An Interactive Evening, 21st Century Education Style

What did 21st century education advocates have to share with us on September 5th? Continue and find out.

Parents, educators, and all those passionate about learning more about the art of being involved into children’s education, and tuning into their individual preferences and learning styles, so that they can thrive and enjoy learning. Led by Konjit Moges and Genet Yemane, 21st Century Learning Advocates and working at the International Community School (ICS), the evening was lively and stimulating for many.

Indeed, the evening felt to reflect the principles of 21st Century education: as participants, we interacted with each other, we walked around and were stimulated by colourful images, shared our thoughts on post-it notes, and were also enticed by new information we acquired. We thus used our own multiple intelligences throughout the process.

21st Century Education: Enabling our Children to Love School

Before even getting comfortable in our seats, we were invited to walk around the room and read quotes placed on colourful images, pasted around the room, and spot one that touched us the most. A couple that stood out were:

‘If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow’ – John Dewey

‘The principal goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done’ – Jean Piaget

The presenters then stressed that learning should be facilitated differently from the past, making it more fun, catering for different learning styles, and involving both teachers and parents more. Indeed, at present, they claimed, not all children enjoy their educational experience, and consider it a burden.

Konjit herself shared her own experience. As a child she felt misunderstood by adults. She was labeled as being restless and fidgety, and not listening, and suspected of having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), simply because, when learning she would need to move all the time. In reality, when learning, she thrives when she moves around, when she doodles, and is in involved in other action, because of her kinesthetic intelligence.

Moving away from the Traditional Education System

The presenters shared how in the 21st Century, certain shifts are occurring in terms of how learning can occur, with the following principles:

  1. Open Content: there is no subject that kids can’t deal with. Any content can be touched upon at any age,
  2. Learning happens 24/7: learning can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and therefore it happens also at home and needs to be connected to every part of life. Great examples were shared to encourage learning all the time, like taking a child to the supermarket and make them do the Maths when purchasing items,
  3. Group Collaboration: teachers are facilitators, and learning is generated within the room. There needs to be group collaboration in the learning,
  4. Teaching is a conversation, not lecture: Lau Tzu once said, ‘I hear and forget, I see and remember, I do and I understand.’ In 21st century education, students are involved in the learning, which is not one-way. They are stimulated in different ways, whether they are visual, kinesthetic, or any other kind of learner,
  5. Children are important consumers of data: children can access information from a surprisingly early age. We can consider the evolution of information technology and the social media. In other words, the web becomes the digital notebook.
  6. Mastery is the product, not the test: till now, there often used to be an emphasis on producing results in education, rather than working on the product. Emphasis was on memorizing information, rather than developing the ability to think. The new question is: are children being educated to analyze and synthesize? , rather than product. Are they able to analyze and synthesize?
  7. Contribution, not completion is the ultimate goal: one single person can finish a whole building. It requires the input and contribution of many. In the same way, what matters most is that children contribute, and others will build on what they have contributed. And yet, children are still expected to be first in class and to compete with others, rather than being appreciated for their unique gifts. Children feel they are compared to the neighbours’ children, or other students. ‘Let’s have mercy on them!’, was the appeal made by the presenter.

Another interactive exercise followed, where people returned to the quotations on the wall and commented on the notes on post-its placed by others. Some of them said:

‘It is also important to bring what worked from the past.’

On the quote by Herbet Spencer, ‘The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action,’ the comment was: ‘Education has to be shown in activities: action without knowledge can be dangerous.’

And on Mark Twain’s ‘I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,’ a comment was: ‘Don’t let formal education kill your children’s creativity.’

In the debrief, the message that came out loud and clear was: one should prepare children to do well in life, not in education, by nurturing their creativity and accepting them for what they are,  by being involved in their lives and educating them even at home, the ‘world’s best school’

On Multiple Intelligences

Building on the notion that education should be strength-based, and allowing children to learn the way they wish to learn, our speakers offered the value of understanding multiple intelligences. The theory informing this states that each person perceives, processes, stores and retrieves material in a unique way that is individual to their preference and style. All learners have individual attributes related to the learning processes. Similarly, some children may rely on words to understand new things because they may have the verbal linguistic intelligence, others on visuals, and so on. In fact, the presenters argued that currently, more emphasis is placed on developing verbal linguistic intelligence, and there are expectations around that. And yet, there are other ways of learning.

The intelligences that have been researched are the following:

  1. Verbal Linguistic – learning through words and the spoken; being word smart,
  2. Mathematical Logical – being logic smart,
  3. Musical – learns through music and tunes,
  4. Kinesthetic – being ‘body smart’. Learning when the body is involved, and by being tactile.
  5. Visual – learns more from hearing, rather than seeing (flashcards and colourful images are helpful aids),
  6. Interpersonal – being ‘people smart’. Tend to learn by engaging with others, through relationships, and asking questions,
  7. Naturalist – being nature smart, and
  8. Spatial – being ‘picture smart’.

The learning here is that an effective matching between teaching and learning styles can be achieved when teachers and parents are aware of their learners’ needs and learning styles preferences. And at home, if the environment is set up for the child’s learning style, learning can happen also in the parent’s absence.

As participants, we were also invited to reflect on our own learning style by carrying out another interactive Bingo exercise with those around us.

Finally, we also learned how many elements are at play that can influence a child’s learning, some of these being: the psychological element, the environment (the sound, light, seating arrangement and temperature in the learning environment: how relaxing is it?), and the emotional element (some children may be task persistent, while others multitaskers)


A brief but interesting dialogue followed, with the following points and questions raised in the room:

  • The evaluation system of this approach: a system is set in place so that the system judges, not the teacher, and the student is aware of what is expected from that system,
  • The presenters were encouraged for their efforts: ‘You’re starting a revolution, and we hope it can continue,’ one participant asserted,
  • Our learning style may change as we grow, so we need to be mindful of making sure we are not deterministic about a current style, or we are not pigeonholing people. A key element is making sure that our students are exposed to different ways of doing things, until they find what they wish to focus on or develop, as a self-directed learner and critical thinker.

There was much food for thought as we wrapped up our evening – do we apply such principles in our daily life? How do we enable our children to learn, thrive and grow?

AWiB is honoured to have hosted such an event, chosen based on the feedback given from its members. We look forward to seeing you in future events in which we keep on learning, growing and developing.

We also invite you to:

  • Watch this space and future announcements, as Genet and Konjit will host a free fully-fledged whole day workshop on Multiple Intelligences and related theories – for AWiB members only.
  • Please take a peak at the following link, where AWiB Founder & Executive Director Nahu Senay Girma shares her findings on that status of women executives in Ethiopia, with a particular focus on the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia:

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