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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Recently there has been a series of rapid fire introductions to new tools ustream.tv,
operator 11, google presentations all propelled to the forefront through the invisible connections of twitter and other social networking sites many are connected to as part of their learning communities. I have to say at times I feel overwhelmed with all of the discoveries passed on, trying to find the time to look, explore, evaluate, and understand the potential either for classroom use or as a suggestion for use in someone’s own professional development. I have to be cautious of what I pass along, classroom teachers may be likely to try one new thing in a year’s time so I can’t throw too many things at them and hope something sticks. I have to have a clear understanding of how the tools are being used by others in education, have examples to share and talk about. In all of the commotion of new tools I also have to deal with whether these new tools are accessible in my district. Not all are, filtering seems to work differently everywhere. I have to be mindful in this area as well, when something is blocked I have to try to figure out why, and before I ask to have anything unblocked I must try think through my reasons to ask for the filter to be lifted and the ramifications of having the status changed. At times I feel as though I am on a never ending road that twists and turns and sometimes I just wish for a flat stretch to get my own bearings before thinking about sharing one more new tool that has appeared and captured someone’s eye.
Update: How does anyone else do this, how do you decide what has merit to introduce as tools you feel has value, what process do you go through? I am looking for help, suggestions, models to follow, you see in my district I do not have anyone else to bounce these ideas off of and feel at times at a loss for what direction to take. Thanks for your help!
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Vacation is over, we arrived home on Friday to have the last summer holiday weekend to relax before the start of school. The weather is beautiful and I have had time to think about the last month, which has been hectic. During the month of August I applied for a job with our local IU, an organization which services all of the school districts in our county. I had mixed feelings about applying because I was not looking for another job, but thought it would be a good idea to see what it would entail, and if it was something I may be interested in doing. The biggest drawback I saw with the position was the lack of student contact, the best part of my current job is the interaction with students at all levels. Long and short of it, I was one of two finalists, but was not chosen for the position. In looking back on the process I believe my vision of education and what changes need to take place for students to be good digital citizens of the 21st century and the focus of the IU at this point are very different. I strongly believe in the conversations taking place in many blogs which center on how pedagogy needs to change, and I am an agent for this change in the district I work. I have the privledge of working with teachers and students to change the way instruction is delivered and assessments are viewed. In the last year I have worked with teachers and students who are interested in learning how to use the tools now available which enable them to become producers of information, not just consumers, and it has opened a new window into the classroom for some. I get so excited when someone else has that aha moment when we talk of using wikis, podcasts, blogs, images, to incorporate into the classroom. I am really jazzed about the possibilities for children to learn and use all that is available to get them hooked on learning. I don’t believe the opportunity for this excitement would have been available for me at the IU. I think the position is valuable, and serves a purpose, but I don’t think their direction is as global as I believe it should be. They have to service each district in whatever direction a particular district has determined its path to be. Now, where I am, I have the ablility and support to help shape and nurture the path for the future of our students and at the end of the day I do feel as though I can make a difference in the lives of the people I work with.
While I was going through the interview process I had gone out to lunch with a friend to a local resturant and when checking out there was a young woman at the cash register. She looked familiar and I said hello, remembering her name is Lauren. When she turned to me she said, I remember you, you are the whale lady!. Lauren will be a senior in our high school this year and during my first year in the district she was in second grade. At that time, in 1997, Classroom Connect had quests that classrooms could subscribe to and then follow, I signed the second grade up to follow Keiko, the whale in the Free Willy movies. He was recused from an aquarium in Mexico, funds were raised, much by school children, and moved to Oregon and then on to Iceland with the goal of be released into the wild again. Lauren told me that afternoon the project we did following Keiko the whale was the best thing she ever did in school, the one outstanding memory she had of her years in school and it is what made her decide she wanted to be a marine biologist. I can’t describe the feeling of excitement I felt after talking with Lauren. For me knowing I had a part in something she remembered and was talking about 10 years later was the ultimate sign that I am where I am meant to be in life. I am looking forward to the opportunities that await this year as well, and I hope all of you are as well. Here’s to Keiko and many more adventures with students.
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Yesterday Brian Smith posted a question on his blog asking what an intelligent classroom might look like. I loved the question because I am in the process of pulling together questions I would like asked of prospective new administrators in my district and I definitely want this to be one of them. I responded to Brian with these thoughts
I agree with Sue and Sherry regarding administration supporting teachers and also having an understanding themselves of what an intelligent classroom looks like. We all battle the filter issue and it is a headache, we do need to teach students how to be responsible online citizens and you can’t do that if you can’t get to where they live in terms of their online lives. As far as what an intelligent classroom might look for me here are my thoughts. I would add DVD players, digital cameras, video cameras, microphones, speakers, document cameras, airliner slates to use with smartboards, amplification systems for teachers, cable television, projectors in every room or TV’s capable of connecting to a computer for access to display content. Access to skype on school computers for collaborative conversations with classrooms around the globe, access to royalty free images, audio, and video to use in projects such as podcasts for redistribution. Just a few on my list of what a classroom rich with technology would have. In thinking more about it in the past day I would also add webcams or other equipment to make video conferencing a possiblity and a telephone either cell or landline. Have you ever thought of what a technology rich or intelligent classroom would look like in your eyes? Please leave your thoughts if you have I am interested in adding to my list.
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