Thursday, May 8, 2008

21st Century Skills

There is a lot of discussion happening in the instructional technology world and education in general about 21st century skills for students. In fact - this blog is about teaching in the 21st century. Those that say "This is how I learned and look how I turned out" don't realize the damage they are doing to our kids. That attitude will not prepare our students for the world that will live in when they are grown.

The article 21st Century Skills from Campus Technology gives this example "Recently, a new hire at a friend's company was assigned the task to review, analyze, and write a report about several organizations the company was interested in working with. Andrea Brands, AT&T's director of public affairs, describes the result: "My friend received a poor narrative, just a long summary, and it wasn't comprehensive." The employee didn't use any initiative, didn't go beyond the superficial. The employee was unprepared for the job."

Most teachers will agree that would want their students to be prepared for the future. Isn't that why we do this?

The solution: become a 21st Century Teacher. That means the words "that's technology and I've been fine without it so far" or "I don't have the time or resources", etc., can no longer be a part of your vocabulary. It should become unacceptable for classroom teachers to dig their heals in and not learn what will help our kids be successful. It can be such a fearful thing for some people and THAT'S OKAY! What is not okay - fear that drives teachers into denial about the importance of moving their teaching into the 21st century. It will not be easy. It may not even be plesant in some cases; however, that does not diminish it's importance.

What exactly does a 21st Century Teacher look like? Someone whose teaching focuses on student and not on the teacher. Anthony Chivetta, a frequent writer on the Students 2.0 blog, makes this point in his blog 21st Century Education: Thinking Creatively "Twenty-first century education won’t be defined by any new technology. It won’t be defined by 1:1 laptop programs or tech-intensive projects. Twenty-first century education will, however, be defined by a fundamental shift in what we are teaching—a shift towards learner-centered education and creating creative thinkers. Today’s world is no longer content with students who can simply apply the knowledge they learned in school: our generation will be asked to think and operate in ways that traditional education has not, and can not, prepare us for." Here is what strikes me about this statement - it is made from a student. Again I say - aren't they the reason we're here!

Because my focus is on instructional technology, my job focuses on helping teachers move towards 21st Century Teaching by using many of the technology tools available; however, it is not enough to use the technologies - it is in how they are used. The paradigm has to shift in teaching or nothing that is changed will work. Help the students understand how to learn and research and find the answers themselves, don't just give them the information. What's the fun in that? :) Foster that curiosity that people are born with naturally. It's okay to say "I don't know". Most kids these days don't expect adults to "know everything" simply because they understand the true expanse of knowledge and information.

If you are a teacher that has begun the process of becoming (or have become) a 21st Century Teacher (I do realize it doesn't happen overnight...and I don't expect it too!), I applaud you. If you want to move towards 21st Century Teaching, I challenge you to find someone in the first category because, as educators, we love to share! If you fall under the category of "don't think so - that is not for me" than I challenge you to think of your most successful student and think about where you would like him/her to be in 10-20 years. Will that attitude help them get there?


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