Monday, February 2, 2009

Retooling Schools to Meet 21st Century Education

In September a report was published about Retooling Instruction or US schools will fail. The report basically stated that for the US to be globally competitive, attract industries and create jobs, schools in the US needed to recognize that 21st century skills were critical to the workplace. Unfortunately while the global economy has been changing schools have been focusing on closing the achievement gap and not on the demand for advanced skills from students.

The 21st century skills needed is critical thinking and judgment, complex problem solving, creative thinking, collaboration and communication skills. With these skills students will be able to see a problem and find ways to solve problems, handle responsibility and contribute to productivity and innovation. Students K-12 need 21st century skills. To do this schools need to move beyond assessing science, reading, and math to including 21st century skills to better prepare citizens to work and compete in a 21st century economy.

How do schools ensure that students graduate with all of these skills? I looked to the Partnership for 21stCentury Skills for information. They have created a framework for 21st Century learning that outline the skills, knowledge and expertise that students should master to succeed at work and in life.

What some educators may not know is that in 2005 the governor of North Carolina launched the nation’s first Center for 21st Century Skills to improve North Carolina’s education system. Through North Carolina Virtual Public Schools students across the state can take online courses for high school credit. But what can teachers do in their classrooms today to better prepare students with 21st Century Skills to meet the needs and demands of a competitive global economy?

First teachers can learn more about what their district and state are doing to increase the use of technology in the schools and teachers can read through the Framework for 21st Century Learning developed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The essential 21st century skills are:
  • Accountability and Adaptability – set and expect students to meet high standards in the classroom and teach students to set standards and goals for themselves.
  • Communication Skills – students need to be able to read, write and understand multimedia communication in a variety of forms.
  • Creativity and Intellectual Curiosity – help students develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others, being open and responsive to other perspectives.
  • Critical Thinking and Systems Thinking – exercise sound reasoning and understanding with your students to make complex choices, and help students understand the interconnections among systems.
  • Information and Media Literacy Skills – help students to analyze, access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information in a variety of forms and media.
  • Interpersonal and Collaborative Skills – help students develop teamwork and leadership skills, helping them adapt to various roles and responsibilities. Students need to learn how to work productively with others, respecting diverse perspectives.
  • Problem Identification, Formulation and Solution – teach students how to frame, analyze and solve problems.
  • Self-Direction – help students learn how to monitor their understanding and learning needs, locating resources, and transferring learning from one domain to another.
  • Social Responsibility – help students to act responsibly keeping in mind the community at large, to demonstrate ethical behavior in personal and school contexts.

    How many of these skills could be targeted in your classroom? Students learn more and retain better what they have learned when they are actively engaged in the learning process. We need to work together to find ways to incorporate these 21st century skills in our classes.

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