What we get wrong about 21st century learning

by | Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Click on diagram to download a hi-res version

Back in 2013 we proposed a framework for 21st century learning based on a synthesis of a range of reports, books, and articles (Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe & Terry, 2013 & diagram above). That article however was relatively abstract and what was unclear was whether this framework was consistent with what educator really think. This article provides the results of a survey on what educators think about 21st century learning. The results are thought-provoking—and we argue in some senses deeply misguided. We identify are three key myths about 21st century learning and suggest that these emerge as a consequence of an unreflective emphasis on the power of technology to access information as well as a fundamental misunderstanding of the very nature of learning and the broader goals and purposes of education. Complete reference, pdf of article and abstract below.

Mishra, P. & Mehta, R.  (2017). What We Educators Get Wrong About 21st-Century Learning: Results of a Survey. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 33:1, 6-19

Abstract: Twenty-first-century learning and how it differs from prior conceptions of learning have received significant attention lately. Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe, and Terry (2013) offered a synthesis of multiple expert frame- works and perspectives on 21st century learning, summarizing them in nine forms of knowledge (under three broad categories: foundational, humanistic, and meta). Using this framework, in this study, 518 practicing educators completed a survey on their beliefs about 21st-century learning, allowing us to compare practitioners’ perspectives to that of the experts. Our analyses indicate that, in contrast to the expert view as Kereluik et al. synthesized, which equally valued all the categories, survey participants ranked creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking (meta-knowledge) and digital/information and communication technology (ICT) literacy (one component of foundational knowledge) as being most important. Life/job skills, ethical/ emotional awareness, and cultural competence (humanistic knowledge) were ranked lower, while disciplinary and cross-disciplinary knowledge (two components of foundational knowledge) were regarded as being least important. Though these results are consistent with some popular views about 21st-century learning, we argue that this reduced emphasis on foundational and humanistic knowledge is misguided. It is, we suggest, the consequence of an unreflective emphasis on the power of technology to access information and a fundamental misunderstanding of the very nature of learning and the broader goals and purposes of education. Finally, we highlight three myths about learning in the 21st century and offer recommendations to address these myths.

A few randomly selected blog posts…

Impact of technology v.s. chewing gum on learning

Just got this from Tom Reeves at the CIMA conference, Twente University. Allen, K. L., Galvis, D., Katz, R. V. (2006). Evaluation of CDs and chewing gum in teaching dental anatomy. The New York state dental journal. 72(4): pp 30-33. Abstract: The purposes of this...

Mathematical insight on reality & you (yes, you!)

Mathematical insight on reality & you (yes, you!)

I have always been intrigued by the manner in which everyday ideas get "mathematicized" (if that's a word). For instance, the other day, on a bus-stop by my office I noticed an equation written on the wall. I have no idea why it was there, but...

Koehler, Mishra & Yahya 2007

Koehler, Mishra & Yahya (2007) is an important paper in the TPACK related work for a range of reasons. The research captured in this paper actually predates the TCRecord (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) article, but the vagaries of publishing and journal waiting-lists...

TPACK @ Henrico

The Innovative Educator had a recent post about how the "Henrico County School system has adopted TPACK as the Framework for professional development and 21st Century Learning." Read the complete story Using TPACK as a Framework for Tech PD, Integration and...

Principled Innovation meets Design: 1 new model and 2 videos

Principled Innovation meets Design: 1 new model and 2 videos

Our college has embraced the idea of Principled Innovation as being a core value that informs everything we do. (More on this in this post by Cristy Guleserian and in the PI framework document). Defining Principled Innovation: Design by Punya Mishra At the heart of...

A-EYE: When AI can see

A-EYE: When AI can see

AI can now see! And talk to you about what it sees! ChatGPT released its latest upgrade - the ability to not just create images but also to interpret them. I had been waiting for a while now to get access to these new vision features - and just this morning it popped...


Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011) To all of us who value creativity and design the passing of Steve Jobs is the passing of an era. I know my world changed when I first saw the Macintosh. I was a freshly minted electrical engineer who was trying to get out of engineering...

Of games, mood and age

I love reading. I love watching movies. I love over-analyzing books and movies, seeking to find pattern and structure, motifs and motives. I love to break them down in my mind and put them back together again. I read reviews of books and movies by the ton, sometimes...

Wislawa Szymborska, 1923 – 2012

Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska passed away a couple of days ago. I first heard of her on an NPR show a few years back (and had included a couple of her poems on the blog - see here and here). If you have never read her work, I entreat you to do so. She is an...


  1. Matt Townsley

    Hey Punya. Thank you for sharing this article on your blog. I enjoy the opportunity to download and read your writing, whether it’s TPACK or creativity. I was especially drawn to the statements, “Information does not equate to knowledge. Also, as teachers and teacher educators, we need to be careful when we start considering technology as a replacement for experts in the classroom” (p. 14). Looking beyond one “miracle cure” keeps me going as a central office administrator with curriculum and technology responsibilities. I appreciate your willingness to disseminate these articles for others to read in a public space.

    • Punya Mishra

      Thanks Matt. Glad you liked the article. This was one that I had been wanting to write for a long time. Glad to finally get it out there.



  1. Better late than never, 21st century learning: New article – Punya Mishra's Web - […] for a broader audience. Of course the more academic versions of the article can be found here and here.…
  2. Technology Review: LinkedIn – Pamela Wegener Blog - […] need to develop strong digital literacy skills to be competitive in the 21st Century workplace. Mishra (2017) conducted a…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *