The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, along with the National Council of Teachers of English have produced a document [pdf] that provides a framework for educators, with teacher-created models of how 21st century skills can be infused into the English classroom.
“This framework, which includes examples taken directly from proven classroom practices, represents an exciting tool for teachers and students as they move toward a 21st century education system. The map also mirrors the evolving nature of NCTE, as we ensure our organization and members possess the tools and resources that are required for success in the 21st century.”
The press release continues,
..the map cites specific student outcomes and provides project models that will result in enhanced student achievement in grades four, eight and 12. For example, fourth graders, after reading several folktales and viewing two to three cartoons, write their own contemporary version of a folktale and present them as a stop-motion or Claymation film. This helps students, through typical reading and project work, learn how to communicate new ideas to others and demonstrate originality and inventiveness in schoolwork.
It is our tendency, however, to see this as a “problem solved.” It seems to me that the nature of 21st century skills (a term that really doesn’t mean much to most of our students) is that they are a rapidly evolving mesh of techniques — that as our political, economic, scientific, social, physical environments, and the logic infrastructure of our information landscape continue to change, what we need to know and what we need to know how to do with it will constantly be shifting, growing, and becoming ever more interesting.
Last week, at the Leading & Learning Conference in Central Alberta, I explained in one of my concurrent sessions that when I was growing up and for much of my adult life, I needed to know how to use an index, table of contents, Dewey Decimal system, and have a basic mastery of the alphabet to find the information I needed. These skills represented the information-scarce environment that we lived in.
In contrast, I demonstrated Snaptell Explorer, an iPhone app that enables me to wirelessly access Internet-based information about a book, CD, or DVD, simply by taking a picture of it. One participant suggested that it might be simpler to just write down the title of the book and author on paper and then look it up at home.
But my point was not that everyone needs to be using Snaptell. My point was that our information landscape has become so intertwined with the physical world, that we live in, that basic 21st century skills, not to mention basic literacy skills, must be, by nature, adaptable. Information users must be resourcefully adaptable — and hard standards do not serve this reality well.
Again, what I’ve read through in the 21st Century English Skills Map [pdf] does a great job of illustrating classroom activities that involve creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and information literacy. they paint a good picture of what this looks like. But collaborative environments for professional educators (master learners) are also necessary to provide for continued conversation and idea development.
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