Wednesday, July 20, 2011

21st Century Skills: Are Our Students Learning Them.

21st Century skills are what our students need in this day in age.  No one can predict what jobs will be available in 6, 7 or 10 years from now.  The only thing we can do is to prepare our students for what we think the future will hold.

The 21st century website was interesting to say the least.  I found it very informative.  I feel that the site contains a lot of very important information about the 21st century skills and what they involve.  I like how it goes through and gives you an outline of the student outcomes.  It also shows you the topics and ideas which should be taught for 21st century skills to be achieved.

What surprised me most about the site was that it listed all the states that have taken the initiative of implementing and setting up guidelines for the 21st century skills.  It is very encouraging to see the list of states.  I would hope that not long from now that list will have doubled.  Even though the economy is not great right now, there are still plenty of things we can do to help prepare our students for the 21st century.

What I did not like about the site was that it did not have any place to blog or post ideas.  We as educators are the greatest resource for ideas, projects and knowledge.  We should be contributing to the development of the 21st century skills.  The greatest asset we can provide is how we implement the lessons and ideas into our classrooms.  It is one thing to come up with what needs to be taught, but it is a whole different approach when actually implementing the ideas and seeing what works and what does not.  I did not necessarily disagree with any of the information on the website, however I do think that more could be added.  The possibilities are endless on the information that could be presented. 

Not only do I need to teach my students what they need to know to help them be successful contributing members of society and the workforce, but they also need to realize that it is not a one sided conversation.  We can teach them everything we know, show them a million different things, but if they do not realize how this is going to affect them and contribute then they will not succeed.  After I have gone over certain information numerous times, I tell them that it is the last time I am going over it so they better ask questions.  If they come up to me after I have finished going over it, I tell them to go ask a classmate.  By the second or third week of school they know to pay attention.

If our students do not get the necessary information and develop the necessary skills then they are going to far behind when they enter the real world after high school.  With all of the cell phones and computers, our students are developing there 21st century skills and might not even know it.  We need to elaborate and go above and beyond to teach them the necessary skills to be successful


  1. Hi Ben!

    I read your comments about the 21st Century Skills website, and I was happy and surprised to see that someone else also found the listing of involved states to be in need of improvement. You were more tactful than I was, because I thought that the 12 states listed was a disappointment. I also was frustrated with the inability to contribute to the sites, expecially since may of the contributed sites were older and not updated. It surely seemed as a shot fo fresh ideas and enthusiasm was needed.

    I think we all got the overall ideas behind the website, which was to better prepare our students for the workplace once they move on. How is your district in regards to funding, computers, and professioanl development? I would imagine that a progressive, affluent district would be much more likely to provide the resources and time for teachers to develop their own 21st Century Skills than a struggling district. My district is very inconsistent with their use and implementation of technology, buying new computers and software, but on the other hand, there are no computer courses or computer maintenances, so the resource withers out. It makes implementation quite difficult, and frustrating.

    Thanks for you thoughts on the website!

    Todd Deschaine

  2. Ben, what surprised me the most was the lack of state participation. I would think that every state in the union would be on board with the 21st century initiative, and I hope that sometime soon all states will join. But you are right; there are plenty of things we can do to help prepare our students. From what we have learned in this class, blogging and wikis are fantastic ways to help prepare our students for the business world. This type of collaborative interaction is essential, and many of the kids are already participating in this form of communication already.

    You are also right about the site: there does need to be an area to blog or post ideas from teachers. And what better way to exemplify 21st century skills than by providing a blog to share ideas? Teachers have always provided a wealth of knowledge and ideas, so there should definitely be a place to collaborate on the site. Teachers could even share lesson plans and provide examples, like you said, of how they best integrate technology into their class. Having a technology forum on this site would help to further 21st century goals.

    People need to realize that many kids are already at a much higher technology level than the teachers. Our students have been using this technology their whole lives, while most of the teachers are barely familiar with it. Our schools need to place a higher value on 21st century skills. If we don’t, our students will be the ones who ultimately suffer.


  4. Ben,
    You are correct in saying that no one will be able to predict what jobs will be available in 7-10 years.

  5. Ben,
    You are correct in saying that no one will be able to predict what jobs will be available in 7-10 years.

  6. Ben,
    You are correct in saying that no one will be able to predict what jobs will be available in 7-10 years. We can only prepare students for what we think they will need. Where was the world 10 years ago? In my school ten years ago, each teacher had their own desktop in their classroom, but that had only happened a year or two before. Ten years ago when the planes hit the New York World Trade Center towers, cell phone communication was cut off. That was when cell phones were actually used to make phone calls. Now they are used more for texting, browsing the internet, and updating Facebook. Who knows, but in 10 years, all of this technology stuff we are trying to teach our students could be obsolete. Twenty years ago, who knew that CDs (which were just beginning to replace cassette tapes) would be old technology in 2011? To hear music, we always had to put a disc or tape into a device. Now, nothing needs to be inserted. Music can be downloaded from the internet, and played through your cell phone. There is no need to carry around CDs, tapes, records, etc. Using mp3 players became a new way of listening to music. In another 10 or 20 years from now, laptops and cell phones may become obsolete. Why would anyone want to carry around a heavy laptop and risk it getting stolen when you can use the new technology? I do not know what that new technology will be, I am not that creative. It may involve computer chips implanted into your watch, or maybe you will have a network drive at home which is accessible from anywhere through a GPS device. We have no way of knowing the future. Therefore we need to try to incorporate new technology into our classes knowing that it may be obsolete in the future. For now, though, the technology used will serve a purpose. This can make it difficult for schools and districts to upgrade their technology effectively. How does an administrator justify spending large amounts of resources when it will no longer be used. About 12-15 years ago, our network guy at my school spent his summer running Ethernet wires throughout the building. It was quite a major undertaking. That served its purpose then. Now, however, wireless technology is so advanced that hard-wiring the entire building is no longer needed. Schools cannot even try to institute a 10 year plan to upgrade technology because the technology they planned to incorporate is no longer relevant. The main idea here is that technology changes so frequently that it is difficult to stay on top of it. For this reason, I believe the 4C’s are a more important component to 21st century skills than learning new technologies. New technologies can usually be learned relatively easily with a little practice. Trying to develop critical thinking skills, on the other hand, takes more time and is in more demand by employers. An employer can take a critical thinker, or creative person, or one who works well in groups, and teach them how to use a particular tool (piece of technology). It is much more difficult take someone on the cutting edge of technology and try to develop his or her ability to work collaboratively. Allowing students to learn how to use technology is important as they will need these skills. However, they will need the 4 C’s more.

    --Tim Trotta