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21st Century Skills

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Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Lillian Kellogg. She is Vice President of Client Services for Education Networks of America (ENA), overseeing marketing as well as strategic national association partnerships. She has dedicated her career to education and technology and has more than 25 years of experience in working with school districts and libraries in the field of educational technology. Among her many accomplishments, she currently serves as the Board Chair for the Partnership of 21st Century Skills (P21).

While we are firmly within the second decade of the 21st century, it is apparent that so much more needs to be done to help each student truly comprehend what they need to know and do to be successful in the years ahead. This call to action is every bit as important today as it was when we first started the conversation on 21st Century Skills, but it has changed. Early on the notion of 21st Century Skills was aspirational; today it is an alarm bell.

Work and life in the 21st century continue to change at lightning speed (see the Iowa- Did You Know? Video) and today 21st Century Skills matter more and for many more students now than ...

obriena's picture

What Was the Lorax?

And why was it there?
And why was it lifted and taken somewhere…?

Back in 1971, Dr. Seuss brought us the Lorax, a small orange creature who speaks for the trees (“for the trees have no tongues”). The Lorax goes up against the greedy Once-ler, who cuts down all the Truffula  trees in his rush to make a product he believes that everyone must have – Thneeds ("It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat."). As a result of the damage to the environment that his production brings, the Lorax and the other inhabitants of the community (Swomee-Swans, Brown Bar-ba- loots, and Humming-Fishes) must leave.

The story is told by the remorseful Once-ler to a young boy curious as to why the world is the way it is. At the end, the Once-ler reveals that he has saved one last Truffula seed and gives it to the boy so that he can create a new forest.

Today, March 2, The Lorax serves as the centerpiece of the National Education Association’s 15th Read Across America campaign.* I am so pleased that The Lorax is the highlight of the day. On a personal level, it is one of my favorite Seuss books. And on an educational level, in addition to promoting the literacy skills the day intends to celebrate, it can also help students develop some of the other skills they will need to be successful in the global community – a favorite theme of politicians and ...

Yesterday I wrote about the DREAM Program in San Diego’s North County, where third-graders whose teachers had training and ongoing support in incorporating the arts – puppetry, miming, acting, dancing and more – into the curriculum showed incredible improvement on standardized reading tests compared to students whose teachers did not get such training or support.

Another successful program recently came to my attention out of Auburn, Maine. There, a controversial decision to supply iPads to kindergarten students is showing promising outcomes. Students who used iPads last fall scored higher than peers who did not in nine of out 10 areas recently tested around pre-reading skills, with one area – recognizing sounds and writing letters – statistically higher.

These two programs take extremely different approaches to improving student outcomes. Yet the success of both, like the success of most education initiatives, is discussed in the same way - almost entirely in terms of standardized assessments.

While test scores are important, they are not the end-all, be-all of student learning. Both of these programs are likely developing skills that students will need to be successful in the global community, but that ...

Much has already been written about the inaugural Digital Learning Day yesterday, which included a full day of virtual visits to schools across the country making good use of digital media to engage high schools students and address a variety of learning needs and styles and a Town Hall meeting that featured U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, among other high profile policymakers and education leaders. 

As someone who has advocated for effective and appropriate use of technology to support teaching and learning, I found much about yesterday’s event to appreciate.  For sure, the ideas expressed aren’t new or revolutionary, and Arne Duncan and ...

Today is Digital Learning Day, designated to celebrate the innovative use of digital technology in classrooms across the country. A key element of the celebration is to inspire a national conversation, one that can support educators and officials as they incorporate digital technology into individual school buildings and classrooms. Digital Learning Day is an initiative of the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Center for Secondary School Digital Learning and Policy. The success of this initiative relies heavily on continued implementation efforts over the next five to ten years. ...

Tomorrow is the inaugural Digital Learning Day, a nationwide celebration of innovative teaching and learning through digital media and technology. New technologies are the future of learning, and it is inspiring to see how some teachers and schools are transforming the educational experience.

While celebrating these accomplishments, we must not forget that there are still a number of children who lack access to the promise that digital learning offers. Often, these children are also disadvantaged by virtue of their socioeconomic status.

Nick Pandolfo’s recent piece for The Hechinger Report really drives this point home. He highlights Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, a school that (according to the article) shares a homework lab with two others at Chicago’s DuSable High School campus – 24 computers for nearly a thousand students. Many of the school’s students (93% of whom receive free or reduced price lunch) cannot afford computers at home, and they do not have much access to them at school. Pandolfo writes that “Bronzeville Scholastic students born into a digital era struggle with basic skills, such as saving work to a flash drive and ...

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library. Materials are added at the rate of 10,000 per day and the Copyright Office has a card catalogue with more than45 million card entries. It contains 838 miles of bookshelves and holds a collection of more than 147 million items. The Library is open to the public and its resources are available on-site in Washington D.C to anyone older than 16 with government issued identification. The American Memory Project – an effort to digitalize a large portion of the Library’s collection – has more than  9 million items available electronically, for free, to anyone with access to the internet. ...

When it comes to high stakes testing, of any kind, its purpose should always be questioned. What is the value-add of a high school exit exam? Should it test students’ basic skills? College and career readiness? Do today’s tests do either?  

A few weeks ago, a school board member in Florida took a version of the state’s 10th grade high school test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Students must pass this test to graduate, and they have five opportunities to do so. The school board member averaged a D on the reading section, noting that: “In our system, that would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.” This individual has two masters’ degrees and a successful professional career. He admits that while the material tested wasn’t fresh in his mind, he also didn’t use it in his work, thereby making him wonder how relevant it really was for the average student’s success after leaving school. ...

Recently I was looking through old paper files in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) office and happened upon a successful grant application that LFA had received some years ago to gather, record, and disseminate the knowledge, skills, and approaches successful school districts use to ensure their students achieve to their highest abilities.  The project resulted in a publication called Beyond Islands of Excellence that, indeed did chronicle what goes into an effective public school system and profiled districts whose students had benefited from their wise, effective leadership.   I was struck by how much the scope of work described in the successful grant application articulated the concepts and big ideas that LFA organizations and their leaders still work diligently to implement today. ...

We often speak of the importance of teaching students 21st century skills, especially what the Partnership for 21st Century Skills calls “the 4 Cs” – creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking. But what does that actually look like?   

Ask Bijal Damani. At the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum, this business teacher from India told me about a course-long project she uses to improve the 21st century skills of grade 11-12 students and to prepare them for the real-life challenges that they may face once they enter university and the job market.

In this project (which is also a competition), 120 students divide themselves into teams of ten. Each team then comes up with an innovative product that solves a problem to make the world better (so while something like chocolate flavored cigarettes is “innovative,” it wouldn’t count here).

Once the students decide on a product, they have to come up with a marketing plan for it. That plan must include a newspaper advertisement, a magazine advertisement, a radio jingle and a TV advertisement. They have to determine the price of their product. And they have to create a website for ...

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