Monday, November 29, 2010

Synopsis and Analysis of the Book - 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel

The world has changed rapidly over the past 10 years with the rapid growth of technology and the changes in the world’s economy. A shift from a more traditional teaching style to one that incorporates the use of technology is not only recommended but is vital for our students. The skills that our students need to acquire to be productive members of the work force include:

• Problem-solving involving the use of technology

• Communication skills and teamwork

• Innovative thinking

Challenges from school districts that have budget restraints and communities torn between the traditional and new are prevalent; how will schools keep abreast of the new technological tools and find money for the upkeep of schools and equipment? That will be an on-going discussion for the next few years – funding and our future.

In order for our students to adapt to the changing world, teaching has to take into account the effects of technology on the Net Generation. How can the digital lifestyles of our young be incorporated into the classroom? Teachers need to guide the students on how to explore, research, and utilize information using technology tools responsibly. The move from memorizing facts for testing to accessing, analyzing, creating, and communicating information with technology is a major part of this move.What do Net Generation students want in their learning environment?

 Authentic/meaningful learning experiences

 Guidance

 Use of technology to assist in problem-solving and innovation

How will this change the classrooms?

 Shift from imparting knowledge to helping students to finding information that is credible

 Shift from textbooks and worksheets to project-based learning

 Shift in assessing outcomes in different ways

How will we help our students to become better students as well as better citizens?

 By having students work collaboratively and model how to be flexible and adaptable

 Guide students in time management to complete projects, manage workloads, learn to prioritize, learn to plan and implement

 Help them to learn to work with others who have different opinions and have varied cultures

 Assist students in purporting themselves in a respectful, professional manner

I made many connections while reading this book to my present work with the Curriculum and Technology Office of our school district. We have worked diligently over the past three years to research technology tools and how it can be used to compliment the curriculum in all grades. Last spring, our Language Arts Committee voted to purchase leveled books for grades K-5 instead of textbooks. The leveled books that were primarily non-fiction selections in math, science, and social studies will be used for guided reading as well as resources for projects.

The committee also purchased MP3 players to be used in the classroom for various purposes. We are now in the process of converting a lot of our media to digit files. I am helping training teachers on how to convert files to MP3 files, storing the files, and using the MP3 players in various ways in the classroom.

Our high school has also introduced a class called Geometry in the Classroom. Students are using geometry in the process of building a small house. As the Assessment Coordinator of our school district, I will help in gathering data, analyze, and compare the results with the more traditional Geometry classes.

In order for me to better assist the classroom teachers as the Reading Specialist; I will also need to keep abreast of technology advances as well as how they are being used in education so that I can be a coach for those who seek help.

As part of my professional development, I recently created a Share Point. I am exploring the use of wikis and blogs within the Share Point and will be working with middle school and high school teachers in ways in which this can become part of their classroom instruction.

In conclusion, our students already know how to use various technology tools but education needs to help guide them in how to use technology ethically and responsibly. Our classrooms will need to change in order to differentiate instruction and help students meet individual goals by offering more meaningful projects where they can work in teams to problem-solve, communicate effectively, explore innovations, use time management, and lastly to not give up but to keep striving for success in this ever-changing world.

Reflective Post

Reflective Summary
“21st Century Skills” by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fodel
This book is written from the premise that technology will continue to change at the same rapid pace as it has been changing for the last 20-30 years. If that is true, the authors say, education will need to change to teaching students how to learn, problem solve and think critically instead of teaching what to learn. I was a bit concerned that they were advocating throwing out core subjects like reading, writing and arithmetic and just concentrating on technology, but they weren’t. Instead, they seem to be advocating educators teaching the core subjects in a way that supports problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration.
Inquiry based learning, which includes asking good questions and solving problems, is the emphasis in this book which uses, as examples, students striving to solve real world problems with the use of technology tools, guided activities and plenty of collaboration with other students, even globally.
Knowledge work, thinking tools, digital lifestyles and learning research are the forces at work impacting student learning. Knowledge work is the use of the mind and technology tools used collaboratively instead of memorizing individually. Thinking tools use computers to process, store and transmit more information than ever before. Knowledge and expertise in managing these tools is becoming more and more important. Growing up in this digital age has created students who know more than their teachers and parents about a multitude of digital tools that can be used to answer questions and solve problems. Therefore, it may be more important to teach students how to learn than teach them what to learn.
Motivating students has always been a challenge for teachers. These authors seem to believe that “using knowledge as it is being learned – applying skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity to the content knowledge – increases motivation and improves learning outcomes.” P. 50. So figuring out ways to help students use technology tools, learn how to think critically, solve problems, work together in teams, etc… is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. These authors suggest inquiry based learning is the way to do that.
Inquiry based learning projects need several components to work. These components were compared to a bicycle. The “wheels” of the project is the project itself with four phases. These phases are: Define (decide what the problem/question is); plan how to solve/answer, do the project and review or receive feedback. The project “frame and components” is the organization and equipment used. The “road” is the kind of challenge presented with the goal being “a rich learning experience that blends knowledge, understanding, and solid performance…” p. 101. A “successful ride” is when the project successfully solves the problem or answers the question from both the student and the teacher point of view.
Research, according to these authors, supports the project learning method with results in students learning real life knowledge, technology tools, problem solving, and critical thinking, as well as team work and collaboration.
A section in the book was devoted to what things need to change in order for 21st century students to be able to thrive after they have completed their schooling. The changes include setting up different standards that incorporate technology, use of assessments – both formative and summative – that use technology, global awareness and collaboration, well trained teachers and school systems that support this vision with both leadership and money for an extended period of time.
I was interested and intrigued by the inquiry based learning methods presented in this book because I am a firm believer in projects as learning tools for my students. I like the idea of asking a question or posing a problem and then allowing teams of students to find answers and/or solve problems within certain parameters. I do this quite often to help students explore technology tools in Office and on the internet.
I didn’t like the way the authors presented this information without describing or clarifying ways to help teachers design projects that utilize their method of learning. I would have appreciated more aids to designing projects.
I, also, was kind of uncomfortable with the emphasis on global communities and global collaboration. I was uncomfortable, too, with the premise that everyone in the world has access to technology and technology tools. I do believe teaching problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration can be done without the use of the internet or even computers. And what would be wrong with that? Although, in this day and age, learning to problem solve, think critically and collaborate using technology tools is very beneficial as well.

21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times

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Saturday, November 13, 2010


Super Summary Section Four pages 87-116

This section pertains to 21st centruy learning in practice. Two key tools that "may be the most powerful learning tools ever devised are: Questions and the process to uncover their answers, and problems and the inventing of their possible solutions." p. 90 This is how new knowledge and new skills can be attained.
The Project Learning Bicycle is described to clarify a good learning project The Wheels include defining, planning, doing and reviewing. Defining is figuring out the question or problem clearly. Planning is setting up student directed activities which the students DO. To review, students present and receive feedback. The Project Bicycle Frame and Components is described as coordination and management of the project guided by the question or problem. The gears are the tools used in the project. On the Project Road is how the project is accompllished including the challenges and the importance of keeping a good balance. "The goal is a rich learning experience that blends knowledge, understanding, and solid performance on many of the 21st century skills." p.101 The Bacteria Lab project was described as A Successful Ride because all the components were there to encourage a successful outcome including a good balance of teacher guidance and student directed research, planning, evaluating, collaboration, etc... Learning to design and designing to learn is how we prepare students for the future.
Does project learning work? Yes, according to Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues from Stanford. After evaluating research, they concluded the following: Working together in collaborative groups increases knowledge, confidence, motivation, and positive social interaction. Project learning methods have proven to increase test scores, critical thinking skills and confidence, flexibility and knowledge, content mastery, sensitivity to audiences, and communication. Students who struggle with the more traditional forms of teaching, such as lecture and textbook approaches, benefit greatly from this method of learning. Problem based learning and design based learning are types of project learning methods and have the same benefits. Examples are presented of each type of learning discussed above.
To make collaborative learning work well is a challenge and should include the following: making sure the teams are compatible, clarifying team rules, making sure the activities can benefit from diverse backgrounds and using discussion to encourage deeper learning.
Teaching students to work on their own as well as ask the right question is a challenge for the design learning method. Teachers have their work cut out for them, as well, as they learn to facilitate, coach, provide expertise and guidance, and model the 21st century skills they desire their students to learn.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Learning and Innovation Skils: Learning to Create Together

The P21 Education Framework has morphed from the traditional framework to include the following skills:
  • Learning and Innovative Skills
  • Information, Media, and Technology Skills
  • Life and Career Skills

The learning and innovative skills focus on:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Communication and collaboration (complex communication skills)
  • Creativity and innovation (application of learning)

All of these skills are needed for business to create better services and products in the global marketplace. In turn, all of these skills are need to help our students to become life-long learners and productive members of society.

The new framework challenges educators to look at how we are educating students. Are our learning experiences meaningful? Are our students motivated to learn? Is what we are teaching have practical application? Are we preparing them to communicate and work together?

Education is not moving away from the commitment to core knowledge in subject areas. It calls for a commitment to knowledge core, high demands on thinking, and active use of knowledge. Page 52 states, "Creating, analyzing, understanding, and evaluation can all be used together in rich, well-designed learning activities and projects to improve the effectiveness and longevity of learning results."

This chapter follows the collaborative work done on the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2002 by student teams from around the world. It shows the application of all skills: critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation. The work done by these students had tremendous influences on the world as well as learning communities everywhere.

As we move forward in the Innovative Age, creativity and innovation need to be encouraged. As educators we do not abandon the knowledge, we move towards fostering the imagination and creativity of students to expand on that knowledge. P. 57: "Creativity and innovation can be nurtured by learning environments that foster questioning, patience, openness to fresh ideas, high levels of trust, and learning from mistakes and skills."

In conclusion, helping student develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, communication and collaboration skills, and creativity and innovation skills in the classroom helps prepare them for a world where these skills are prized.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

response #2

Several things I really liked about this section: It discussed how learning needs to be connected to real, authentic life and then students would internalize their learning. It also discussed how learning can take place while doing. I really like that because many of my "lessons" are project based where students learn by doing. I do think I need to be more aware of clarifying the objectives, though, so students know what they are learning and why. I, also, was appreciative of the discussion on helping students to be internally motivated.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Section Two Summary

The Perfect Learning Storm
Four Converging Forces

This chapter discussed how the following four powerful forces are leading us to new ways of learning in the 21st century.
Knowledge Work -Thinking Tools - Digital lifestyles - Learning research
Knowledge Work: 21st century knowledge work is done collaboratively as teams of people work together. They are often spread across multiple locations and coordinate their work through a vast variety of 21st century tools to create and innovate new products and services that solve real world problems. These workers are in high demand and in short supply, thus putting pressure on educational systems to produce knowledge workers and innovators businesses need for the 21st Century.
Thinking Tools: Thinking Tools are all the 21st century technology devices and services that the knowledge workers use to meet the demands put upon them. These tools are fast and becoming faster. Although they have some downsides, the kinks are becoming fewer and the benefits far out way the drawbacks. They are powerful tools and are making it easier to collaborate and connect with the word around.
Digital Lifestyles: “Net geners” as they are referred to in this chapter are the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital media (those currently the ages of 11-31). Our digital lifestyles have changed greatly from 1975 to the present. Just think about a 1975 television set to your current set up, not to mention the cell-phones, camcorders, internet, satellite, ipods, etc. The “net geners” who have grown up with exposure to this digital world have new desire and expectations and want their learning to reflect this. Learning is no longer a one size fits all model and needs to change in order to keep this generation actively engaged in learning.
Learning Research: Research from the last 3 decades has changed the ideas of how people learn and found five key findings that can be used to guide and reshape today’s learning.
1. Authentic learning – making connections so it applies to real world problems and providing experiences to make learning be useful and last.
2. Mental Model Building – Taking what you currently know and building on it through the use of external models using both hands on (visceral) on on-screen (virtual) modeling activities.
3. Internal Motivation – When people have a connection to what is being learned the learning can be sustained and retained longer as well as have a deeper understanding of content.
4. Multiple Intelligences – All learners are not the same. In order to meet the needs of the learner 21st century classrooms need to personalize learning and differentiate instruction.
5. Social Learning- All learning is social in one way or another. 21st century learning opens up a wide array of opportunities to enhance and create collaborative experiences to support this.
As these forces continue forth they are not met without resistance. It is a common thread that anyone in education is familiar with. If the wheel is not broke why fix it because “what I have done for the past 20 years has worked.” As 21st century teachers we need to find a balance between the past and what our students need for their future.

Pedagogy for the Singapore Ministry of Education puts it this way:
We have come a long way in changing out teaching and learning methods, but our teachers and students still have farther to go. We have a new slogan at the Ministry that will hopefully encourage further changes.
The slogan in “Teach Less, Learn More.”

As stated by the 21st Century Skills authors “Learning for work and life in our times means helping as many children as possible learn to apply 21st century skills and a solid understanding of core subjects to the challenges of our times.”

Learning and Innovation of Skills

This Chapter discussed how P21 learning expands and deepens previous learning strategies to better fit our times. Not only do students need to know the basic skills but they need to know how to use them in the real world and how it can apply to their lives.

The first set of 21st century skills focuses on critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration, and creativity and innovation.
Critical thinking and problem solving skills
Students should be able to:
-Reason effectively, use systems thinking, make judgments and decision, and solve problems
Communication and Collaboration Skills
Students should be able to:
-communicate clearly and collaborate with others
Creativity and Innovation Skills
Students should be able to:
-Think creatively, work creatively with others, implement innovations