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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Patrick Daly, article for Transcript

Who is the 21st century learner?

In educational circles we hear a lot about the needs of the 21st century learner.  President Obama stated “"I always hear stories about how we can't find engineers, and that's why we're emphasizing math and science. We want to start making science cool”.  Richard Riley, Secretary of Education under President Clinton stated, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist….using technologies that haven’t yet been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”  Truly, our mission with 21st century learners is to engage and motivate the students to develop the skills that will allow them to solve problems and uncover the core knowledge needed for success in the global society.

But what exactly are these skills, and what can we do to improve them?

In the book 21st Century Skills: Learning For Life in our Times Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel present the four core themes of a 21st century education: Core Subjects and Innovation Skills, Life and Career Skills, Information, Media, and Technology Skills, and Learning and Innovation Skills.

They also present the 7 C’s, the skill sets our students will need for success: Critical thinking and problem solving, Communications, information and media literacy, Collaboration, teamwork, and leadership, Creativity and innovation, Computing and ICT (information and communications technology) literacy, Career and life skills, and Cross-cultural understanding.

North Reading educators are already working very hard at this task.  A group of teachers, NR21, has been meeting at the high school all year and have been strategizing about the best ways to begin training the staff for the 21st century challenges.  Next year we will be looking to expand the influence of NR21 district-wide.  In so many ways our outstanding educators are already promoting the best practices that will make the following visions the reality for every 21st century learner.

When you walk into a classroom in North Reading you will see the 7 C’s in action.  Students will be engaged in critical thinking about their topics as they work in small groups, developing collaboration and leadership skills.  They will be called upon to develop computing skills in order to create projects for their class-work.  Students will be taught self-reliance, and the skills necessary to make decisions about the information they encounter.  To see this in action, check out the Science Olympiad team at the middle school, or ask a student on the Math and Engineering team about her experiences at competition. Visit high school classes using videos to create public service announcements, or witness students solving real world problems in Mathematics classes.

In North Reading students will not only read about other cultures but engage in technology-driven opportunities to interact with students from around the world in real-time using technology.  There will be more opportunities for contests and competitions, as students use the core knowledge learned in class to solve problems and develop their critical thinking skills.  This is evidenced by students who are making Twitter Pen Pals at the Hood, presenting a living Inca museum at the Little, or using SMARTboards at the Batchelder.

We are now in the second decade of the 21st century and the students we have in class today are the students who will be leading us in the future.  Our schools and teachers have already stepped up to the challenge of creating new and innovative approaches of instruction in order to meet many of the needs that await us in the decades to come.