Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Partnership for 21st Century Skills...

I have recently been introduced to an organization that is attempting to revolutionize schools across the country. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) was formed by the individuals and organizations to advocate for change in policy. The basis for these changes come down to “fusing the three Rs and four Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation).” While many schools are attempting to follow this model, many others are not. The P21 is attempting to get policy passed at the state and federal level that require all schools to adopt this model. While I have not necessarily heard of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, I have heard of initiatives that the state of Ohio has supported in Gateway to Technology and Project Lead the Way. Both of these programs focus on the foundation of P21.

I believe that if you ask most teachers, they are attempting to cover the three Rs and the four Cs. Educators want their students to not only be able to read, write, and compute, but also to apply those skills to problem solve, communicate, and collaborate. While these are the wishes of teachers, I do not think it's necessarily the primary goal of most schools. I've been involved in two school systems, and both were more concerned with students passing state tests and graduation rates than with the quality of student they were graduating. After reading Characteristics of a Globally Competitive Workforce by Bates and Phelan, it was clear that focusing solely on the content of the three Rs sets students up for failure as they consider these only one part of three foundational skills (2002). According to the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), the three Rs along with thinking skills and personal qualities are the foundational skills for today's workers (Bates & Phelan, 2002). If schools are focusing solely on reading, writing, arithmetic, and science, students are not even getting the full foundation for employability skills.

If schools are not setting for the foundation mentioned in the SCANS study, it is evident that something like P21 is a necessity for our country. With pressure coming from the federal and state government on school districts, teachers are getting more pressure to get students prepared. And what suffers? It's the critical thinking skills, the application projects, the collaboration, and the technology skills. A common phrase that is unfortunately uttered a lot, “We need to get them familiar with the testing scenario.” This actually contradicts what the research has said about 21st century skills. Students aren't collaborating, they aren't thinking critically, and they aren't engaged in technology. The latter has now become so essential that SCANS made it one of its five competencies every worker should have upon graduating high school (Bates & Phelan, 2002). If our students are to be technologically literate, we cannot have students spending “27 hours a week online at home and an average of 15 minutes a week at schools” (Miners & Pascopella, 2007). Obviously, we are failing these students.

What does this mean for us educators? We need to find a way to work within our school's expectations to revolutionize what we're doing in our classrooms. We do need to get students familiar with testing; however, we also need to prepare our students for the workplace. We need to teach the content, but then go on to challenge our students with problems and scenarios that require students to sharpen their critical thinking skills. We need to have students working together, communicating, and problem solving. While doing this, students need to be engaged in technology familiarizing themselves with different tools that may benefit them in future jobs. The P21 website contains a whole library of videos that educators can use as ideas of what they can include in their classroom to help develop these 21st century skills.


Bates, R., & Phelan, K. (2002). Characteristics of a globally competitive workforce. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 4(2), 121.

Miners, Z., & Pascopella, A. (2007). The new literacies. District Administration, 43(10), 26–34. Used by permission.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blogs in the Classroom

If my students were able to access my blog, blogs are currently blocked at my school we are being told to use the district’s Moodle system instead of blogs and wikis, during the school day then there would be a much greater opportunity to utilize the blog as an organic extension of the course through discussions that could continue on the blog.  However, since access would be limited for the students, I would implement the use of the blog as an avenue of publication for my students.  Since I teach seniors in a course entitled Sports Literature I am constantly preaching to them the idea of a completed paper being one that is ready to be published.  A blog would offer me an avenue to share the work of my students with a wider audience than just myself, and the idea would reinforce the concept of publishable work.

Moreover, I would attempt to offer my information for my students because the construction of a blog offers the opportunity to interact with material presented in the classroom, but at the same time to interact with new material presented on the blog.  In order to have students feel most comfortable interacting with one another on the blog, I would design a question of the week where students would be given until Sunday to respond to the question and to their peers.  Questions could vary from “Who had a greater impact on the acceptance of black athletes into professional sports Joe Louis or Jack Johnson?” or “In your opinion, throughout the history of sports, who or what was the greatest sports changing moment and why?”

Furthermore, I envision the blog as a way of posting more references for my students to use in order to understand the content.  Even if they are not interested with the week’s topic in the course posting references can familiarize them with different sports writers, acclimate them with different writing styles, and allow them to understand the impact each writer has had on the perception of sports and athletes in our country.  And as the writers change from era to era, my students will be able to witness first hand how journalistic writing changed after the television was invented. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Incorporating Technology...

This is my first time creating an educational blog.  I am curious about the extent and overall quality of collaboration that can occur with this type of information sharing.  I feel like this type of forum can/will be more extensive than others used in the past.