Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Shift in Momentum for 21st Century Skills

In 2016, you will be hard pressed to find a major educational organization, think-tank, publisher, or blogger who hasn’t embraced twenty-first century skills. For years, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) was the lone advocate for articulating the key look-fors associated with this concept. Today, the popularity of the movement has even transcended traditional mainstream organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) who define twenty-first century readers and writers who are able to:

  • Gain proficiency with tools of technology
  • Develop relationships with others and confront and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

Why all the commotion about twenty-first century skills? By gaining the necessary momentum, twenty-first century skills is no longer a novelty, but a legitimate movement. The good new is that it has created new student expectations for mainstream curriculum and instruction (e.g., Common Core State Standards) that before were relegated to the educational technology side of the hallway. Students are now expected to solve complex problems, make real-world connections, use digital resources, and collaborate with one-another. In other words, less teacher-talk and more student talk. Decision makers at the federal, state, and local levels have now aggressively taken action about twenty-first century teaching and learning that includes college and career readiness. Need I remind anyone of the acronym for PARCC—Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers?

National LoTi Levels have always hovered around a LoTi 2 (Exploration), which essentially is low level digital learning (i.e., didactic instruction using technology). However, current multiple measures for testing accountability including PARCC, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, Keystones (PA), and STAAR (TX), to name a few, have created new expectations for learning that require students to be operating at the higher cognitive levels while solving multi-step problems—the hallmark of a LoTi 3 (Infusion).

May the movement continue!