Currently, we are in the middle of what some have described as the Great Reset (Rold & DeVries, 2022; World Economic Forum, 2022), driven by the rapid adoption of technology at scale to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in all aspects of modern life. In this moment, multiple sectors of education around the world are considering a future of learning informed by the skills necessary for success in world that is more flexible, disaggregated, and global than ever before. With so much of the future uncertain, the only thing we truly know is that developing those skills and abilities requires supporting a deeply integrated approach to learning focused more on what learners can do, rather than what they know.
Preparing for the Future with Language Learning
Language learning is a critical component of success for many, and it will continue to gain in prominence. After decades of implementing English language learning programs nationwide, several countries are producing more proficient speakers with general English skills who need to develop challenging communicative skills relevant to future work like presenting, negotiating, and networking (British Council , 2018). Even with the disruption of the pandemic, language educators prevailed, and the use of online and distance learning proved to be a valuable addition to language studies—especially around supporting learners with improved feedback and on-demand educational access (Seher & Erkan, 2021). While employers still value English language skills, there is a growing need for a diverse and multilingual workforce (New American Economy, 2017) capable of collaborating on projects using information from a diverse range of subjects. This reset is an opportunity to lean into best practices and newly adopted approaches that develop the most crucial skills for our students’ future success: collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and a thirst for life-long learning (OECD, 2019; Lieberman, 2021). Fortunately, these are all areas of learning that language educators are well equipped to support. Language educators will be significantly aided by the use of known and emerging frameworks and pedagogies for learning that are designed to help educators support students’ success, regardless of how and where they learn.
Leaning into 21st Century Learning
One of the biggest concerns for the future is how much is unknown or unimaginable. Twenty years ago, it would have been impossible to predict that by 2020 you could complete a full days’ worth of work on a portable device that fits in your pocket, which also works as a phone, music player, camera, video recorder, and alarm clock. Technological advances are constantly creating new ways of thinking and working, from managing social media to addressing digital ethics.
Figure 1: 21st Century Learning
Comprehensive learning experiences that embrace 21st century learning prepare learners with the skills they need to be successful in this unpredictable environment (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2019).
21st century learning in the language classroom incorporates the four learning skills, digital literacy skills, and life skills. Using the 21st century framework to develop interactive problem-based learning activities should be front and center of every learning experience, whether in-person, online, or hybrid.
Increasingly, there is interest in moving learning away from standardized assessment to performance-based assessment (Darling-Hammond, Schachner, & Edgerton, 2020; KnowledgeWorks, 2021). Creating high-quality experiences that synthesize and integrate knowledge from a variety of content areas plays into the strengths of the language learning curriculum, which often leverages learner knowledge and allows for observable performance.
Consider the following exercises:
Write, conduct, and report a student survey with a team (scientific process, mathematics)
Outline and create a video describing the solar
system (astronomy, physics, digital editing, content creation)
Experiment with dried pasta and marshmallows to build a structure and report the results (engineering, calculus, scientific process)
These activities promote communication while also drawing on learner knowledge, skills, and abilities from a variety of content areas. These types of integrated, 21st century tasks allow learners to produce work that can be used to evaluate language, critical learning, literacy, and life skills performance.
Thoughtful Integration of Technology
It is impossible to ignore the many new and emerging technologies impacting multiple sectors. Educators worldwide are deploying augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technology for training, learning, and research.
Ensuring language learner success requires incorporating new technologies into learning experiences to build confidence when transferring communicative context between spoken and written interaction in real and digital worlds. Here, educators will find a great deal of value in understanding and adopting technology frameworks that help scaffold the development of 21st century learning experiences.
Figure 2: SAMR Technology Framework
Two key frameworks are useful in this regard: the SAMR framework (Terada, 2020) and the T-PACK framework (Koehler, 2012). The SAMR framework asks educators to consider how technology enhances learning by examining what technology is doing. While this framework is often presented as a series of steps, it should not be viewed as a linear framework. Rather, the SAMR framework is a tool that allows an instructor to review and question how technology is being used and what additional opportunities may be available for enhancing the learning experience.
Figure 3: TPACK Framework, © 2012 by tpack.org
Like SAMR, the T-PACK framework also provides scaffolding of technology integration by focusing educators on where technology is best used to support learners’ pedagogical and content needs. TPACK describes three domains of knowledge: technology (TK), pedagogy (PK), and content (CK).
While these frameworks can be used independently, both are useful for reviewing learning activities and can be useful when selecting the appropriate technology for learning. For example, if teaching verbs to learners you could use a worksheet and have students match the verb to the definition.
In the SAMR framework, you might substitute the worksheet with a digital version, or redefine by using a 360-degree video in virtual reality where students review and select appropriate verb tags to identify the action. Using the T-PACK framework, you may start with learning verbs and definitions using a worksheet, then have students use a video editing app to create a short narrative that incorporates the verbs to demonstrate comprehension. The result of using these frameworks will be robust technology-enhanced activities that completely unbox the power of the 21st century learning framework.
Social Emotional Learning
The pandemic has also opened discussion on a broad number of topics that impact education, which are especially relevant for language learners. Social emotional learning (SEL) builds critical strategies that help learners with self-management and self-actualization and can empower learner agency in the classroom (CASEL , 2022). The CASEL framework is a useful tool that uses research-based practices to highlight SEL’s core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Figure 4: CASEL Social and Emotional Learning Framework
During a problem-based activity where learners use technology to research different routes for a future vacation, learners need to manage their focus, monitor strengths, and acknowledge weaknesses when researching, communicate their findings, select appropriate information, and collaborate to share results. Using a post-activity SEL based reflection questions can helps learners engage with their self-management and self-regulation strategies in a meaningful way, abilities that will be valuable in fostering personal well-being.
To 2050 and beyond
While the future is unpredictable, we know that achieving success will require both a deep resilience in the face of numerous challenges and the ability to work well with others to innovate and solve problems. Language education is a critical part of preparing students for that unknown future. Embracing the The Great Reset in education and leveraging various new and research-informed approaches to learning, will help to accelerate positive changes in how we prepare our students for the world of 2050 and beyond.
British Council. (2018). The future demand for English in Europe: 2025 and beyond. London: British Council.
CASEL. (2022). What is the CASEL Framework? Retrieved from CASEL : https://casel.org/fundamentals-of-sel/what-is-the-casel-framework/
Darling-Hammond, L., Schachner, A., & Edgerton, A. K. (2020). Restarting and reinventing school: Learning in the time of COVID and beyond. Learning Policy Institute .
KnowledgeWorks. (2021, November ). Measuring forward: Emerging trends in K-12 assessment Innovation. Retrieved from https://knowledgeworks.org/resources/emerging-trends-k12-assessment-innovation
Koehler, M. (2012, September ). TPACK Explained. Retrieved from TPACK.org: http://tpack.org/
Lieberman, M. (2021, March). Top U.S. companies: These are the skills students need in a post-pandemic world. Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/technology/top-u-s-companies-these-are-the-skills-students-need-in-a-post-pandemic-world/2021/03
New American Economy. (2017). Not lost in translation: the growing importance of foreign language skills in the U.S. job market . New American Economy.
OECD. (2019). Future of Education and Skills 2030. OECD.
Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (2019). Framework for 21st Century Learning. Battelle for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.battelleforkids.org/networks/p21/frameworks-resources
Rold, A. C., & DeVries, W. (2022, May 24). From Doha to Davos: Educations great reset. Diplomatic Courier . Retrieved from www.diplomaticourier.com/: https://www.diplomaticourier.com/posts/from-doha-to-davos-educations-great-reset-is-here
Seher, B., & Erkan, G. (2021). Online language learning in times of crisis: Hinderance or opportunity? . Journal of Educational Technology & Online Learning.
Terada, Y. (2020, May). A powerful model for understanding good tech integration. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/powerful-model-understanding-good-tech-integration
World Economic Forum. (2022, May ). Great Reset . Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org: https://www.weforum.org/great-reset/
Based in Chicago, Sara Davila is an expert on English-language learning, twenty-first century pedagogies, and teacher-training best practices. Author of numerous articles, speaker at countless conferences, Sara’s expertise spans the globe. In her spare time Sara develops curriculum ideas and creates lesson plans for teachers, available for free on her website saradavila.com.