21st Century Learning

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Differentiated PD Modules: If you are signed up for the 21st Century Learning Skills module for staff development please use the following links:

The Shifting Educational Landscape: We all know that students learn differently now then they did when we were in school. In fact, if you have been teaching more than a few years, you are probably noticing that students learn differently now then when you started teaching. Not only are students learning differently today then ever before, but we are preparing students for a world with completely different demands. Schools used to be the place each generation went to learn the skills and content required to succeed in the future. This is simply no longer true. Google, social media and the Internet have made all content accessible at the touch of a smart phone screen.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 3.39.44 PMChanging Paradigms of Education: This thinking has been clearly articulated by Sir Ken Robinson in his acclaimed TED Talk titled, “Changing Paradigms of Education“. This short video is extremely valuable in helping us understand the reason we have a moral imperative to not only recognize the changes that have occurred, but respond accordingly. (Click here to view TED Talk on YouTube.)

The Essential Role of Public Schools: Our public schools must become places where the next generation goes to learn how to think and interact with content and peers in an analytical and collaborative way. If we attempt to do things any other way, we will quickly become obsolete, irrelevant, and in the way of the next generation. Schools must become the place where the next generation develops the ability to think, learn and interact in the 21st Century. This is where the concept of 21st Century Learning Skills comes into play.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 3.39.56 PMA Pragmatic Rationale: The reform agenda in New York State is heavily rooted in the 21st Century Learning Skills movement. In fact, all of the approved rubrics, including the NYSUT rubric adopted by our district, lean heavily on these skills. On the NYSUT rubric in particular, numerous elements and indicators require the teacher to have integrated the 21st Century Learning Skills into their instructional planning and practice in order to be considered an “effective” teacher in the relevant areas of the rubric. (Click here to view a breakdown of how these skills are assessed by the NYSUT Rubric.) We would do well to take the time to understand both why these skills should be the foundation of our pedagogy and how to effectively our instruction with this framework.

A Streamlined Framework: Several years ago an organization called the “Partnership for 21st Century Skills” developed what they refer to as the P21 Framework for Learning to help educators understand the skills that students need to become effective citizens and productive workers in the 21st century. Their website is www.p21.org and it contains a wealth of resources, documents, curriculum maps and information to help those interested in digging deeper into this topic. The original framework for the 21st Century Learning Skills is quite complicated, with 18 skills, several different themes, environments and outcomes. Click here for a two page PDF explaining the framework from www.p21.org.

Simplifying it to the 4 C’s: In recent years, the framework has been distilled down into the 4 C’s by educators and bloggers to emphasize the essential, high leverage impact skill areas that can be adapted directly into the classroom by individual teachers.

Over the years we found some people had a hard time getting their heads around the framework. It called for 18 skills, and people thought this was too many. Others thought we wanted to replace content with skills, when, in fact, we wanted to fuse content and skills together. We came up with the phrase, ‘Fusing the 3R’s with the 4C’s.’ ” (blogger Ken Kay, click here to read his entire post)

The 4C’s of 21st Century Learning Skills:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity

The Skill Summary Pages: The following links will connect you to a series of documents that seek to explain each of 4 C’s in a way that it intended to help teachers understand and continue to find ways to integrate these skills into their own pedagogical styles. Each section highlights various definitions for a different one of these skills that have been developed by the P21 organization and endorsed by the leading teacher consortiums and organizations in each field. Each section then includes examples of student outcomes and correlating lesson ideas in each of the 6 instructional areas covered by P21 (Math, English, Social Studies, Science, the Arts and World Languages). This information comes largely from the www.p21.org website and in particular the curriculum maps that articulate the integration of these skills across the content areas.

Online Learning Modules: Click on the specific skill below that you would like to learn more about.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 3.39.56 PMContinuing the Journey: It is important to remember that integrating the 21st Century Learning Skills is a journey. Simply by reading this summary you are already on the journey. Odds are you are further along then you realize. A lot of this material will in all likelihood sound and feel familiar. Great teaching has always pushed the envelop and required collaborative and critical thinking in creative ways. Great teachers have also always required effective communication from their students. You are already well on your way to becoming a 21st Century Learning Skills teacher. It is also important to remember, that on this journey we will never “arrive” or master these skills. We are continually learning, continually improving our effectiveness as educators.

21st Century Skills Resource GuideClick here for a great link to a PDF from Edutopia for parents looking to understand how to support their students.

Overview of 21st Century Learning Skills: The following video and text provide an introductory overview of this topic. If you are looking to complete the PD Modules, use the links above.

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