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.


Lee Kolbert said...

As a fellow educator, blogger, social networker, I agree that this topic is near and dear to my heart and trying to articulate what something like a 21st Century Classroom looks like (especially when I am not quite sure myself) is like trying to explain the color green to a visually impaired person who may have once seen blue and yellow.

ISTE has prepared the NETS-s 2007 Essential Conditions to Effectively Leverage Technology for Learning. Which gives 13 items that are crucial to a successful truly curriculum/technology integrated program. Personally, although very broad and idealistic, I think this should sit on the desk of every administrator in every school and district in the world.

This document , also from ISTE, is much more "meat and potatoes" and gives specific examples of what that should look like in the classrooms.

There are also similar documents for teacher and administrator technology literacies on the ISTE site.

I'm not about to give up here, but I do think we are spinning our wheels quite a bit unless we can get the legislators to get behind us and tie teacher certifications to technology literacy. In addition, and I'm not a fan of how state testing is used, but I am a fan of accountability, technology needs to be integrated into state testing of students as well.

As a guest blogger over here at Dangerously Irrelevant, Julie Lindsay explains it very well in her post about what in schools is worth fighting for.

Your post is a great one. Thanks for continuing this important conversation. ~Lee

Lisa Parisi said...

Well said. I think, however, you alluded to something that is of the utmost importance. Teachers need to become 21st Century Learners and Collaborators before they can understand the reasons for helping their students do this. That is the difficult leap for education.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, this post is an amazing summary of the 21st CSI. Although the teachers that I know are overwhelmed with things like curriculum demands, assessment results, and RTI, it's important for us all to stay focused on these concepts. You've inspired me to explore each one of these ideas and show my teachers in my district the practical ways to "work these in". I know that our teachers recognize that they are preparing their students for the future, but throwing these ideas on top of what they already have to do is daunting. If I'm going to make an impact, I have to match a strategy that teaches 21st century skills with the curriculum goals and learning objectives that already in place.

Thank you for putting this together.

Patti Harju said...

Liz you continue to amaze me with all you do to encourage and inform educators!
In order to prepare the students for this new world of learning, we need to as Lisa Parisi has stated, prepare the teachers. The students are already diving right in and trying new things, where teachers are more hesitant. Teachers need to be educated in the new medias so that they can better guide the students.

Anonymous said...

21st Century teaching and learning will require that the teacher understand and use the technology. Teacher preparation programs should be integrating these technologies into their programs.

Most importantly, as these technologies allow students and teachers to connect in classrooms or virtual classrooms, TRUST, will become essential element. These "digital relationship" or "byte relationships" must be predicated on trust.

What and how will we provide opportunities and instruction in helping students and teachers alike develop trust and responsibility?

Liz B Davis said...

Lee - Thanks for all of those links they are amazing resources. I especially like Julie Lindsay's post.

Many of you have mentioned that before students can get to the places that I have described, we have to get teachers there first. Let's think of my descriptions as examples of backwards design - this is what it will look like when we are successful, what do we need to do to get here?

I agree, it has to start with the teachers and the administration.

We are all working hard at this stuff. I appreciate everyone's support!

Anonymous said...

This post was very interesting and something that really caught my attention. As a student, learning about how to incorporate the issue of technology into a future classroom seems to be one of the most important things to focus on at a time where technology has become a major part of our lives.

Many of your ideas were things that I had never thought of or as a class we have never discussed, which made me more curious about the topic. I agree with you when talking about allowing kids to be creative and explore different things especially on the web by not giving them directions layed out step-by-step.

I think this is a major step and change for many educators to take, but by reading blogs such as these and sharing opinions, thoughts and ideas with others, the change will be more easily made and more successful.

jennylu said...

Thanks for this excellent post Liz. I'm in the process of trying to write a vision statement for 21st C learning as part of a 3 yr strategic plan and have found your thinking here very useful. You spelled things out clearly about the directions that need to be taken. Thanks.
Jenny Luca.

randynobx said...

Being an upcoming junior in high school, I have noticed that literally NONE of these topics have been taught, and hardly discussed at all. I am very disappointed in this, as I have taught myself much of this at home.

I very much agree with all of your points, and am very frustrated that I have had to learn this at home rather than at school. Is it just my school system, or is it everywhere?

Keetsa said...

Randynobx - while the knowledge of and interest in teaching and learning about all the technology tools available today is spreading, it certainly isn't everywhere and it absolutely is NOT just your school district that is not teaching these invaluable skills! Educational change can be glacially slow, an incredible impediment in the rapidly changing world of technology. People like Liz are working really hard to change this, but teachers are scared - this is so far out of our personal experience both as students and teachers. I think knowing the students WANT this and are willing to help themselves could do a great deal to help bring teachers into the technology fold. Do you have a like-minded teacher in your school you could approach with a specific project? Someone interested in and willing to learn about the tools? With some perseverance and creativity on your part, I imagine you could make a huge difference.

On another note, I was one of the students in Liz's 21st Century Technology Class, and I can wholeheartedly say it was the most valuable, well structured, and fun professional development I have taken. Wellesley HUGE loss is Belmont Hill's gain