Monday, December 14, 2009

Implementing 21st Century Skills

Recently, while perusing Scott Meech's blog, I found a post about Lesson Planning for 21st Century Skills where SMeech (as he's commonly known) highly recommended the International School Bangkok 21st Century Literacy wiki. The diagram on this site is a fantastic view of 21st century learning.  I was instantly impressed with the simple layout and the vocabulary used to emphasize the topic.

Looking at the three main bubbles in this diagram, (Effective Learners, Effective Collaborators and Effective Communicators and Creators) makes me realize we have a ways to go.  Currently I notice a lot of nudging in all of these areas with little movement in most cases.  I know it is tough to shift towards this goal, but working together we can do it and lucky for us, working together is one of the main goals here!  

In North Carolina, we are slowly implementing the 21st Century Skills Framework.  This is a process that started this year in my district and from the moment I saw it I was excited.  Personally, though, I see that it is not being implemented correctly.  I'm seeing the old fashioned "Powerpoint and Lecture" being used to teach these new skills to teachers.  Why aren't we using the framework to teach the framework?  No one likes to listen to a talking head-even if they have pretty powerpoint slides behind them.  

Lets use Wave, Nings, Wikis, Google Groups, Blogs, Twitter etc to teach the collaborative skills from a first hand perspective.  I think this is the only way that this new look on learning will be successful. I was thrilled to see administrators in my district incorporating a LOT of technology into their presentations and  also quite excited to see they were sharing things that were right on track.  The presentations they created were, in my opinion, very good.  I just think it should have involved more "practice what you preach" methods.

In my perfect world, I'd have started with intense training on PLC's using one or two online tools for network building.  Get the small groups on board, let them find their roles in the whole picture.  Once the small groups are formed and they're comfortable, create a whole school social network where the PLC's can share what they're discussing in their groups.  The creation and use of this should be monitored, encouraged, highlighted and celebrated.  Once this is done, you will have a good strong base from which to work.  Your staff will understand why social networking is good, they'll understand that sharing is beneficial to everyone and everybody will have a feeling that they are contributing to the success of the school.  After the staff gets a grasp on why and how to use collaborative tools, they'll sell it themselves to the kids because they'll feel comfortable teaching it.

One of the issues with this whole plan is that it doesn't happen overnight.  It doesn't happen in a one hour staff meeting, it doesn't even happen in a 1 hour hands on workshop.  This is something that takes months to foster, nurture and grow.  It took me 3 or 4 months just to get twitter to click in my brain and I'm a tech geek!  The average teacher might need a full year for this to really take a strong effect.  The good thing is that most generally, there is at least one person in every department that will take the lead and push the others to jump on board.  If you have that, the process can and most likely will, happen in the course of a semester. To perfect it, though, might take a little longer.

All this being said, it takes support, encouragement and participation from all levels-- from administration to support staff. Each and every person needs to participate in some way.  Even with social networking we have leaders and followers which is absolutely fantastic.  Each person just needs to find out where they fit in that picture and run with it.

Would love to hear more about how you're implementing 21st Century skills in your school/district/state.

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