This week I am speaking to curriculum leaders in my district; I will be speaking to them about ISTE’s revised NETS for students and how they lend themselves to 21st century skills. On Friday I was surprised to have someone tell me my conversation should be one of explanation, there exists a need for me to explain 21t century skills and their place in our thinking as we go through the curriculum review process. What struck me as odd is the fact that this will be a NEW conversation in my district. That teachers in my district are not aware of what 21st century skills are, or why those skills / standards put forth through ISTE should have an impact on classroom practice. Am I so out of step to think this should not be a new conversation? I do not pretend to be at the forefront in educational thought, but I have known about the push for classroom reform to incorporate creativity, global awareness, diversity, critical thinking, problem solving, and digital citizenship for some time now. The NEA is a contributing partner in the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, teachers from across the US and 22 other countries worked to update the NETS Standards for students. I guess that is why I am surprised that I have to define what 21st century skills are on Monday. In the state of Pennsylvania, for the past three years PDE (PA Dept of Education) has funded $200 million dollars for Classrooms for the Future, a grant described in short this way:
Pennsylvania is committed to creating schools that can change to meet the needs of students by providing instruction grounded in rigor and relevance that prepares students for career and college. Our society has transformed into what Thomas Friedman refers to as a “flat world” — a global marketplace that is highly competitive and where every citizen has immediate access to unlimited information and to an abundance of continually newer and better services and goods. This environment demands that one possess 21st century skills such as collaboration and problem solving and the ability and knowledge to use technology resourcefully as both a consumer and a worker. High school students are poised to enter the global marketplace or to continue their education beyond preK-12 and it is our obligation to prepare them, within a short window of opportunity, for a “flat world” in which opportunities for jobs and higher education are highly competitive. By focusing on high schools, we will be providing these critical 21st Century skills while expanding learning opportunities, creating relevant and personalized information-driven learning environments, and ensuring in the success of these students. Pennsylvania is committed to creating schools that can change to meet the needs of students by providing instruction grounded in rigor and relevance that prepares students for career and college.
Are conversations regarding preparing students for their future taking place in your schools? Do people elsewhere understand what 21st century skills are, and the importance they hold for all students, for that matter, for all of us as the future unfolds?
Image Source Flickr user: oberazzi (Tim O’Brien)