The key factor in building effective 21st-century classrooms is not fewer students or more technology, as argued by many educators, but rather the quality of students' learning. In order to help them meet the challenges and opportunities in today’s world, many educators try to equip their students with not only a strong knowledge base but also the ability to reflect on their learning. Making time for "reflective learning" is increasingly important in the 21st-century educational landscape.
Reflective learning involves being aware of one's internal thinking processes, which allows the person to assess honestly what was learned and to make future learning more effective. In order to describe how they created a culture of reflective learning in classrooms, Dr. Deoksoon Kim and Bill Gartside, Head of St. Columbkille Partnership School, recently presented at a conference held by the National Catholic Education Association. The presentation described how they are creating reflective learning opportunities for bilingual students by introducing digital stories into middle school classrooms. The IDEAS project – “Incorporating Digital Storytelling to Empower All Students” – is a three-week capstone project for 6th and 7th graders that asks them to express and reflect on their learning by creating their own digital stories. The project connects experiences from classroom subject matter with real-life knowledge while empowering bilingual students by giving them an opportunity to incorporate their cultural backgrounds into the projects.
Such approach facilitates holistic learning experiences. Indeed, when engaging in the self-observation and self-evaluation called for by the project, students start to accept a higher degree of responsibility for their own learning and growth, they think creatively and critically, and they gain practical 21st-century competencies with technology and with collaboration. We were very pleased to share this approach with educators at NCEA, and we hope that others will implement similar opportunities for reflective learning.