Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills

The Partnership for 21st Century skills is a website dedicated to like-minded members seeking to improve the content and quality of Information and Communication Technologies in the classroom. The site provides portals to online resources and content, articles and news releases on their ongoing efforts and clear explanations of their goals. Various corporations, advocacy groups and charitable organizations have teamed together to work towards the Partnership’s goals of implementing and seamlessly incorporating 21st Century Skills into the current educational framework of core subjects.

Upon perusing the website, I found the information and mission to be quite exciting and inspirational. I was happy to see that various technological companies and education advocacy groups were working together with a common goal of providing a fuller education to our students. As represented by the “Rainbow Framework," the core curriculum subjects are paired with the skills in life and career, learning and innovation, and information, media and technology (The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004). Support for these curricular goals are provided by the “pools” below the rainbow and consist of many of our traditional educational supports such as professional development and set standards.

I was surprised by the partnership’s support for standardized tests as I feel that standardized tests as they are currently implemented are inadequate for measuring the 21st Century Skills that we are hoping to develop in our students. Upon further reading and reflection, I understand that the standardized tests that would measure 21st Century Skill development would look quite different from the bubble-in standardized tests that our students currently take. I was also surprised that so few states were represented in the Route 21 list of states that had demonstrated the commitment to the cause, and I was disheartened that mine was not one of them. As a lifelong Nutmegger, from Connecticut, I was disappointed that we were not on the list, especially as the New Literacies Research Lab is located at the University of Connecticut (Miners & Pascopella, 2007), I would hope that Connecticut would be represented.

Another aspect of the webpage that surprised me was the copyright date. As I am acutely aware of casting a critical eye on internet sources, especially in light of our course and this week’s discussion of what it takes to be literate whilst navigating online, it seems odd that a site dedicated to 21st Century Skills has a copyright date that is nearly six years old. It is clear that the site has been updated with new information, i.e. new releases and updated MILE guides, but the copyright date remains stagnant. As our Walden course included materials from this site in our resources this week, I am inclined to trust the site, but remain wary of the lack of updates on the copyright. The site address seems like something that is reputable as well. Along those same lines, I was surprised that so many of the links that I found from the Route 21 website went to purchasable items (Route 21, 2007). Though the Partnership’s website is touted as source for online learning materials to support 21st Century Skills, it seemed like a great deal of business and money exchange would take place through the website. I would certainly do my due diligence prior to spending any money or providing information through the site or its offshoots.

I do agree with the fundamental philosophy presented in the site’s mission statement, “[To] serve as a catalyst to position 21st century skills at the center of US K-12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders” (The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004). I do have some concerns with the excessive amount marketing that I encountered from the Route 21 webpage. I am opposed to the blatant marketing of the page if it is intended as an advocacy group. When exploring most websites, I am able to leave a page with ideas for implementation and examples of what worked in other classrooms. Even when I sorted the information on the Route 21 page to my grade level and/or subject matter, I was unable to find much material that I could immediately put into practice, drew my enthusiasm or inspired my creativity.

The implications for my students and me are that these goals need to be broached in the classroom immediately as we are already behind. 21st Century Skills are necessary for a student to leave school fully educated. I think that the self-assessment checklist included in the MILE guide (The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004) is a great starting off point for educators. By completing the self-assessment for what we already do, we can identify areas of change and improvement. Initially, I believe that mindfulness of 21st Century Skills is the most important aspect of basic implementation. If we teachers constantly ask ourselves if our lessons and activities bring in the three skill subsets, life and career, learning and innovation, and information, media and technology (The Partnership for 21st Century Skills), we will begin to move forward with our goals. Ultimately, we must act as advocates for our students and ourselves to our administrations, governmental policy makers, and corporations to receive the assistance that we require in realizing these goals.

Miners, Z., & Pascopella, A. (2007). The new literacies. District Administration, 43(10), 26–34.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, (2004). Retrieved November 24, 2009, from The Partnership for 21st Century Skills Website: http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/

Route 21, (2007). Retrieved November 24, 2009, from Route 21 Website:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mini wiki reflection.


I really like wikis, but I am not yet convinced that I am ready to put them to use in my classroom. Undoubtedly the content of wikis surpassing virtually all other sources when it comes to up-to-date reliability and multiple edits for clarity and accuracy.

Personally, just over a month ago, I was at the doctor's office having a minor procedure/test completed by my oral surgeon. Without going into too many details, it was a surgery that he rarely completed in the office and required a very specific procedure. He said that upon speaking with one of his colleagues, he learned that he was supposed to follow a certain protocol for the surgery. Through the many fingers, implements and cotton balls in my mouth, I agreed and reiterated the colleague's instructions. With shock, he asked me how I knew that when he didn't. My garbled answer, "Wikipedia."

I am amazed by how many times I have called upon wikipedia on my mobile phone to settle a discussion, remind myself of a bit of forgotten trivia or add more reliable information to a conversation.

Beyond the fun and trivia, I regularly use wikipedia for personal research, health information, and concise overviews on complex topics. I appreciate the links and references that are included in most entries as they provide next steps to the initial exploration. I remain a little hesitant about further participating in wiki creation, but feel that the mystique around adding information to an existing wiki has been broken down a bit. I look forward to participating in wikis beyond my classroom experiences as well as in work with my students.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bringing Blogs to the classroom! (How I would incorporate a blog into my class)

Blogs have many possible incorporations into classes. As I teach Grade Six Mathematics in a district with very strict guidelines on the curriculum, I often run out of time for extension and challenge activities. Many of my students are capable of going beyond the basic curriculum expectations, but need the class time for the initial instruction. As we rarely spend more than a day or two on a topic and I only have support in one class, I do not have the luxury of taking time to work on a challenge assignment with my students and need an assignment that they can pursue independently with minimal teacher guidance.

I believe that I could incorporate a blog to provide challenge activities to my students. I think that they would not only enjoy doing independent exploration, but also believe that they would take the challenge quite seriously. As Kathy Martin suggested in this week's video resources, the students not only rise to the challenge of the content in the assignment when they work on a blog, but also engage by interacting and considering their audience (Laureate, 2007). The blog would also enable me to provide resources to help prepare them for the challenge tasks via the internet. Many of the benefits of online learning that are present in advanced courses such as ours will also be present in these mini-challenges. The students will be able to work independently, but have the opportunity to collaborate as they see fit. Additionally, they will be expected to use their writing and communication skills to explain their thinking. In mathematics, we are constantly looking to find ways to encourage our students to effectively communicate their thoughts and this provides an outlet that can be easily monitored and extensive in scope, but does not take away class time.

The benefits of a blog set up in this nature are that students can be challenged, are able to work collaboratively and independently, expectations are clear but intrinsically motivated and students can access the resources in their own time. I am also encouraged by the reflection of the young man in Mrs. Martin's class in the "Blogging in the Classroom" video segment, in which he said that he found the assignments more interesting and the venue a fun place in which to learn. He also remarked that he felt that the blog assignments were more "face to face" than the writing that he usually did in class (Laureate, 2007). I was inspired by the enthusiasm and sense of connectedness that this child exhibited after using blogs and I am encouraged to incorporate the resources in my class.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007). Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society [Motion picture]. Teacher as professional. Baltimore.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Smartboard Prep

I am a big fan of incorporating Smartboard technology in my daily lessons, but have found that the time preparing the lessons and activities has become a bit prohibitive. I do not have a dedicated system in my room and need to sign out the board, projector and laptop from the library in order to use the technology in class. We only have one mobile Smartboard in our school and teachers need to plan days or weeks in advance to ensure that the technology is available and also need to "buffer" the use date so that everything can be set up and finalized the day before the lesson and returned the day following the lesson as the storage room is locked when the final bell rings.

As I said, I love the technology, but the convenience of the tech is lost when the procedures around using the technology is so frustrating and difficult. Thankfully we just had the program downloaded to our desktop units so that we can at least start a lesson in advance of borrowing the resources. Unfortunately, the inconvenience of our procedures has made me less likely to incorporate the tech as often as I would like. Upon speaking with a colleague with a mounted Smartboard at the Upper Middle School, I learned that he came in an hour to an hour and a half early each day to create his lessons. I don't know if this is feasible for every teacher or even a reasonable expectation.

I am hoping to get a mounted/dedicated Smartboard in the next year or two and hope that I will have created lessons for the majority of my curriculum within two to three years.

For those of you with Smartboards or Promethean systems, how long did it take you to create an arsenal of lessons? How often do you use your technology? How often do you use its dynamic aspects vs. using it as a plug-in whiteboard?

For those of you that do not have dedicated units, do you have access to this technology? What is the procedure for using it and do you find the technology easily accessible? What challenges have you run into and what seems to be working?

Thanks in advance for any insight or thoughts!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Let's try that video again!

Let's try that video again!

Video on Social Networking

Though this has a business focus, I found it quite interesting! A coworker posted it on his blog, Teacher Tech Talk, and I wanted to share it!



Hey there fellow Walden students! I am excited to begin blogging and exploring technology that can be incorporated into the classroom!