21st century learning
Society, technology and the times change so fast that any fact, process, or algorithm learnt at school today becomes less useful beyond tomorrow.
The real skills that serve us are our ability to adapt, learn, apply the products of our learning and participate in the challenges of our time. That doesn’t mean that facts are useless, nor that specific tools don’t matter, but rather that unless we can demonstrate an ability to absorb and apply both, we haven’t actually gained the ability to be effective in any given environment.
Learners should use tools at school that help them develop a general ability to learn new tools. This general ability is the skill of analysis. It is the ability to break a complex problem into pieces, identify familiar patterns in the pieces, solve them using existing tools, and synthesize the results into a view or answer. We want to ensure that learners graduate with this ability, making them effective, successful, productive and fulfilled members of society.
The Thunderbolt Kids
When we think about our educational experience we tend to think about school or university and, when we think of these, we often think of listening to a talker at the front of a room. But when we think about our best learning experiences we probably think about our role models who taught us by example, rather than by instruction. The Thunderbolt Kids are there to provide problem-solving role models who show by example what it means to be a creative, committed, analytical thinker.
In a series of comic-style stories, our characters talk about and show in action how they solve problems; ask questions; build models to help their understanding; learn by making mistakes and reflecting; pursue their personal interests; and, importantly, have fun.
The Thunderbolt Kids represent four different learning and thinking styles, which means learners are likely to empathise strongly with at least one of these characters. In doing so, learners can discover how they can more effectively use their own, natural thinking style (which may not be fully appreciated or encouraged within their own school). Furthermore, they can also discover how to supplement their intuitive thinking style with other ways of thinking and solving problems.
Natural Sciences and Technology
Asking questions and discovering our world around us has been central to human nature throughout our history. Over time, this search to understand our natural and physical world through observation, testing and refining ideas, has evolved into what we loosely think of as ‘science’ today.
We would like to instill this sense of curiosity and an enquiring mind in young learners. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are not subjects to be feared, rather they are tools to unlock the potential of the world around you, to create solutions to problems and to discover the possibilities.
In partnership with and sponsored by, the Sasol Inzalo Foundation, we produced Grade 4-6 Natural Sciences and Technology workbooks, and used our Thunderbolt Kids brand and approach to create an engaging, exciting science adventure. The offering includes a complete curriculum, textbooks and workbooks with additional resources:
- online textbooks and workbooks
- embedded videos and simulations
- extension activities and ideas
- engaging and enriching teachers' guides
- downloadable textbooks, concept maps and posters
What are you waiting for! Join Sophie, Farrah, Jojo and Tom to discover the fascinating world we live in!
Our future plans for the Thunderbolt Kids
In South Africa and in many other countries, mathematics and science education are in crisis. In South Africa, the origin of the problem is the chronic shortage of mathematics teachers, but the problem extends beyond supply and demand.
Not so long ago, the only cultural distraction for learners was TV, but learners of today are drawn to much more. So, it is not surprising that even the best maths and science teachers struggle against these alphabet amusements. How can you attract and retain attention among learners whose minds would rather be elsewhere?
Yet, if we are honest, we must recognise that the problem of drawing learners into mathematics and science is not a recent phenomenon. To the extent that mathematics and science are formalised, dissociated and presented out of their natural context, as so often happens at school, learners find them tedious, boring and mentally painful. And, to the extent that we fail to develop mathematicians and scientists, we fail to develop some of the most valuable intellectual Atlases of tomorrow, who can carry the hopes of the nation on their shoulders.
For these reasons we need to find new ways to build analytical capacity in learners. These new techniques need to speak to the real interests of today's learners. Some artificial motivation quickly thrown in at the beginning of a lesson just won't do. What is needed are tools that enable learners to explore their personal interests, yet carry with them powerful mathematical and scientific ways of thinking, which become second nature for learners.
We have lots in store for the Thunderbolt Kids when we build out our primary school offering and software in the future. The focus will be to create an integrated e-learning experience that incorporates stories, real life application, modelling, simulations, computer programming, designing, peer collaboration, reflection and play. An enriched experience such as this has further impact and reach if it links to and reinforces what learners cover during class, but is not bound by the constraints of a curriculum.
With the phenomenal changes that have taken place outside the classroom over the last 100 years, it is time to bring some of those changes into the classroom in order to prepare learners for the challenges of the 21st century.