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Unformatted text preview: 1);" Teaching 21 st Century Skills What does it look like in practice? by Nancy Walser all it a quiet revolution. As 2014 approaches—the ‘ - deadline for all students to be proficient on state tests—academics, educators, business groups, and policymakers are finding common ground in a movement to bring "list century skills” to the classroom, prompting state agencies and district leaders across the country to rewrite cur- riculum standards and even to contemplate big changes to existing state testing systems What are let century skills, who’ 5 pushing them, and what does- 2 lst century teaching look like in practice? Although definitions vary, most lists of- '7 lst century skills include those needed to make the best use of rapidly changing technologies the so- calla! ”soft skills" that computers can’t provide, like creativity; and those considered vital to “01’ng and living in an increasingly complex, rapidly changing global society (see "Skills for .1 New Century ” .2). Education Publishers "H a as- "Best Newsletter" 2,008 i The Harvard Education Letter recently - -~ ' -' Distinguished Achievement Award for Best blioaticn in :the ' inmate: category from the Asswatioi of= Educational Rub- . fishers (AEPl' in Alexandria, Va. Founded _t _ 9.5 théAER is a national. nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting exceb lence in education publishing. This' is the $5de year in a row that the Harvard Education Letter received is honor, The Harvard Education Letter also won the 2003 Distin- guished Achievement Award for Best Editorial for "High~Stakes Testing and the Corruption of America" ," by Sharon L- edlet'ter. org. “Some of these skills have always been important but are now taking on another meaning—like collaboration Now you have to be able to collaborate across the globe with someone you might never meet, " explains Christopher Dede, a Harv vard professor who sits on the Massachusetts 215i Century Skills Task Force ”Some are unique to the list century. it’ s only relatively recently, for example, that you could get two million hits on an lintcrnet) search and have to filter down to live that you want. " While progressive educators in the past have often been wary of education reforms spearheaded by big business, the outsourcing of menial jobs and the need for workers to com- pete in a global economy have brought about an unprece- dented convergence ol interests, argues Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap and codirector of Harvard University’s Change Leadership Group. Surveys of business leaders show that when hiring new employees, they are look- ing for the same higher- order thinking skills as those consid~ cred necessary for students to do well in college, he notes. Wagner and others also point to signs of student dis- ‘ engagement from traditional forms of learning that value memorization and mastery of content over student- -designed demonstrations of skills. They cite surveys indicating that U 5. high schoolers drop out more from boredom than failure. “Making AYP [adequate yearly progress) is absolutely no guarantee that students will be ready for college, citizenship, and employment, " says Wagner, noting the high number of students needing remedial coursework in college—including those who graduate from schools boasting high standard ized test scores. ”Our curriculum is information- based and the emphasis is to acquire information first and foremost and secondarily acquire skills, ” he says. "We have it exactly backwards ” Teaching list century skills doLsn t necessarily mean using a lot of technology, although projects may involve com- putcrs, softw are, and other devices, like a global position liabil‘vifiikb Kb Lin Tin; September/October 2008 . Volume 24, Number 5 J» so Iarvard Education Letter mom mama um mm 555er MR my wow 10me MANAGER WW mama titanium: MOMMAWISOHYBOARB ammo Bolas. LemaflfiSE: makCoopmAutSupe-intm— mswmnmuptmm ' drool; Linda Darlinytlammond. visitor, Stanford Univusitx Sally in We incident for Programs 16 Partnersléps in Education. manual College. Boston; Susan bore lohrmrr. Professor. HGSE; abort Kagan. Professor. HGSE: my Kemp, Head of Sdtool. leo- oy High School. Boston; Marya Brenton. Director. leather Eduta- on. Brenda; University, Deborah trier. Co-Prim‘paL Mission Hill thool. Boston tohn Meow, resident. The Metro.» Report; arms i Murphy Professor, HGSE; ury Giana Otis“. Superman- tent of kinds. Ardtdiocese of oston; Arthur I. Rosenthal, Pub» siting (mutant; Eatitefme Show. winter. NGSE; lay Suguman, sachet Rimlie School. Emokhne. Asst; Ariadne Valsamis, Director ll Program and Resource Dmitri.» net-It John F. Kennedy library oundatiort board {domino letter lSSN 8755-37“) is published monthly by the Harvard Graduate khool oi Education 8 Story St. Ianrbridge. MA 02138-3752. Sec- mdrdats postage paid at Boston, M. and additional trailing offices. intruder. Send address deposit} 3: Harvard Education letter, 8 Story it.(ambridge, MA 02138-3752. Forked articles in the Harvard MW letter represent the views 0! the autha rs. Dlmby the President and Fel‘ our; of Harvard College. Finished is a non-profit senirefll rights timed. Special condition is required to reproduce in any heater. in Male orinpart. the material herein contained. HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send S38 for indviduah. $49 for institutions ($52 for (armada! Mexko. S63 other foreign. in us. lunds only). Submiption prices subject to theme “idiom notice, Single copies. S100. Earl issues and bulk subscriptions avaflable at special reduced rates . M dress all correspondence to Harvard titration letter. 8 Story St. Cambtuge. MA UNIS-”52: phone 617- 695-3432 in Matiathusetts. 3005130763 outside Man; lax 6174953584. emu: [email protected]‘du; writ: modicum; L ing system (CPS). Sometimes it’s simply a matter of approaching an assignment differently to allow students to demonstrate skills like teamwork, collaboration, and self-directed learning. Equally important is making sure teachers are able to coach students on how to advance to the next level of a particular skill. This is often done with rubrics that explain clearly what poor, average, and effec- tive skills look like in practice. What follows are some examples of list century teaching provided by researchers, curriculum specialists, administrators, and teachers. 71'}! a Socratic seminar. Instead of relying on the usual lecture-question format, ninth-grade humanities teachers Mark Rubin-Toles and ”Ride Leinbach, who teach in the Catalina Foothills school district outside 'Ibcson, Ariz, require students to lead their own discus- sionsabout a book, documentary, or doc- ument they have studied. Students are graded on the quality of their participa- tion. Good marks go to those who build on, clarify, or challenge others’ comments while referencing information from the material, their own experience, or other current events, according to a rubric given to'them in advance. ”In the beginning, they struggle a lot," says Rubin-Toles, who limits his role to mapping the interactions on paper while the students talk. "There are these long silences and the kids are very uncom- fortable.” Later in the year, in the best of conversations, the students make connec- tions with material they discussed earlier, he says. The exercise builds critical thinking, oral communication, flexibility, self-direc- tion, and teamwork. ”They have to listen to others to do well,” says Rubin-Tales. “Part of teamwork is holding back, especially when you have something to say. It’s like a meeting of adults.” Beautify the neighborhood. Sixth-grade science teacher Wayne Naylor has found a way to weave list century skills into lessons on longitude and latitude and on scale and proportion—required by Indiana state standards— while also working to get his town Certified as a wildlife community by the National Wildlife Federation. In his class at Craig Middle School, students work in groups to identify natural areas in surrounding Lawrence Township that need improvement. One such proiect was restor- ing and renovating the city’s Fall Creek Park to remove invasive species. Using the Internet, students researched plants native to the area. They conducted surveys to gather ideas from others in the community about their plans. Using a GPS and Googlc Earth, they marked the locations of their projects and created poster displays and scale models. Some groups went further, producing a vid- eotape to apply for a national Christopher Columbus award, which is given to teams of middle school students Harvard Education Letter September/October 2008 Skills for a New Century Most lists of 21st century skills include some or all of the following: ' Critical thinking Problem—solving Collaboration Written and oral communication Creativity Self-direction Leadership Adaptability Responsibility Global awareness who use science and technology to find an innovativc solution to a community problem. The students are in the process of implementing the plans they designed. Naylor’s six-wcek unit has something to engage every- one, hc says. One student with attendance problems never missed Naylor's class. Although the student strug- gled in math class, when it came to translating propor- tions from a model picnic table; to build the real thing (which now sits in the school courtyard], "he did just fine,” says Naylor. "He was a leader. Everyone was really impressed.” Build a bridge. Not everyone has access to 40-foot pine trees, but in rural Darlington, Wisc, high school teacher Dick Anderson sized the opportunity to use local ' rough-sown timber to impart some let century skills and real-world entrepreneurship to his students. ‘ Each year for the past two years, stu- dents in Anderson’s elective Building Trades class have been involved with nearly every aspect of planning, budget- ing, modeling, building, and siting a rustic covered bridge. Students worked 60 hours outside of school to complete the last one. in a real lesson in adaptability, the plan to site it over the nearby Pecatonica River had to be abandoned due to environmen- tal issues. The plans were scalcd down so the bridge would fit in a city park near a new motel. The project went beyond the typi- cal trades class in which students learn technical skills in isolation from the real world, says Anderson. Students gave numerous presentations to school board members, the city council, and busi- ness groups, and even gave interviews to reporters from a local TV station. "They had to convince responsible adults to say, ’ch, we'll take a bridge for the city of Burlington,” said Anderson. ”They learned that if you want to get anything done, that’s the way it is.” Make an l-Movie. Catalina Foothills teacher Dana Mulay and her kindergarten class were getting bored with point-and-click software games. 80, to keep her five-years olds excited about learning, she decided to help them use I-Movics software to create videos featuring the solid shapes they were studying in math. She divided them into teams and, armed udth digital cameras, they went into the desert nearby hunting for shapes to photograph. ”Bar- rel cactus sort of look like spheres and a segucro [cactus] is a cylinder,” she says. She downloaded the photos on to laptops brought into the class on carts, and students worked in pairs to make the movies, using invcntcd spell- ing for captions. The prtjicct helped them learn more not only about computers, but also about teamwork and self-direction, she says. ”It was really amazing to see them problem-solve on their own and focus on what they needed to do.” Vi/dk, Save a river. A block and a half away from the seventh most endangered river in the United States sits the Hayes Bilingual Elementary School in Milwaukee. It’s where library media specialist Tomas Kelnhofer is using let century tools to work with fifth- grade teachers and students—the major- ity of whom come from Spanish-speaking homes—to learn about science, their com- munity, and their planet. The Kinnickinnic River ”has been an eyesore—a drainage ditch and dumping ground," says Kclnhofer. Except for occasional debris floating down the wide, concrete-lined channel, the river was invisible to students. Not any more. Partnering with local health and environmental groups, stu- dents have canoed down the river to see places where PCB-laden sediment has collected. They have tested water for bacteria, posted reflections in on-line journals using Moodle, and created a DVD and PowerPoint presenta- tions of their plans to enhance the river area. They have also debated moral dilemmas such as whether the city of Milwaukee should con- tinuc to use salt on icy roads for safety, given the impact on wildlife in the river. "It’s true that our students are going through a continu- ous revolving door of assessments, includ- ing those required by NCLB," says Kelnhofcr. " However, in between these assessment cycles there is time to work on research and projects that focus both on content and process skills.” Standards and Assessment The possibilities for infusing list century skills into classrooms are ”endless,” maintains Ken Kay, president of the Partnership for let Century Skills, an advocacy organization that works with states. Yet there is far more agree- ment on how these skills can be taught than Leaders in 21st Century Learning Some states and districts are forging ahead with revising curricula and. . ; tests to incorporate let century skills, however they define them. ~ " ' 0 North Carolina. the first state to' join the Partnership for 21st Cen' tury Skills, has adopted a mission statement and goals for teaching 21st: century skills and Is completing new standards for students, teadiersr . 5 principals, and superintendents Every middle school will have digital lita- » eracy coaches and every high school will have a digital learning adviser; . 0. West Virginia, another Partnership member, has rewritten its State-'1 wide standards and will give the first of its revised state tests next May. « The state has also invested heavily in professional development, estab- lishing two different Institutes for principals and teachers and a Teach21 :. website. - 0 Wisconsin Is in the midst of revising its math and English cur~ _ riculum with‘an eye to incorporating let century skills. One example - of a change: new language in the math standards might stipulate that students will be able to apply probability and statistics to understand. an - economic, social, or environmental issue. "Learning content in isolation doesn't stick,” says Paul Sandrock, assistant director of the content and learning team for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. - In Iowa, which joined the Partnership in March. the state depart- ment of education is developing model units to help teachers embed let century skills into the curriculum and beginning to look at how and whether to assess them. "Assessment of 21st century skills must go beyond {current} multiple-choice standardized assessments" says depart- ment director Judy Jeffrey ' in Arizona, the Catalina Foothills district settled on 12 skills to teach their students and has rewritten its standards and report cards with those in mind. , 0 The Wrginia Beach, Va., school district has just completed a year- long strategic planning process that included 250 community members. "The resounding message was, ’Forget the tests, don‘t worry about the scores. prepare our kids for the world,” says superintendent James Mer- rill. As a result, the 72,000-student district is looking at only one strategic goal for the next five years: "By 2015, students will master the skills they need to succeed to be 215i century learners, workers, and citizens." I on how to encourage teachers to teach them in the cur- rent climate of high-stakes testing (see sidebar, "Leaders in 2lst Century Learning”). Existing curricula are driven largely by the statewide assessments mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act. Simply adding new standards for 2 lst century skills to existing ones isn't realistic, experts say, since most state standards pack in {’27 years’ worth of content” for teachers to cover in 12 years, as Dede puts it. Some things will have to go or be “dc-emphasized," he says. “There is absolutely no reason to teach state capitals » any more, because you can look it up in 15 seconds on a computer and because it’s not foundational to learning anything else.” Another knotty issue is assessment. Typical multiple- choice tests can’t be used to measure things like team- work. Newer tests designed to assess critical thinking or problem-solving skills, like the Program for International Student Assessment (PISAl, are only recently being piloted in a few U.S. districts. Efforts to implement performance assessments, like those being pursued by a consortium of 28 high schools in New York State as an alternative to higli- stakes tests, are also rate. The Partnership for 2 l st Century Skills advocates a blend of old and new. “Ultimately, we view this as the future of the No Child Left Behind Act, nhich measures \shether students can perform core skills,” says Kav. "The real Issue is, do we have the collective will to make let centurv skills a prioritv?’ Others, like Dede, believe that until states adopt better ways to measure 21st century skills, it will be difficult to bring about a shift in classroom priorities. "You can’t iust sprinkle list century skills on the 20th century doughnut " he says “it requires a fundamental reconccption of what we ’re doing. , " I Nanci ll’alser Is the assistant editor nl rhc Harvard Education Letter. Harvard Education Letter September/October 2008 For Further Information Catalina Foothills School District: Christopher Columbus Awards: phercolumbusawardr. corn Darlington. Wise. High School Timber Framed Covered Bridge Project: scotiaxorn'darlington coveredbridge/ C. Dede. Transforming Education for the 2 in Century: New Pedagogies That Help All Students Attain Sophisticated Learning Outcomes. Available online at -dedech/Dede_21$t C-sltills_seml-final.pdl Iowa Core Curriculum and list Century Skills: contenWiele'M/WZB F. Levy and R. Mumane. The New Division of labor: Row Computers are Creating the Next Job Market. Princeton. NJ: Princeton University Press. 2005. The New York Perlermance Standards Consortium: assessmentorg North Carolina Profes- sional Teaching Standards: Partnership for 2151 Century Skills: centuryskillsorg T. Wagner. The Global Achieiement Gap. New York: Basic Books. 2008. West Virginia Department of Education mom i: httpvlwvdestatewvus/ teachZi L Wisconsin leI Century Skills lnitative: . ‘ org/mulch] J ...
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