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)
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The presentation to public and non public administrators yesterday went very well. Thank you to all who participated in the VoiceThread, it was one of the tools that provoked the most attention, especially after hearing what many of you had contributed to the conversation. The majority of people in both sessions were not aware of the ability for anyone to join online networks, (other than students) but then again many had not heard the term Web 2.0 or Read/Write web either, so we spent time talking about the evolution of the Internet over the past several years as well. From my experience I have found administrators are more comfortable talking about what they don’t know when in the company of their peers, more so than when in the company of their building faculty. Yesterday, there were many questions which were great.
I asked all who attended to be advocates for teachers in their buildings or districts, teachers who may come to them asking to use a tool an IT department may have blocked. I asked them all to believe in their staff, really to go to bat for them, because I know many classroom teachers do not feel as though they could ever “win” against IT. And rather than make the argument themselves, they give up at the first “access denied”. We need to have technology literate administrators, just as Karl Fisch and Terry Freedman blogged sometime last year about it is no longer ok to be a technologically illiterate teacher; I feel the same way about administrative staff as well. How are classroom teachers to move forward without support and understanding of what they are trying to accomplish from their building leaders? If the people in decision making positions are unaware of the tools and the possibilities those tools provide for students and learning then I’m afraid any significant change is light years away.
I hope to be able to have administrative staff development in my district this summer, and I hope as a result of yesterday’s sessions there may also be the possibility of offering something similar for all districts through the Intermediate Unit, as was done yesterday. I get impatient I know, thinking so many in people in leadership roles have no idea of the types of networks and collaborations we have at our fingertips. The resources we have available to one another and the sharing that takes place 24/6/365. I have to find a way to bring that awareness to my district.
Here is a link to a wiki I would like to use in the summer for any staff development I do on social networking, networked learning. Thanks to anyone who contributes.
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The new administrators are settling into their positions in nicely. I have had a great deal of contact with all of them in the three weeks and I am happy to say I am optimistic with what I have seen and heard from them. One of the many committees in our district is our curriculum council; those looked upon as curriculum leaders in their buildings by grade level and content area. Our new administrators chair this council and we had our first meeting last Monday to give the members an idea of their vision and direction for the district. I lead two presentations with this group last year beginning the conversations of 21st century skills for students and teachers, learning in virtual environments, trying to nudge those in the room toward thinking of adding new tools into their classroom practice. Our meeting last week continued to emphasize those conversations. Meeting started with Karl Fisch’s “What If” which lead into a discussion of ISTE’s revised NETS for students. The group then participated in a World Café model discussion of the standards.
First course – Identify the four most important educational technology standards for students and indicate why you have selected them. Share your ideas and write them down on the paper on your table. One person from the original group stays at the table to share the thoughts behind the choices, everyone else moves.
Second Course – What are the two standards you would want your own children to demonstrate and why? Write them down. This time a different person stays at the table to share conversations of the choices.
Third Course – Which standard is the most challenging to teach students in our particular district and why?
The results from the third course are:
Standard 5 – Digital Citizenship
Standard 4 – Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making
They were also asked to take the NETS back to their buildings and find out from their colleagues if these standards are represented in their curriculum. I am awaiting the responses to this activity. We will compile all the information, the goal being to have faculty identify where these standards are, or are not present, then use the information as the basis for the work of this council. Unfortunately I am pretty sure they will not find representation in the curriculum which will be ok, because now that everyone is aware of the new NETS for students, pointing out the lack evidence in the curriculum will hopefully bring conversations of 21st century skills to the forefront. I know it is a round about way to get there, but I will take any help I can get.
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We are preparing for our second round of Open Professional Development – Social Software in the Classroom. Our first round was very successful and we are inviting anyone who would like to learn more about the free online tools available to use in your classroom teaching or building collaboration to join us in this learning experience as well. The class in the fall was collaborative and engaging in both conversation and the sharing of ideas, we look forward to the same atmosphere and hope to see you there.
When – Class will begin on January 23rd and continue for five consecutive weeks beginning at 6:30PM Eastern Daylight Time, please check your time zone here.
Skype – If you don’t have a Skype account you will want to create one ahead of time, it is free is what I will use to moderate discussion during class via a chatroom. To join please send a message to me, robin.ellis1, so I will have your contact information before we start. We recommend you use a headset to participate in class conversations; this will decrease the likelihood of an echo effect.
Class Wiki – Our class wiki (with the schedule and participant portfolios) is located here http://openpd.wikispaces.com. To join us, please join the class wiki.
Attendance – For teachers who are not taking the course for in-service credit, perfect attendance is not required.
We have geared this class for those new to using web 2.0 technologies in their classroom practices, but all who have experience with online tools are welcome to as well help us demonstrate what we have all found valuable. Hope to see you all soon.
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