Monthly Archives: June 2012

Transforming Learning through 21st Century Skills

If you are still looking for a general overview and background information on the subject of 21st century education, this is a great resource. It is very clearly organized and easy to read. Chapter 1 deals with the rapid pace of change in the world as it applies to our students. Two statistics jumped out at me. First, the top jobs that our students will be competing for as adults did not exist in 2004. Second, today’s students will have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38. Lydotta and Jill gave personal observations of their children’s experience with technology in the 1980’s. I was reminded of my daughter’s delight with her Speak and Spell – after all, it was so advanced that ET was able to use it to contact his space ship, right?
The authors identified eight of the greatest challenges for educators today. They also defined generations from Baby Boomers to Gen I, and gave a synopsis of the evolution.

Chapter 2 discusses 21st century skills and a model for change. “We do not believe that technology is a must in every 21st century skills learning opportunity.” A rainbow graphic shows the skills that our students will need to master- they look very familiar and incorporate information media and tech skills as one of several components. The chapter ended with a self check- is your classroom a 21st century classroom? Even the most traditional teacher will be delighted to find that they are farther along than they could imagine. The Who Took My Chalk?tm step by step model was then explained. The chapter summary allows the reader to take a moment to make sure that they have the main ideas presented in the text.

Chapter 3 challenges the reader to recognize the need or desire to make changes in their approach. Looking at our own fears and keeping a positive attitude for their suggested 21 days can allow the teacher time to make a few changes and then reflect on the process. The authors also said that keeping the changes and adjustments positive and happy for the teacher is a key approach.

These first three chapters have provided a solid background and foundation for the next section.

Global Achievement Gap Part 3: Assessment

Wagner introduces several new kinds of assessments that schools should consider to better evaluate the kind of 21st century skills we want our students to have and the skills we want our teachers to have as well. Here are a sample of a few to consider. Even if teachers don’t administer this particular test, I think it could still be useful as a model for how to write our own tests. 

The CWRA test for college readiness: 

I like the real life task element of this test as well the use of multiple documents that students must synthesis.


The ETS iskills Test:

Focuses on technology skills students will need to use in a variety of daily tasks at most any job.



What other ways have you modified assessment to match the new skills/lessons you’ve incorporated into your 21st century classroom?

Standards Based Grading

I heard an interesting presentation/discussion from one of my classmates on standards based grading (SBG) today. I’ve heard people mention the term before, but I previously didn’t know what it meant in the classroom. The idea sounds fairly neat, although it also sounds like a lot of work. Essentially instead of grading students on points, students are assessed on targeted standards each unit. Unfortunately the devil is really in the details for SBG & it’s hard to explain those on a blog.

Right now, it doesn’t sounds like there are strong resources for modeling physics teachers and SBG. I think that will improve rapidly. For now though, I don’t think investing in SBG is time-effective.

How to Use Video Game Tactics in the Classroom

Science teacher Paul Anderson describes his attempt to make his classroom experience more like that of a video game, with constant feedback, self-directed learning, and failure that leads to discovery rather than disappointment.

The lessons he learns along the way, that kids inherently want to be social, and that they will tend to skim or skip reading big blocks of text, are important ones to consider as we prepare to go 1:1.

Check it out!

Blogging with Research

Here is a short blog/article written by a modeler about 21st century learning & the workplace. One of the things Carmela does that I think is super important is cite research. I think 21st century learning needs to be research and data driven.

Global Achievement Gap Part Two:Pros and Cons of Digital Age Learning

In chapter five of his book The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner outlines characteristics of students who have grown up using the web and how it effects the ways they relate to each other, how they are motivated, and the effect on their learning styles.  For each of these there are both positive and negative impacts which need to be considered.

  1. Multitasking

Watch students at work and you’ll see them navigate three browser windows while listening to music and building a prezi. This continuous partial attention can be viewed positively by focusing on the continuous attention  or negatively by focusing on the partial aspect. If they are not fully focused on any one thing, the quality of the work suffers. There is less time spent reflecting on decisions. Studies have also shown that multitasking  contributes to a more stressful lifestyle.

2. Constantly Connected

Students have a variety of tools to help them communicate with people all over the world. But interacting online has also led to cyberbullying.

3. Instant Gratification & Speed of Light

Living in a world where data can be transferred instantly means students learn faster response times, but it they also have become less patient and more demanding and less able to interact face to face.

4. Learning through multimedia

Students receive information now through more than just text on paper. Video, websites, databases—the options are endless. But just because students are surrounded by media doesn’t necessarily mean they are media literate. They still don’t know how to think critically about what they are consuming.

5. Learning as discovery

Engaging in a web search, clicking one link which leads to another which leads to another is the new nonlinear, more active way of discovering information. Students are more willing to try something and see where it goes and discover what works and what doesn’t by trial and error. But much like the multimedia learning above, evaluation of the information being received is not always a top priority. In addition, “the desire to constantly ‘do’ and interact often comes at the expense of contemplation and reflection—essential aspects of both learning and growth”(184).

6. Learning by creating

Students are no longer limited to just consuming knowledge that someone else gives them (aka lecture style) but can create and share their own knowledge with others. But quality is often compromised as students struggle to discern between what makes for good or bad creations.

But just because each of these new digital age characteristics have problems attached to them, doesn’t mean technology should be rejected. In the end, it is ultimately our role as teachers to help students practice more of the positive sides of each of these new digital age learning strategies and avoid the negative. As Wagner puts it,

“younger generations have enormous potential either to become lost in an endless web of fantasy and entertainment or to use their skills with these new technologies to make significant contributions to our society as learners, workers and citizens. What is needed to tip the balance to the positive is an older generation that better understands what drives the younger generation and has learned how best to harness and focus its energies” (187).

Global Achievement Gap, Part One

In Tony Wagner’s book Global Achievement Gap (2008), Wagner argues that there is a gap in American education between what the best schools are teaching and what students really need to learn in order to succeed in the 21st century. In chapter one, he outlines the seven survival skills employers look for in the 21st century that schools should be teaching. They are…

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

2. Collaboration

3. Agility and Adaptability

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

5. Effective Oral and Written Communication

6. Accessing and Analyzing Information

7. Curiousity and Imagination

As I was reading the descriptions of each of these traits, I couldn’t help but think of lots of examples I’ve seen or heard from my colleagues which I would classify as encouraging these traits. So rather than starting the discussion with the ways in which we are failing to teach these skills, (which I’m guessing is what the rest of the book focuses on) I thought it would be interesting to open the conversation online by asking people to submit the ways they teach these traits in their classrooms.  How do you foster an environment of creativity and independence? How do you get students to ask good questions and work together?