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| Volume 67 | Number 1
Table of Contents
Peter W. Cookson Jr.
Correctly harnessed, we can blend the best of our traditional intellectual linear culture—Socrates' wisdom of the 5th century BCE—with the current digital visual culture, creating a new learning and intellectual environment consistent with the cognitive and expressive demands of the 21st century. Four elements of the 21st-century mind could be the basis of a new approach to education: critical reflection, empirical reasoning, collective intelligence, and metacognition. Learning in the 21st century will likely take place in a new electronic learning environment that replaces the linear, text-bound culture of conventional schools. such an environment, called "The LearningSphere" by the author, would be characterized by its focus on universally accessible knowledge, Socratic dialogue, essential questions, experiential learning, and cooperative problem solving.
Andrew J. Rotherham and Daniel Willingham
The skills that students need for the 21st century are not really new, assert Rotherham and Willingham. Critical thinking, problem solving, information literacy, and global awareness have been important to human progress throughout history, at least among the elites in different societies. What is new is the extent to which individual and collective success now depends on all students having such skills. Twenty-first century skills advocates, say the authors, often underestimate the magnitude of the challenge of teaching these skills in the context of meaningful content. For the 21st century skills movement to improve schools, major changes will be necessary in curriculum, teacher training, and assessment.
Amy M. Azzam
In this interview, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for creativity as the
crucial 21st-century skill. Genuine creative processes involve critical thinking as well as imaginative insights and fresh ideas. Also, creativity is a process, not a single event, one that requires continual evaluation. It's about everyone, it's a function of everything we do, and it's structured and disciplined. Creativity and innovation can help us tackle our current challenges and reconnect us with our passions. Instead of "systematically alienating people from their own talents," schools need to teach creatively and teach for creativity.
James Trefil and Wanda O'Brien-Trefil
The goal of science education in school should be to help students become scientifically literate. Only then will students be able to understand the complex issues of the day—such as global warming and stem cell research—and exercise responsible citizenship. Students will need to have an understanding of a wide array of scientific topics. In addition, they will need specific scientific knowledge to enter into debates that will necessarily include ethical, political, social, economic, and moral issues. Eighteen great ideas in science constitute the framework that all students need to take away with them when they leave the education system. Schools also need to start considering how to prepare students for a new science dominated by computer modeling.
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Hyperconnectedness—a desire to be constantly connected to other people through digital tools like Facebook and instant messaging—is a hallmark of what Sprenger calls the digital brain. This is how most teenagers now live their lives. Although she admits the benefits of the digital brain's style—such as skill at skimming for information quickly and a desire to connect with others—Sprenger describes problems with this style. She questions whether digitally connected teens are truly multitasking and connecting or just in a state of "continuous partial attention." Sprenger recommends seven classroom strategies to help digital natives develop a more balanced style of interaction and improve skills like problem solving and empathizing: (1) provide reflection time; (2) promote listening; (3) let students teach one another digital skills; (4) use interactive white boards; (5) build emotional literacy; (6) teach mindfulness; and (7) tell stories.
Foreign language skills will be an essential element of adult competence for the students we're teaching now. World languages are a core subject in the Partnership for 21st Century Skill's framework of skills students will need in this century. And meaningful language skill for this century requires an understanding of the culture the target language comes from—and some ease interacting in that culture. Fortunately digital technologies—like Skype, wikis, and asynchronous online conversation tools—allow students to connect with native speakers in other countries without leaving the classroom. Cutshall, of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, describes how teachers have set up lively conversations and bilingual working relationships between U.S. students and international peers. For example, she describes the school-based alliance between the Oklahoma Department of Education and the Academy d'Amiens in northern France.
High school students should learn to wrestle collectively with important public issues they will encounter as 21st century citizens, writes Susan Graseck, director of the Choices Program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Graseck describes how several teachers use the Choices curriculum materials to lead their students in structured discussion of such controversial issues as the Iraq war, immigration, and world trade. The keys ensure openness to multiple views, give students solid background knowledge on which to ground their views, and challenge students to think and change.
Richard H. Hersh
In this essay on 21st century schools, Richard H. Hersh dismisses the simplistic debate about "content versus skills" and points out that we need to teach both more effectively. Hersh asserts that students need to learn how to apply knowledge, to make sense of information, and to engage in purposeful reflection. The desired ends of education, he writes, "are not really new, but in these times they have become far more necessary and urgent."
Cheryl Lemke and Ed Coughlin
The authors write that "Instead of requiring our students to check their Web 2.0 technologies at the schoolhouse door, we should teach them how to use these tools for learning." They describe four ways in which technology is changing learning outside of school—the democratization of knowledge, participatory learning, authentic learning, and multimodal learning. The article gives examples of ways educators can integrate technology into the curriculum to leverage each of these features of 21st century learning. The article includes a list of Internet resources that make vast amounts of knowledge available to everyone with online access.
The globe has shrunk into an interconnected and interdependent village through global movements of goods, information, money, and people. Its residents need to learn to live together peacefully and productively in this world. To this end, schools should be educating students to become competent citizens in the global village. A framework for teaching global competency includes five crucial requirements: understanding global interdependence, understanding global economics, understanding global problems, understanding human conflicts, and understanding other cultures.
Bethpage Union Free School District in New York is a high-performing district by almost any current accountability measure. Yet administrators and teachers worried that they were not doing enough to prepare their students as critical thinkers for the 21st century. Inspired by the curriculum framework of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the district's high school developed a program that gives students the opportunity to build an impressive electronic portfolio documenting an array of mind-stretching experiences, which take place outside of regular school hours in the afternoon, evening, on weekends, or during vacations. Students earn points for completing activities, and must earn 100 points to qualify for a 21st Century Scholars diploma. After one year, the program has elicited enthusiasm from students and support from the community.
Debra Gerdes and Ellen Jo Ljung
The Illinois Innovation Talent Project, piloted in 2008-09, brought schools and businesses together to solve authentic problems. Business, government, and community partners worked with teachers in 29 schools around the state to develop problems that students could solve. Problems included how to develop a safe and convenient dialysis device for pediatric patients, how to use robotics to safely inspect bridges, how to track pallets of boxes in a massive warehouse, and how to publicize a wildlife refuge. Students were motivated by the opportunity to solve authentic problems, teachers were able to practice student-centered instruction, and business partners benefitted from the ideas students generated.
Sasha A. Barab, Melissa Gresalfi and Anna Arici
Simulation games in online "virtual" environments are powerful learning tools. Such games give students a chance to take on new identities and plunge, virtually, into situations in which they can apply knowledge in ways not possible in most students' real lives. The choices a player makes within a virtual simulation game actually transform the virtual environment, which give students something rare: a world in which their personal actions dramatically alter events. Research shows that learning content through virtual environments enhance student learning. The authors— designers of Quest Atlantis virtual environments that incorporate content connected to academic disciplines into "quests"—describe how their game design encourages what they call transformational play. They walk the reader through students' actions in their Digital Prometheus game, a scenario designed to strengthen writing skills through exploring a village's ethical dilemma (inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein).
Robert J. Marzano
Tracy A. Huebner
J. Gregory McVerry, Lisa Zawilinski and W. Ian O'Byrne
The Internet has brought huge changes to reading and research experience. Web sites are not structured like textbooks, and students need deliberate instruction and practice in engaging with new online information sources. Internet reciprocal teaching is one way to help students learn effective strategies for finding and evaluating information on the Web. The authors describe how they have used this approach with urban students, many of whom read below grade level. Students learned to generate effective search terms, find information representing different points of view, evaluate the usefulness and truthfulness of Web sites, conduct their own research, and share their findings. The authors' three-phase approach enabled students to gradually take charge of their own learning. They started with direct instruction and practice in the basics, moved on to a collaborative phase in which students worked together on teacher-assigned projects, and eventually gave students an opportunity to select their own topics.
Rita Haugh Oates
The Internet has the potential to transform how students learn and how teachers teach. Rita Haugh Oates explains how teachers can use online resources to give students learning opportunities that weren't available years ago. For example, students can assess Wikipedia articles for accuracy and completeness and make changes. They can increase their understanding of the world by accessing up-to-date information through the online CIA Factbook. To add richness to the data in the Factbook, students can interact with people who live in these countries by, for example, connecting with current and former Peace Corps volunteers or communicating with students their own age through a service like ePals.
Immersing students in projects that use real-world skills and target real-world audiences is becoming a popular approach to preparing 21st century students. But to deliver on the promise of project-based learning, educators need to acquire a 21st century skill of their own—the skill of project management. Drawing on examples from her observations of classrooms steeped in project-based learning, Boss highlights five project management strategies typically used in the work world that she has seen teachers use successfully: creating environments in which students work independently, stepping back so students can step forward, teaching time management, nurturing students' initiative, and fostering teamwork.
Fernando M. Reimers
In spite of the growing awareness of the importance of developing global skills, few students around the world have the opportunity today to become globally competent. Several organizations, such as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, have identified the skills that students will need for success in life and work. Our globalized world also makes teaching for global civility and peace more pressing than ever. However, schools often run up against two obstacles to implementing global competencies—lack of resources and an outdated mind-set. Schools need to abandon the industrial era approach to education as well as the traditional command-and-control hierarchical view of leadership. Opportunities for leadership in advancing global education lie in establishing cross-disciplinary design teams that integrate teachers, district personnel, and scholars in defining and promoting global competencies.
Copyright © 2012 by ASCD
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