Thursday, August 27, 2009

Skills for the 21st Century

Schools should be changing but are they? Check out this article,8816,1568480,00.html. Enter your reaction to this article in the comments section. You are encouraged to react to your fellow scholars' comments.


  1. These two passages really stuck with me:
    “ will fail to make the grade in the global economy because they can't think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad or speak a language other than English”
    “It's interdisciplinary combinations--design and technology, mathematics and art--"that produce YouTube and Google..”

    I’ve heard of schools where administrators limit class field trips to one per semester to ensure that students are having enough classroom time! Many of our “leaders” don’t understand how, more than ever, important it is for teachers to develop holistic learners. Developing a student that is advanced/proficient at math, reading and science skills but hasn’t been exposed to persons, language and contributions (art, music, dance) of other cultures, just won’t fly anymore. The world has become too small for that.
    Teachers of all areas need to be cooperating more and in-the-know about what’s happening in each others’ classrooms. As an elementary music teacher, I am constantly checking in with classroom teachers to find out what concepts are being taught, and tying these in with my own lessons (cross-curricular). I think this is possible at all grade-levels, and can be done while maintaining the integrity of one’s subject matter (i.e. I don’t teach hokey songs about magnets just because that’s one of your science requirements : )


  2. This article addresses a need that really has been put on the back burner since the innovation of the telephone, which allowed someone to talk to someone else within the nation or in another country. The internet just sped up our need to realize as Americans we are not a microcosm, but we do lives our lives as if it is only us in the world. I agree with Rosa's highlighting of the passage, that we are essentially setting kids up for failure, by not giving the tools they will need to survive in the global community.
    If we are to continue to be a "super power" economically, we need to improve our power culturally, we need to begin in elementary schools with language programs, and not just offer Spanish. We trade with almost all the countries of the world why are we limiting ourselves with just Spanish and pushing the other languages out of our schools? Language has to become a core class for our children to become competitive in the future. Students think it is funny to say to me Yo no have-o me homework-o, which just lets me know that they aren't thinking too seriously about their future or that they aren't seeing the importance of learning another language. They are always saying, "Why can't they speak English", but that I believe come from older adults and from those who fear that they won't be able to compete in world because they know they lack the skills. You need to know how to speak and interact with others within their culture so you can better understand each other.
    But, if our kids are expected to do things in the global market and the technology keeps improving why are not schools really educating their training force, the teachers. Principals and administrators need to encourage professional development and to provide it for their teachers.

  3. I agree with Jill that when we fail to realize the broad scope of a global world we are failing our students and not giving them the valuable message that they need to be prepared for a new kind of job market. Young people in America can't afford to become complacent or apathetic about their education because students in India and China have very strong work ethics and will be competeing for the same jobs they are. The article mentions the need for kids to realize they are now global citizens and they need to act in that way.
    I have a fifth grade student in my class from Korea who is here as an exchange student for the year. A couple days ago we finally persuaded him to play the piano for us because we had heard he was quite good. My students' mouths dropped open as he played a college level Chopin piece by memory with very few mistakes. It probably didn't take a lot of advanced technology to learn this skill, but I'm sure his work ethic in playing the piano carries over to other areas of his school work. Hearing him play made us realize that even at this age we should be raising our expectations to benefit our students. We need to continue to motivate students to go beyond just what is required of them in school and broaden their scope of possibilities.

    Lora H.

  4. OK. This is the fourth time I've tried to Post a Comment. I'm crossing my fingers that it will work this time. Last time, my Post was in the wrong place...

    So just the other day, I was thinking of this Very Thing. Rip Van Winkle. And pencils. And paper.

    I have been away from teaching for FIFTEEN! years while I stayed home with own kiddos. This is my first year back at Millard North High School, teaching Spanish 1 to (mostly) 9th graders.
    Times have changed. The world outside has changed.

    But I was watching my 6th period Spanish 1 students complete a worksheet with golden yellow, #2 pencils. In a World of Modern Technology, this seemed almost wrong. Obsolete. Rip Van Winkle. Why wasn't I using iPods or cell phones or computers or a Smart Board?! What are the rest of you doing?!

    I totally agree with Jill and her comment about the telephone and putting All This on the back burner. But HOW (exactly) do we bring our schools (our classrooms--our 6th period Spanish 1 students) out of the 20th century?! On Monday?!

    I would LOVE to hear what you all are doing out there! I would LOVE some real, practical, hands-on ideas for September 14, 2009. What are yous doing out there?!

    I did check out And, at the risk of missing most of the Husker game, I opted out of searching after the first thirty minutes. There's so much Stuff there.

    Lora, I would have LOVEd to hear your young student play Chopin. What a Beautiful Thing!

  5. I can certainly identify with Angela having not been in a classroom myself for nearly seven years! The idea of incorporating technology is quite daunting since I haven't ever used an ipod, palm pilot, or smart board. I do, however, realize the importance of these devices and, more importantly, the technical skills that are acquired through their use. I am hopeful that I will feel more equipped by the end of this semester.

    Wallis discusses the reality that this generation of students may not be able to make it in the "real" world if "they can't think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad or speak a language other than English." She convincingly argues that we need to bring our teaching into the 21st century. Like Wallis, I believe that technology needs to be implemented into all core classes rather than being its own course, like it was when I was in school. I like how the she talks about the world picture and how our students need to learn how to be global citizens. As a Spanish and English as a Learned Language (ELL) teacher, I have seen the attitudes of many American students. The majority of my previous Spanish students had the egocentric view that the United States was the best country, English was the only valuable language, and other languages and cultures held little value to them. It was incredibly frustrating to hear high school students, who were nearly adults, have such a narrow view of their world. Oftentimes, the students would just do enough to earn a passing grade, without truly seeing the value of learning a second language. I imagine many of them are kicking themselves now and wishing they had paid more attention in my class! You no longer have to travel abroad to use your foreign language skills and businesses seek individuals that can speak more than one language. If technology and languages are so important in the workplace, why are they offered to our students as "elective" classes? These classes should be mandatory or implemented into the core classes. We are doing our students a disservice, college-bound or not, if we do not equip them with real-life skills. Isn't that our job???

  6. I think everyone is going to agree that we need to offer more technologically based educational experiences to students to prepare them for the future. The article mentions that "students must master core subjects" as well as "21st century themes and 21st century skills". I'd like to comment on 21st century skills. I am not actively teaching students, I am a training manager at a large company. I train employees in a production environment where they must actively navigate the web to do their job. I see the end result of the educational system or lack thereof. We get employees who don't have the basic skills needed to perform their daily responsibilities or if they do, they are very inefficient. We need to take the time and spend the money in our schools today, to 'turn out' better qualified applicants for current and future jobs. I see technology playing an even bigger role in future positions not less.

    Incorporating more technology into the classroom is probably something all teachers wish to provide. When I student taught, there was one computer in the classroom, I'm hoping that by now things have gotten better, however, I'm pretty sure MONEY still plays a significant role in the LACK of technology brought into the classroom. I noticed in the article that there were some neighboring states that are actively involved in some of the programs mentioned, but i didn't see Nebraska as a leader in trying to incorporate technology into the classroom (that is sad). I hope we discuss this article a little more in class as i'd like to get an idea of how things have changed in the last 15 years in the Omaha school district . . is technology playing a bigger part in today's education? AND if it is, how are teacher's being introduced to it and utilizing it. If this is the wave of our future, are educational programs being developed for the educators? OR are we just putting computers in the classroom and leaving it up to teachers to incorporate it as they see fit? Just as with CORE subjects, i think there should be guidelines, industry standards to follow and lesson plans developed for incorporating all forms of technology into the classroom.

  7. How do we do this? As a 4th grade teacher, I am fortunate to have a Smartboard and several emacs in my classroom. Nonetheless I find myself leaning back on textbooks and pencils and paper. Why? NCLB, I guess. Let me start again with as a 4th grade teacher, I am…. Required to administer 14+ standardized tests in one year. We don’t get the minutes to teach what happens in the “real word,” because we are busy teaching for these tests that have very little to do with the “real world.”
    The quote - - “Learn the names of all the rivers in South America.”….. "Tell your teacher that if you need to know anything besides the Amazon, you can look it up on Google." That is the real world. People do work together. Almost everyone has a cell phone with texting if not internet with them at all times. "Most innovations today involve large teams of people." I don’t know why we aren’t letting our students take tests together or, really why the entire multiple-choice format isn’t scrapped ENTIRELY!

    Wallis says, “Can our public schools, originally designed to educate workers for agrarian life and industrial-age factories, make the necessary shifts?”

    Why are we still testing, (and therefore, teaching,) students to be prepared for a world that no longer exists?

    Angela - - I want to bring my Wii into my classroom.

  8. I thought there were a lot of really interesting questions posed in the "Real Knowledge in the Google Era" and "A New Kind of Literacy" sections. It seems that education used to be about memorizing facts, but the value of simple fact memorization is limited when a quick Google search can bring up the answers to any fact-based question we may have.

    What we need to be focusing on if we want to give our students real-world skills is how to teach them to process the huge range of information at their disposal. The challenge they face isn't just knowing the facts, but taking the facts and discerning what is relevant, what is reliable, and what is true, and then forming opinions, thinking critically, and using the results to inform their views of any particular subject. The challenge of teaching technology isn't solely ensuring that students are comfortable using the tools at their disposal, but that they are able to use those tools and the information those tools make available in an educated, critical, and responsible way.

    -Sara Schrieber

  9. Overall, I agree with this article on many issues. We do need to start getting our students to work in teams, think more creatively and to make connections between ideas. However, I do think that at times, educators need to go back to the basics. It is hard at times to do the group work and use the technology available when a student can not handle (in my case) basic mathematics. But as soon as you can get through the grunt work of the basics, that’s where the fun begins: the connections between other discipline areas, critical thinking, problem solving, and group work.
    The article stressed about how our students are not prepared for the global economy, so here is my idea. I took a class where students from Nebraska, Wisconsin, and India had to work together to design an information system of our choice. Now this would be a little advanced for elementary – high school students, but the idea where they would have to work together to complete a project would be great. Now thankfully for us, the students from India knew how to speak English, but this would be a great way to get students to learn about different countries, cultures, and languages. Just an idea.

    ~Alicia Krogstrand

  10. I agree with a lot of the information that is stated in the article. There needs to be more technology available to students and activities for them to work together with different cultural backgrounds to prepare them for life outside of school. School districts are on their way to making these changes, but I feel we have a long way to go.
    Supporting teachers and providing them with the resources and training is one way to help students achieve these goals. Teachers also need to realize that it is the 21st5 century and teaching strategies need to be altered to fit students in such a technology-centered world.
    Students also need to have the basic knowledge foundation of concepts before they can start to connect ideas and learn material in- depth. There is a lot of material to cover in one year, so it is hard to always form connections and learn how to apply the information they just learned. Students also need to be taught the social skills to work with others and have the maturity levels to communicate with other students effectively. Many things need to be taken in to consideration and only time will help make needed changes.

    Lacey Wilson

  11. As a Language Arts teacher, there are so many standards to teach and countless assessments I have to give that I worry about the "play time" - when my students can play with language. I am a young teacher - I have only been out of high school for 9 years, but I still feel out of the loop with many new programs and technologies available to teachers and students today. My hope is that through my graduate studies, I can incorporate technology seamlessly into my curriculum.

    I agree with the article that we need to prepare our students for a global economy - especially in light of the current unemployment rates. The part that stuck out to me was: "in an age of overflowing information and proliferating media, kids need to rapidly process what's coming at them and distinguish between what's reliable and what isn't." I had realized this myself when we have been researching and students simply copy and paste articles or cite them without evaluating the information. I know this is a key area I want to focus on this year for my students.

    What I loved most about this article is that it broke down the key elements students need to be successful in a global world. This has given me a starting point. I want to make sure my students are confident in the basics and then apply these to deeper, higher level thinking that allows them to "think outside the box" and work collaboratively. Now that I know the "whats" I will focus on the "hows."

    L. David

  12. “It's interdisciplinary combinations--design and technology, mathematics and art--"that produce YouTube and Google,"

    The first thing that came to mind while reading this article is the teacher that keeps a student out of my art class because they are having problems in another subject. So and so didn’t finish their math or they need to review their writing because they are going to be tested on it. It is this mentality that has caused specialists to become less important, in a time when a well rounded student is what we need most.

    "Tell your teacher that if you need to know anything besides the Amazon, you can look it up on Google."

    I can’t tell you how many times a week I say the phrase “Lets Google It” I have one computer in my classroom and it’s used for everything from “How do you draw a volleyball?” to Power Points, to looking at Art Prints, and virtually visiting an art museum. I would love to incorporate technology even more, if I had the resources. We have a computer lab, but the chances of booking at are slim to none.

  13. Briefly, I am teaching two sections of developmental reading and writing this quarter and have students who have not migrated to the digital age and others who are natives. I have students who have never been on the internet nor have they had an email address and I have students who can use their Blackberry in class to complete all of the dictionary vocabulary homework. My challenge is to sythesized those groups somehow and to make sure that one of the literacies that I am teaching is a digital literacy. Certainly, I can't be a success if I teach students to read and write more efficiently in the workplace, but don't give them the skills that they will need to apply those new apptitudes in a 21st century workplace. Not all of my colleagues agree with me--some say our job is to teach English and not computers, but I know the time is coming where we'll all have handheld devices and there will be no computers in the classroom. So, my thought is that I must teach the literacies of genre and medium along with fundamental literacies.

  14. I teach French language at Abraham Lincoln High in Council Bluffs. Having said this, I guess my focus is pretty much always on some type of literacy, and I'm usually thinking up ways to get my students to show what they know. Any way I can capture students' attention and get them thinking about and discussing issues in an intelligent and thoughtful way rather than rattling off an easy answer is what I'm always seeking.
    Literacy is such a necessary component of progressing as people and as individuals. But as the article points out there are many kinds of literacy. Put them all together and you have something truly wonderful!
    I think we can all agree that the classroom needs to move into the 21st century. Why, really, do we educate our children? Some cynics might say that the schools are a warehouse for kids or daycare to keep them in line until they can get a job (whatever kind of job they can get after we're done "training" them). I believe our students are capable of so much more than we expect of them. I'd love to start using new ways to educate and help students explore.

  15. I agree with this article in every aspect. the world is getting smaller and it is up to us, educators, to make sure students have the tools to develop academically and profesionally. I also agree with Laura, our students are capable of what they are leaning now and much more. Technology can be the way to enhance their learning experience. It is a fact that while technology can make information accesible to students, they also need to know how to properly research, find and utilize that technology-based-knowledge by having a solid skill-based understanding of how to properly apply that knowledge. Other nations, such as Japan, place greater emphasis on schools and education. They know the importance of emerging generations with a solid educational background and technological know how. As a teacher of Spanish I know the value of knowing a second language. It makes you a lot more marketable in a world driven by international markets. The time is overdue for our educational system to recognize the importance of technology in the 21st century


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