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21st Century Skills Summit in IL

October 13, 2010

I am attending the 21st Century Skills Summit sponsored by Solution Tree in Rosemont, IL. Thus far, we have heard keynote talks from:

Ken Kay, Partnership for 21st Century Schools
Richard DuFour
Chris Dede
Jay McTighe
Robin Fogarty and Brian Pete

Ken Kay introduced us to the work of P21, developing a rationale for why we need to give serious attention to 21st Century Skills in our conversation about school reform. Reflecting on the rapid pace of change in our society, he made the case that in order for students to be well prepared to face the challenges that these changes present they will need a new skill set. While some of the 21st Century skills are being taught in our schools, he pointed out that most schools do not teach them in an integrated and intentional fashion. He proposed that we need to develop an educational model that responds to the economic needs of today and prepares students for the non-routine analytical and non-routine interactive type of jobs that are dominating the workplace. Organizations are flattening and within them people are expected to be more self-managing. Kay pointed out that the framework for 21st Century Skills has content interwoven into its fabric. He said, “you can’t critically think about nothing.”

○ You have to collaborate around the content
○ You have to critically think about the content
○ You have to create with the content
○ You have to communicate with or about the content.

Kay discussed the six steps to consider when promoting this work in your school.

1. Adopt a vision based on 21st century student outcomes and LEAD!
2. Create a community consensus and get buy in
3. Align your educational support systems with the educational outcomes
4. Focus on 21st professional development
5. Embrace innovation and partnerships
6. Focus on assessment

Rick DuFour shared with us his vision for how professional learning communities need to be part of the 21st Century professional development plan in schools. He pointed out that embedded, on-going, and collaborative professional development has been shown to have a positive impact on student outcomes. Effective PLCs focus on student learning. If we want students to be successful in the classroom we have to model the things we expect them to learn. For example, if we want them to be able to:

• prioritize their work
• manage time
• contribute to a team
• be responsible to others
• set goals
• focus on and producing results
• engage in ongoing learning

then we (teachers) need to model this for our students through our collaboration. These seven ideas are at the heart of what happens in effective PLCs. All Things PLC is a website that brings together the thinking and resources teachers and administrators can use to begin this work.

Chris Dede helped us visualize the future of education and the type of tools that students might use both inside and outside the classroom. He spoke about two skills people will need to regularly apply years from now; (1) Expert decision making, and (2) Complex communications. The biggest single driver is a negative driver–people don’t change because of a compelling vision, they change because they have to. The industrial age school is no longer affordable, it is too difficult to fund. The industrial age school may collapse underneath us whether we want it to or not–we will not be able to fund it. We need to present a vision of an educational model that is different than what we have.

I really struggled with Jay McTighe’s presentation. I couldn’t get my arms around what he theme was. The presentation wandered and until he talked about cornerstone assessments. I thought his point that assessments (assessment process and structure) is a critical part of the 21st Century conversation. It will not matter if we construct a 21st Century framework for our curriculum (teaching and learning) and keep 20th Century assessments. We have to innovate in the asssessment arena as well.

What are your thoughts about these topics? What is your school doing with the 21st Century skill conversation? What progress are you making and what questions do you have?

Bob Ryshke

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