Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't be a dinosaur: teaching 21st-century skills

The skills map designed by the National Council of Teachers of English to ensure that students have so-called 21st-century skills “is far more comprehensive -- and far more helpful -- than a simple focus on using gadgets in the classroom,” writes admitted technology dinosaur Kay McSpadden in The Charlotte Observer. McSpadden, an English teacher who still uses checks instead of a debit card and gets her news in tree-killing form each morning, says she was pleasantly surprised that the document listed 12 skills, each illustrated with outcomes and examples from real classrooms that integrate content and technology in a way that demands students become actively engaged in their lessons. Alongside skills dealing directly with information literacy, media literacy, and information and communications technology, are others: creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, and leadership and responsibility. Many of these, writes McSpadden, are “'soft skills' educators pushed aside in favor of content goals measured by No Child Left Behind.” The problem in implementing such a comprehensive change in education will undoubtedly be funding, McSpadden admits, buts thinks it would be well worth it.

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