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21st Century Skills

Blog Entries

By Helen Soulé, Ph.D, Executive Director, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

The class of 2031—these are the students who are in Kindergarten this year! If the past decade is any indication, these post-secondary graduates will face a very different world than we can imagine. Our challenge—help them get ready!

Now Is The Hour

Now more than ever, the traditional factory model approach to education practiced over the last 50 years in which students are "widgets" to which "parts" (content) are added by the workers (teachers) as they move along an assembly line and emerge identical to each other will not prepare our students for post-secondary education, work or life. In order to be successful, all students need both broad and deep content knowledge plus the 21st century's 4Cs, life and career skills and a global perspective. Learning must be engaging, connected to the real world, collaborative and personalized. Policymakers, district and school leaders and teachers must embrace new roles as facilitators, collaborators, leaders, lifelong-learners and project managers.

The Most Recent Research

For the last decade, P21 has advocated that 21st century learning requires large-scale transformation of our educational systems, including reimagining teaching, learning and structure. New models are emerging with promising results. Research just released by the American Institute for Research (AIR) ...

By Tatyana Warrick, Communications Manager, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

As of today, there are 40 schools across the country recognized by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) as 21st Century Learning Exemplars. Each school is a unique microcosm, working in tangent with district and state leadership, universities, community organizations, businesses, students, and teachers to create a community of learning to prepare kids for the challenges of life, college, and career.

For these schools, and hundreds more, being a “21st century learning exemplar” is more than a slogan, or a mission statement – it is embedded in the school's learning culture. This is where the 4Cs – Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity – come to life and create meaningful learning experiences for both students and educators.

In 2013, P21 launched the Exemplar Program to share what 21st century learning looks, sounds and feels like, and where it is happening. We were honored to add 15 additional schools in 2014 to this cadre of exemplary, transformative learning and to share their stories of 21st century learning in practice ...

In reflecting on our work over the past year, we at the Learning First Alliance are particularly proud of our efforts to learn what it will take to get Common Core right. We highlighted perspectives on the issue from a number of state and local leaders in podcasts and written interviews, engaged with the public in a series of Twitter Town Halls on issues related to implementation, released commentary in local markets, and celebrated progress in our efforts to delay tying high-stakes consequences to standardized assessments aligned with the standards.

But education in 2014 wasn’t just about Common Core. In December alone, major events transpired: the U.S. Department of Education released proposed federal regulations for teacher preparation programs (open for comment until February 2), and the FCC approved a major increase in funding for the E-rate program, a decision will greatly expand schools' and libraries' access to high-speed internet.

We covered these items and much, much more on our blog this year. Of all that we posted, what caught the attention of you, our readers? Here are our top posts of 2014, as determined by Google Analytics. Enjoy!

  1. Three Ways to Build Trust for Professional Learning – In our top post of 2014, Learning Forward Senior Fellow Hayes Mizell argues that a lack of trust is at the core of many educators’ cynicism about and resistance to professional learning, and he offers three ways that leaders responsible for organizing professional learning can build it.
  2. Brain Research: Three Principles for the 21st Century Classroom – Brain research has given us some solid principles in the past decade
  3. ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

STEM for All Kids

STEM is far more nuanced than the acronym suggests. At an early December NCTET-sponsored event at Discovery Education headquarters, the focus was on the importance of STEM in teaching and learning.

Science, technology, engineering and math aren’t just for individuals who already excel in the subjects; STEM can be for all students in all classes. And it really isn’t about excelling in key subjects, but a mindset that can be infused across a curriculum. In school, STEM helps students see what they can be, what they can do, and what problems they can solve. You can’t be what you can’t see, and STEM learning is a logical connection to the real world opportunities students can pursue in their future careers.  ...

By Craig Thibaudeau, Chief External Relations Officer, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

On Thursday (Dec. 11), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will consider a proposal by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to allocate more funding to support schools across the country that need to modernize the technology infrastructure for digital learning. ISTE applauds Chairman Wheeler for his bold leadership to invest in education. His proposal to make an additional $1.5 billion in E-Rate funds available to schools and libraries to pay for fiber-optic lines, Wi-Fi access points and the cost of internet service is worthy of support by the entire commission.

The vote by the FCC on Thursday goes beyond simply making more funds available for reliable and fast connectivity. A vote for the chairman’s proposal is a vote for digital learning, equity of access and an investment in teachers.

For Loretta Robinson, a superintendent in Miami, Oklahoma, increasing the on-going E-Rate support is about access to digital learning. “Access to high-speed broadband is the key to allowing modern learning and teaching in schools across the country. Miami is a rural community with limitations in curriculum offerings. It is imperative that our students have digital learning available. It is also imperative [that] our teachers have access to online resources for students’ learning, as well as their own,” said Robinson ...

Aaron Bredenkamp currently serves as the dean of students at Westside High School in Omaha, NE, a position he's held for two years. Prior to this role, he worked for five years in a variety of capacities (including mathematics teacher, curriculum developer, technology director and building representative for the local teachers union) at Westside Career Center, an alternative setting. He began his teaching career in Chicago with Teach for America, and he is currently a doctoral candidate with an emphasis on school finance at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Mr. Bredenkamp was recently honored as a 2014 PDK Emerging Leader. In 2012, he was named a U.S Department of Education classroom fellow.

He recently took time to offer his insights on issues he cares deeply about, including approaches to school discipline, the importance of providing support to teachers and staff, and the valuable role of personalized learning as a tool for student engagement.

Public School Insights (PSI): First, let’s start with a little of your background. How long have you been dean of students at Westside High School, and where were you before that?

Bredenkamp: This is my second year as the dean of students. Prior to that I taught at Westside’s alternative setting for 5 years. I began my career teaching in alternative education in Chicago, IL, as a part of Teach for America, before returning home to use the skills I learned in TFA to contribute to the community where I was raised.

Public School Insights (PSI): You have a strong commitment to engaging all students. Would you discuss the role of personalized learning in this effort?

Bredenkamp: My commitment to personalized learning began as a teacher in the alternative setting. I quickly learned that students who were previously unsuccessful, and who often had behavioral issues, did not have their educational needs met in the standard academic environment. After I adjusted my own instruction in order to meet their learning needs, behavioral incidents decreased and academic success increased. Quickly these students developed a love of learning. ...

Common Core implementation brings more rigorous standards, new assessments, increased online technical demands and significant shifts in curriculum and instruction. Why, then, should we also ask educators and schools to prioritize social-emotional learning skills?

Preparing students for 21st century success means ensuring they are “College-, Career-, and Contribution-Ready,” as outlined in Social-emotional skills can boost Common Core Implementation, a piece by Maurice Elias in the November 2014 issue of PDK’s Kappan magazine. After all, we want our students to be productive citizens, contributing members in their workplace and family units, and prepared to embrace the diverse global community upon graduation. ...

Earlier this week, I was fortunate to have an invitation to the White House to attend the President Obama’s announcement of the Future Ready Schools Initiative as part of the administration’s ConnectED program. One hundred school superintendents were also in the audience as part of the first-ever Superintendents’ Summit at the White House, which served as the kickoff to the initiative. During the ceremony the superintendents signed a pledge – on their tablets – that proclaimed their commitment to ensuring their districts were Future Ready with broadband connections to the classroom, digital content for their students, devices to support the curriculum materials and professional development for their teachers so they are supported in using technology effectively for teaching and learning activities.

What this part of the administration’s ConnectED initiative recognizes is that leadership counts when change is happening. I couldn’t agree more, and it’s my hope that all the efforts being put forth by the education leaders in the room and across the country, whether a pledge is signed or not, are successful in bringing innovation supported with appropriate technology to every school and every classroom. The elephant in the room is that these sorts of photo op ceremonies and initiatives around bringing technology into public schooling have been taking place for more than twenty years ...

By Jim Bellanca, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Driving Question: What happens when evidence challenges “yes buts” about deeper learning?

My 9th grade English teacher always insisted that I define the key term when introducing a new topic. A driving question dictates the same.  Plus, every time I see a blog post or magazine article about “Deeper Learning,” the first question I’m asked is what that key term means. More often than not, I am asked for examples to clarify the term. On the other hand, I hear “yes… but” that the term “deeper learning” is “old hat” or “everybody does that.” Thus, I thought it might be a good idea to layout the definition, some examples and describe its ingredients before responding to the key “yes, buts…”

Definitions and Descriptions

As I understand it, Deeper Learning is an umbrella term that describes what happens when teachers challenge students to explore, investigate, solve problems, or inquire about topics that they need to understand in depth and in life. Teachers who desire deeper learning results create deeper learning not as an occasional strategy that is nice for some, but as their fundamental approach that is necessarily good for all ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

Charles Herndon has scoured the fields and the Lake Erie shore along Ohio’s Kelleys Island for most of his 60 years, seeking boulders that carry a story that he can reveal. Stone sculptures litter the outdoor gallery at his home, and dozens more occupy pedestals and floor space in a more traditional albeit cluttered indoor gallery. Touching is allowed as long as visitors remove their shoes to avoid introducing dirt and other particles that might damage his art.

Herndon’s favorite sculpture is one he’s named So Far, No Farther. Glaciers and tugs of the earth and water pushed this piece of gabbro rock so far and no farther, and then Herndon applied his tools and took it, again, so far and no farther. He fell in love with the stone so much that he kept track of how long he worked on it: 333 hours, nearly all of it using simple hand tools and abrasives ...

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