solve problems. They’ve been raised believing that you fix things by hitting “control-alt-delete.”
  • They’re non-linear and believe there’s always more than one way to do things. (As stated above, they don’t necessarily apply this belief to problem solving!)

Students tell us they often feel judged as if there’s something wrong with the way they are. As we interact with parents, grandparents, and educators, we have found many who are waiting for young people to mature and grow out of what seem to be problematic and immature behaviors. But, they won’t grow out of them. This is who they’ve been raised to be. Educated well, they’ll be able to use their uniqueness in positive future-oriented ways.