Sunday, May 25, 2008

Preparing Students to Succeed in the 21st Century

I often talk about this as a goal. Lately, I've been trying to articulate what this really means. It is easy to say, but what does a school look like that is actually preparing students for the 21st Century?

Many of these ideas are inspired by the 21st Century Skills Initiative.

Preparing students to interact in a global economy.
In order to prepare students to work with an international community of colleagues we need to provide them with opportunities to interact with people from around the world. Teachers also need experiences collaborating globally. Online social networks, such as Ning, Twitter, and even Facebook, provide teachers with a way to meet colleagues from around the world and around the country. These Online relationships provide opportunities for classrooms to connect.

Preparing students to navigate and sift through an excess of information. In order to prepare students to search for and evaluate information, we need to provide them with opportunities to do just that. We need to ask students to find answers to questions and then have them not only share their answers, but also describe their search processes and defend their sources.

Preparing students to contribute to and consume in a media rich market.
In order to prepare students to consume and create multi-media messages, student should be both evaluating and creating Online video, podcasts and blogs. Students need to learn to be both educated consumers and producers of these messages.

Preparing students to tackle new innovations.
In order to prepare students to face and conquer new technology tools, we need to provide them with opportunities to solve their own problems. We can't provide them with step by step directions, but instead encourage them to seek out new tools, figure them out and communicate their learning with classmates.

Preparing students to think creatively, take risks and come up with new ideas.
In order to encourage students to discover new ideas, we need to create learning environments that encourage and support failure. Students must be provided with challenging questions to tackle that don't have obvious answers.

Preparing students for digital citizenship. In order to teach students how to interact Online, we must openly discuss issues of privacy, copyright, and Online behavior. Students need to understand the difference between private and public spaces and how to behave in each place. They also need to learn how to interact Online in responsible and ethical ways. Students need to be given opportunities to share information with a larger audience. They need to be given opportunities to interact Online with classmates in a public space where their behavior and contributions to the community are an important part of how they are assessed.

What else? What does it look like in your school? What are students and teachers doing to prepare for success in the 21st century? What have I missed? I welcome your ideas and suggestions.
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