Tag Archives: 21st century skills

Schools can no longer provide students with a complete toolkit for their futures

Schools and unis can no longer provide students with the complete toolkit for their futures; now it’s about equipping them with skills to be lifelong learners.

Our students need self confidence, adaptability, and strong values

School’s task to develop people as successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.

Knowledge remains vital but it’s not enough. Success depends on deep understanding and having the skills to turn knowledge to useful effect. Deep learning and the development of skills is important.

The curriculum should not be a catalogue of content – things to be learned. Students should be building networks and developing collaboration.

Deep learning and development of skills are critically important.

In the modern world, the evidence needs to be increasingly in advanced transferable cognitive skill – critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.

There is a new emphasis on learner engagement. There is the idea that the learner has to take responsibility for his/her own decisions and has to be involved in his/her progress.

All learning has to become more ambitious. We have our new mission statements. We share the objectives but nobody has yet made the breakthrough to real 21st century practice.

When will we stop talking about this and start taking apart an outdated, irrelevant system?

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Filed under 21st century learning

Networking is working for some in the classroom

Photo by Thiyaga on Flickr

In his post The added value of networking, Will Richardson quotes Greenhow in a Harvard Graduate School of Education magazine editorial entitled “Thanks for the Add. Now Help Me with my Homework.” , who says that the kind of skills students are developing on social networking sites are the very same 21st century skills that educators have identified as important for the next generation of knowledge  —  empathy, appreciation for diversity of viewpoints, and an ability to multitask and collaborate with peers on complex projects’.

And yet skills are not the kind of thing that most people would expect to associate with Facebook or MySpace. Online socialising, maybe, wasting time, perhaps, collection of  too many ‘friends’ who couldn’t possibly be real friends, definitely, and what about inappropriate language and photos?  Isn’t this how most responsible people view social networking?

Surprisingly for many, and difficult to believe for most, is the fact that social networking has opened up a range of much more interesting possibilities for young people. Will quotes Greenhow saying that

most students use the medium to reach out to their peers for emotional support and as a way to develop self-esteem. One student created a video of his intramural soccer team to entice his friends to come to his games. Another created an online radio show to express his opinions, then used Facebook to promote a URL where friends could stream it live, and then used one of Facebook’s add-in applications to create a fan site for the show.

Recently our Head of English has decided to use Facebook to engage our year 12 boys in a discussion of their texts, as well as provide a platform for general questions about English skills. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post. What a brilliant idea! The boys are already on Facebook in their free time, so why not use the groups application in Facebook? What has ensued is an intelligent and stimulating collaborative discussion, in which the teacher comes in to stimulate discussion and answer questions only inasmuch as all this hasn’t been taken care of by the boys. There’s something to be said for this kind of discussion where everyone can comment, taking their time to think, not being interrupted or intimidated by others, or being able to re-read comments for clarification and review.

The Facebook project obviously had to go through the correct procedures before starting, eg. parent approval, and presentation and justification to the principal. This process is a good way to inform the school community, as well as clarify the teacher’s own reasons to support teaching and learning.

The relationship between the teacher and the boys would be strengthened, I imagine, following the Facebook group project. A teacher coming across to the students’ preferred way of communicating could only be seen as positive. The tone of the conversation is friendly, open, encouraging and often spiced with humour. The divide between teacher and student is diminished, as the teacher becomes more approachable. I think students would also appreciate the fact that the teacher is taking the time to interact with them after hours.

I only wish that somehow parents could see the valuable conversation that is taking place, so that they would understand the value of such a project, but I doubt that these students would enjoy their parents having access to their Facebook accounts!

What were those networking skills again? Empathy, appreciation for diversity of viewpoints, and an ability to multitask and collaborate with peers on complex projects. Students supporting and encouraging each other; learning to respect others’ viewpoints, working together to explore ideas and understandings. Not bad skills for life…

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, networking, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

A balance between teaching skills and content

oldscales

Photo by takaken2008 on Flickr

What are 21st century skills and are these skills different to those currently being taught in schools?  How radically do we need to change our teaching practices?

Daniel Willingham has written an informative post in Britannica blog entitled Education for the 21st century: balancing content with skills, in which he asks and answers the important question: why the sudden concern for 21st century skills.

Willingham quotes reports and books  that point to:

changes in the skills required for most jobs. Our economy is generating fewer jobs in which workers engage in repetitive tasks throughout their day (e.g., assembly line work) and more information-rich jobs that present workers with novel problems and that require analysis and teamwork.

 Willingham quotes Elena Silva in defining these skills as having at their core the ability to

analyze and evaluate information, create new ideas and new knowledge from the information.

He also adds to creativity and critical thinking the following essential skills for the 21st century from a report from the partnership for 21st century skills :

new knowledge … [and] global awareness, media literacy, information literacy, and other new content.

Now, this is where I start sitting up and taking note. Although I’m fully on board with the need for 21st century skills, I haven’t felt comfortable substituting content for skills alone. Memorisation of facts without the skills is obviously a waste of time, and I understand that you need the skills to locate, manage and synthesize the freely available information to create knowledge, but we still need a knowledge of some content, surely, otherwise the skills are free floating and without context. 

Willingham ties up the skills/content dilemma very well for me. He says that the 21st century skills require deep understanding of subject matter:

Shallow understanding requires knowing some facts. Deep understanding requires knowing the facts AND knowing how they fit together, seeing the whole.

And skills like “analysis” and “critical thinking” are tied to content; you analyze history differently than you analyze literature … If you don’t think that most of our students are gaining very deep knowledge of core subjects—and you shouldn’t—then there is not much point in calling for more emphasis on analysis and critical thinking unless you take the content problem seriously. You can’t have one without the other.

As usual, a balance is required to make things work effectively, and this should surely be common sense. This way we avoid the too often pendulum swings that have occurred in the history of education

between an emphasis on process (analysis, critical thinking, cooperative learning) which fosters concern that students lack knowledge and generates a back-to-basics movement that emphasizes content, which fosters concern that student are merely parroting facts with no idea of how to use their knowledge, and so on.

For me, this balance is the key to identifying the problems and solutions of 21st century learning. I’m trying to understand the shift in education more deeply to avoid a superficial conversion. I think that, for me at least, more discussion will enable a deeper understanding of the learning processes and the corresponding teaching processes that are essential to prepare students for work and life in these times.

As usual, I welcome and am grateful for any comments, and look forward to generating some discussion.

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, debate, Education, learning, teachers, teaching, Web 2.0

Still trying to explain Twitter

twitterslides

 

I’m only just becoming organically immersed in Twitter, but when asked to explain it, I’d rather point to the excellent slideshow Wesley Fryer included in his 13 September 08 post.  Wesley summarises the 3 learning outcomes of Twitter, as outlined by the South African creator of the slideshow, Maggie Verster:

  • Communicate using a micro-blogging system
  • Update your status
  • Create a learning network

Some people are still sceptical about the value of Twitter outside of banal chit-chat, but in light of Maggie’s outcomes, I think they should challenge themselves to give Twitter a second, more serious look.

The hardest part, for me, was to connect to a meaningful network, and that always requires initial hard work and staying power. A little like developing readership and comments for blogs. Once you do that, the rewards are apparent. Previously, I subscribed to a teacher librarian network, ‘oztl_net’, and that worked well for a time, but the advantages of Twitter are the global connection, the updated status which connects to the person in real time, the fantastic stream of links, the fluid conversation.

I’m interested to hear from others what Twitter means to them, or why they have avoided Twitter.

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Filed under 21st century learning, debate, internet, networking, technology, Web 2.0

Sharing culture – Creative Commons video

George Siemens put a plug in for this Creative Commons video. Thought I’d share it.

Some of the thoughts I’ve taken out to give you an idea of the video:

What does it mean to be human if we don’t have a shared culture? What does a shared culture mean if you can’t share it?

We have all these new technologies that allow people to express themselves, take control of their creative impulses, but the law gets in the way.

Creative Commons wants us to be able to say ‘here’s the freedom that I want to run with any creative work’.

A Creative Commons license says give me credit for my work.

Creative Commons allows you to exercise your copyright more simply.

It’s really about creativity and connection, access and control

Creative Commons is a bridge to this future – thinking not about content but about communities

It’s the space for more speech, more expression.

 

What do you think about Creative Commons?

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Filed under creativity, internet, media, technology, Web 2.0

Fly a virtual paper plane into the future of education

futureeducation

 

I just had to show you this very creative and original site, although I had promised myself before this that I wouldn’t post another thing for a while.

You’re going to love this. When you go to the Million Futures site, you see a blue sky with fluffy clouds and hundreds of paper planes flying around. These represent people’s views on future education. 

Million Futures is part of Beyond Current Horizons – a joint project conducted by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and education innovator Futurelab.

It’s an innovative way of consulting with the public to identify what people see as the biggest challenges facing the future of education, and to gain some knowledge of how people would like to envisage future education. The responses will contribute to a report from Futurelab which will be published on the Beyond Current Horizons website. This will be used to inform the UK government’s long-term scenario planning for education.

There are 6 questions revolving around the central question:

What of today’s education do you want to see in 2025?

When you click on a question, a paper plane flies in and opens up for you to write inside. When you’re done, it folds up and flies into the sky to join the other planes. You can open other planes to see what others have written. I’m not sure how this is going to reflect UK views, since I was able to contribute and I’m Australian.

I urge you to have a look, even just from an aesthetic perspective. What an original idea.

Thanks to @ggrosseck for finding this

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, Education, Web 2.0

21st century jargon

An article in The Telegraph voted the phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ as the most despised business jargon. Some of these cliches really get on my nerves. For example: Touch base (2), Pushing the envelope (18), In the loop (20). Others I haven’t heard of: Blue sky thinking (6), Singing from the same hymn sheet (10), thought shower (13).

The BBC News Magazine published an article entitled ’50 office-speak phrases you love to hate’. Tim from Durban, won my vote with a mixed-metaphor phrase from his boss –

‘You can’t have your cake and eat it, so you have to step up to the plate and face the music’. 

That’s not entirely ridiculous if you mean a dessert plate, but then you wouldn’t step up to it, would you?

What is it about language, that it can express something so well that it becomes popular usage, but that its  popularity leads to its demise? Or is it that we are too lazy to define our own meaning so we borrow phrases and use them to death?

What about ‘Web 2.0′, ’21st century skills’, ‘social networking’? Are these bandied about so much that they start to annoy? Are they loved by some, and hated by others? Sometimes I feel as if I should avoid talking about blogs, wikis, Twitter in front of people who don’t use them, because the very sound of these words are enough to turn people off. How should we speak about these things to people who haven’t embraced them?

Which phrases do you love to hate?

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Filed under language, Web 2.0