Teams 1 & 2

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Jason Spoor

The skills our students will need to be successful in a post-industrial service economy are the 21st Century skills. These 21st Century skills are what students use to take foundational knowledge, apply it to complex problems, and achieve creative solutions. The skills are specifically defined by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills as a fusion of the traditional 3Rs with the increasingly urgent 4cs (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity).
The United States has always been dependent on the ability of its citizenry to create, innovate, and collaborate. As we begin to confront the challenges of increasing competition from growing markets in India, China, Brazil, Russia, and other developing economies we must better prepare our students to move away from traditional manufacturing and industrial careers to the fields of technology and service that are becoming invaluable to providing the edge necessary to confront global challenges and provide for continued American prosperity.
I was aware that Illinois has aligned itself with P21 and I think this is exciting. This was an important part of our research when looking to redesign the district evaluation system and provide teachers with the opportunity to utilize evaluation to work for growth in providing our students with these skills. In addition, the district Joint Committee on Grading has looked at the P21 skills when considering and discussing grading practices that work to enhance a climate meant to foster these skills in our students.
In my classroom, developing these skills has taken center stage. I continue to look at ways to help create performance-based assessments, work with students to foster in them a sense of accountability for their work, and build a climate that encourages a focus on learning and turns off the spotlight on grading. Technology plays an essential role in this. I have my students exploring and collaborating on our wiki, through twitter, and tools like I have also used twitter and educational blogs as resources in gathering ideas for best practice. I have found that choosing effective technology tools is often a process of trial and error. I think students need options in order to find technology that suits their talent set, but also to become familiar with the nature of Web 2.0 tools and how to utilize them for problem-solving and academic purposes. They are very aware of the social element coming into our classroom, but it is how to use this social piece as an academic resource that becomes the challenge for many. It is also my responsibility to foster communication with the business world in learning what technology tools are being used, developed, and necessary for success in business.

In response to Jason Spoor

From LoriAnne Frieri

Jason –

I think addressing the difference between using technology for social purposes and academic purposes is critical to our students. I am also interested in the statement regarding grading practices. In addition to your post,
  • How do you handle the professional responsibility we have to make sure that the platforms we select for our students to use are used appropriately by them and to what extent do I have a responsibility to make sure they are free from harming each other?
  • Who is best suited to create/enforce professional social media standards for the classroom setting?
  • By addressing the grading issue through your response, I can better understand your position of grades in relationship to the emphasis of skill development in your classroom. Skill development clearly takes precedence. How do you encourage the students to engage and remain motivated to achieve without the emphasis on grades?
  • Have you found, in practice, that the technology acts as a source of motivation for the students to complete assigned work?
LoriAnne Frieri

In response to LoriAnne from Jason Spoor

Thanks for the great questions, friend! Well, you are correct that it is a bit challenging to navigate how to utilize these technology tools is the greatest challenge we face. I think the best way to answer that question is that I set clear parameters that in my class we all treat each other with respect. That does not mean we forego all sense of humor and the occasional fun use of sarcasm, but I have found that our students are with the rare exception good people who will meet your expectations of appropriate conduct. Through my role as union president I have seen teachers that approach this and their classrooms in general with a more defensive and authoritarian perspective and have seen it fail time and again. The expectations and behavior that we model is what our students will give back to us. I have very, very rarely had a problem with students being cruel or inappropriate and when those moments occur I address them appropriately, but I have found that if I am clear with my expectations and set those expectations high the students meet them. I actually use the Twitter guidelines that I found through an educator I follow on Twitter. You can see them here. I modify them slightly for my classroom and a high school audience, but they have been very effective. In addition to my own expectations I do inform the parents and guardians that I am using these technology tools and ask that they also take an interest in how their sons/daughters are using them. I stress to them that this is already or will be an important part of their sons/daughters lives and that knowing how to appropriately and thoughtfully utilize the technology tools at their finger tips is essential to post-secondary success. There is no escaping these things they are ubiquitous and the problems that we have seen people in the media spotlight encounter from Representative Weiner to Kim Kardashian stem from a lack of understanding as to the nature of things like Twitter and how to use them in a safe and healthy way.

The District administration and the my leadership team have been working together to draft a policy and guidelines for appropriate use over the last couple months. I think it needs to be a team effort. Teachers and administrators bring very different perspectives in this regard and to be able to work through those and develop a policy that protects faculty and students is essential. I will add that it was a board member that contributed some really insightful elements in this process. I think that including people from the private sector can add an additional perspective that could be very valuable if utilized correctly.

Your third question is a doozy... I will be honest this is a challenge because it takes a shift in thinking and approach. I am still building the networks of support in order to ensure that this takes place, but again I feel it comes back to expectations. I am clear from day one that grades are not important to me and that very little everyday work if any at all will be graded, however, it will all be turned in not matter what. This creates more work for the teacher for sure, but I have found it to be worth it and extremely rewarding. I have also found greater success when I give the students greater freedom. When I present my students with the standards I am assessing and the rubric with which I am assessing those standards and then ask them to show me where they are and prove it, I find there to be a greater focus on learning and development of skills. I will say that the students that provide the biggest challenge with this tend to be the most academically talented. They have gone their entire lives knowing what it took to get an A. These students have grown up knowing that completing all the homework on time and doing well on a multiple choice test is all that they need to get by, so when I tell them that this is not how I run my classroom and not how their grades will work it throws them for a loop. They also have a harder time initially understanding why Student Z only needs to do this and they need to do more. I think that once we work together to understand that I am not interested in what they think is "fair" when compared to their neighbor but instead that I care deeply about what is "fair" to them as an individual learner we are able to move past this.

Your last question can be answered with an emphatic YES! I have students tweeting YouTube videos, articles, weblinks, and blogposts to me at all hours of the day! It has been a real eye-opener and a really rewarding experience. Most of them are excited to use their phones, iPads, or laptops... it makes school more realistic and more applicable to the existence they have always had.

Kevin Palmer

Having taught now almost equally in the 20th and 21st Centuries, the expectation of skills learned and necessary by our students hasn’t changed much. The 3Rs are still important for student mastery. In addition, the 4Cs have been added and are emphasized to help students become independent learners; how to process and adapt information and determine what is important about said information.

It didn’t surprise me that Illinois has chosen to adopt standards set by a leading educational forum such as The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, taking a lead position in challenging the educational systems in the U.S. to adapt to the 21st Century. My concerns are - in what way will the state implement these or assure that they are in fact implemented? Is this going to be a NCLB format of stick-and-carrot approach -the-top-down, or more meaningful - bottom-up? I am encouraged by Illinois’ adoption of these skills I remain leery of implementation.

I have always emphasized the 3R. As a high school student, I experienced a lack of preparation for college. I had little experience in writing in non-English courses and therefore struggled with that connection. Therefore, I have always emphasized two of the 3Rs. I try every year to be a better teacher by adapting to my students’ needs. With the overwhelming onslaught of technology I have again tried to be better at accessing it and using it for my students. BUT, I am not fully convinced that all of it is worthy of use in my classrooms and I lack the comfort in using it. I still have yet to embrace, or see the benefit of Tweeting in a history class. I am not a Luddite and therefore I will, once I see the overall benefit, embrace it; it took me several years to embrace Power Point!

Where does that leave me on the The Partnership for 21st Century Skills scale of preparedness for the 21st Century? That is what I am hoping to gain from this. I consider myself adventurous and therefore I have been willing try new things. What I need though is to be shown concrete examples of how all of the technology currently available can be useful tools to teach my 21st Century students.

In Response to Kevin Palmer
From Camille Lutz

I believe the world of education is changing as quickly as the world of technology, and the emphasis of the 4 Cs from P21 is necessary in this changing world. Will you clarify what you meant when you wrote “the expectation of skills learned and necessary by our students hasn’t changed much?”

I agree with your concerns about the state adoption of P21. Which group of stakeholders will have the strongest pull? Will the implementation be valid and supportive of both students and educators? Similar to you, I am cautious when considering the execution of these skills.

Like you, I work hard to access and use technology in the classroom; and until this class I thought I was doing a fairly good job. What do edutech blogs have to say about technology implementation in the classroom?

In response to Kevin Palmer from LoriAnne Frieri:

You indicated that you do not see the value of having students Tweet throughout a History Class. Out of curiousity, have you found value in the PLN that you created for this class? I am overwhelmed by the amount of resources out there for Social Studies Teachers. I was very sleptical of the reading that was required of us about "Knowing Knowledge." How could knowledge be created as part of a community and not part of the scholarship that has shaped our curriculum and discipline? Does knowledge have the same value if it was created in a communal form? However, as I continue to "meet" educators from around the United States and from the international community, I am impressed by how much my classroom and my perception of on-line knowledge/learning communities has changed. Now, what place it has in my classroom, I have yet to determine. I am sure a quick Tweet requesting that information would yield results that I am not ready to sift through, but now I know where I can go when that times comes.

Response to LoriAnne’s response to my post:

It isn’t that I don’t see the value in using some sort of technology/informational outlet like a blog, it is that I still see tweeting as too limited in its scope to be an effective tool in a history classroom. Maybe I have yet to see it used effectively. Have you? Has anyone? I would never dismiss it outright. I most certainly agree that it has been amazing as I view my blog and my tweetdeck how many history people there are “connected” to the “net”. And, yes I do see value in that. I have had some good conversations with a professor at Cal Fullerton that teaches American Studies and when my life in Scho Bowl gives me some air to breath, I plan on connecting with him and others like him very soon!

Kevin Palmer

LoriAnne Frieri

Silva 2008 addresses 21st Century Skills moves beyond the acquisition of knowledge to the application and creation of unique ideas. While students do need to demonstrate knowledge, they need to “do something” with it. Embracing dynamic, engaging learning (the 4 C’s - critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity and innovation)rather than the traditional static, linear view of knowledge (the three r’s) acquisition is essential to the 21st Century classroom.

I did know about Illinois’ alignment with P21, but it is concerning because of the recent push for standardization, assessment and accountability. A P21 environment means letting go of the traditional stages of learning and accepting that complex learning takes place alongside instruction in rote learning that dominates the standardized classroom. Gains made in mastery seem to be at expense of application. The Illinois Initiative calls for a commitment to the P21 skills, effective professional development and assessments that measure growth and learning.

Understanding how the technology supports knowledge acquisition is critical to me in the classroom. Allowing for collaboration and development of complex ideas through technology goes together. When we allow this to take place on an individual level, it remains provisional rather than capitalizing on the growth that can happen as a student progresses through a P21 classroom at every grade level. The call for 21st Century Classroom Teachers needs to be systemic and programmatic and not allowed to be happenstance for a student to be “lucky” enough to get a teacher ready to prepare them for the modern world. A level of personal acceptance is involved with believing that you can teach creativity and provide for creative environments without viewing yourself as creative. Accepting that creativity can be developed in every human being and moving away from a fixed view of creativity is essential.

I need a mindset change in order to view technology as an integral part of my course rather than just an added feature. Knowledge generated by consensus may not be enough to see us through complex environments. I must find a way to incorporate scholarship and high expectations for the work produced by students through the use of appropriate technology. My class needs to prepare students to assume the rights and privileges of digital citizenship. Teaching the responsibility that comes with participating in collaboration with an on-line community of learners should guide my incorporation of technology.

Response to LoriAnne Frieri-
I appreciate your comment that “A level of personal acceptance is involved with believing that you can teach creativity and provide for creative environments without viewing yourself as creative.” So many teachers fall back on the way they were taught as opposed to looking at possibilities. How do you see yourself developing your own creativity and the creativity of your students?

The mindset shift you mention is one that I think many teachers must make I think that the Digital Citizenship is a huge step in the right direction. The NETS for students list that among one of their 5 standards. Without it, I feel that teachers and students aren’t able to fully evaluate and create. . Is there any technology that you have been able to shift from a feature to an integral part of your class? What do you think needs to been to help that shift in you or in others?

Christina Ordonez
Response to Christina from LoriAnne Frieri –
Thank you for your comments especially regarding creativity. Because creativity can grow with knowledge and practice, I see myself grabbing ideas from other people and adapting them to best fit my needs in the classroom. I am especially drawn to the idea that the 21st Century Skills includes refining, reflecting and reshaping existing ideas as part of our students that we need to develop. So often we see the world as it is and that it has always existed this way. I either can or cannot use technology. Such black and white views do not allow us to give credit for the incremental growth we can make. I am looking for ways to incorporate the concept of the “flipped classroom” which would create more time in the classroom to develop higher order, critical thinking skills at the expense of knowledge acquisition that can be completed as homework.

Danielle Hauser
Colleges, vocational schools and the workforce expect students to know how to apply knowledge and skills to complex problems and situations. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills comprised of educators and Fortune 500 companies developed a vision for student success in a global economy. The 21st century skills go beyond set content standards and represent the knowledge and expertise students should master to succeed in work and life. These skills include, but are not limited to, the ability to think critically, solve problems, communicate and listen effectively, access and analyze information, collaborate, innovate and apply all that is learned. Developing the 3 R’s and the 4 C’s are a cross curricular responsibility. 21st Century Skills embedded throughout the curriculum are based on endurance, leverage and readiness for the next level. The skills provide knowledge beyond a single test date or assignment. The skills are of value across multiple disciplines and provide students with the necessary skills to be successful at the next level.

I did know the state of Illinois joined the Partnership for 21st Century Skills in 2009. I do not see how the Illinois Assessment Framework (ISAT and PSAE) represents Illinois’ commitment to “accurately measure 21st century readiness” as stated on the ISBE’s website. 21st Century Skills and preparing students to be college or career ready are components of both Race to the Top and also one of the principles of the ESEA waiver that ISBE plans to submit this February. Developing students’ ability to communicate effectively, to collaborate with others and to apply critical thinking skills and creativity to solve problems or create products is imperative. In a time of accountability, educators need to embrace non-standardized conditions to assess 21st Century Skills.

In my current professional position I feel it is my responsibility to help educators embrace P21 and provide professional learning opportunities to foster a digital learning environment. The digital world has the potential to turn the isolated educator into a connected learner; sharing reflections, lessons or questions with passionate professionals not only within their building but world-wide. As we move forward with developing 21st Century Skills it is important to not become technology rich and information poor, we need to develop informed consumers of information. Adopting, embracing and teaching 21st Century Skills creates and fosters a culture of learning in which students and educators own their learning through less teaching and more learning.

In response to Danielle Hauser

From Jason Spoor

Danielle, I think you have some great insight. Especially, considering your role in the district, you have great influence on the professional development opportunities we are afforded as teachers. It is exciting to hear your commitment to giving teachers the opportunity to spend time learning and developing the pedagogical changes that are needed to really help our students develop these skills.

I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of the Illinois testing framework and the fact that it completely neglects the reported priorities of the ISBE. I am looking forward to the day where our students are taking something like the College Work and Readiness Assessment that Silva discussed in her piece. I am wondering what you think the lifespan of our current testing framework is? I have heard discussions that there are serious conversations happening about how to effectively alter this system, have you heard the same? I believe that some teachers reported being asked to apply to be part of this development and was just curious if you had heard the same through any of your connections.
In Response to Jason Spoor

Jason, as difficult as it was to leave the classroom, the work I am involved with within the District and at the state level will have a great impact on students and their future.
The State of Illinois and obviously District 211 is focused on College and Career ready, the question becomes how do we assess college and career ready? ACT released a report to all the high school districts indicating the number of graduates who enrolled in a second year of college. District 211 scored higher than several districts, the authors of the report felt that was an indication of the percentage of students were college ready.
Dual credit at the State level has been listed as a criteria for college and career ready as well as students earning certifications and advanced placement credit. ISBE has also considered offering the full WorkKeys assessment which includes Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics, and Locating Information. Currently the PSAE only includes two of the tests. By completing all three the students could earn the National Career Readiness Certificate. Employers honor the certificate. Currently Alaska, Michigan, North Dakota and Wyoming offer the certification.
2014-2015 the State of Illinois will have a new assessment series, PARCC assessment. The PARCC assessment program is looking for educators to join committees at three different levels: reviewing the assessment, creating sample lessons, and developing the professional learning needed to educate teachers on the assessment and standards being assessed.
P20 and P21 have brought together high school and post high school representatives. As a result core subject areas are completing vertical alignments. As a result, more students are placing into college credit bearing courses.
As educators move forward with the changes to accountability, the assessment series, teaching 21st century skills, I have developed the philosophy that it is crucial to differentiate professional learning opportunities and mediums for educators. Danielle Hauser
In response to Danielle Hauser
from LoriAnne Frieri
Danielle, I believe the enthusiasm and knowledge that you bring to your position is helping our district move forward in advancing our professional development in the area of technology and current best practice. In your response you indicate a desire to help educators ”embrace P21 and digital learning.” What tactics seem to be most successful in encouraging reluctant users to incorporate new practices in their classroom? Do you see any difficulties in implementing new and innovative ways of teaching while meeting the specific demands of accountability and standardization legislation? At times it seems that standardization and innovation can come into conflict with each other.
In response to LoriAnne
LoriAnne, the tactic I have found is not to overwhelm educators and to have a solid infrastructure to support professionally learning as new strategies and practices are being implemented. The learning has to be relevant and enhance what the teacher is doing in the classroom. Teachers in the cohort have inspired me to think outside of the box. I am excited we are discussing working towards that. I believe we have to differentiate professional learning opportunities and mediums for teachers. In addition, support systems need to be built. A first year teacher does not end the year thinking I hope in thirty years I teach every lesson exactly the same as this year. Professional development needs to evolve to support 21st century educators who are doing it all. I do believe the PLT model will help make learning personal. In addition, we need to celebrate successes no matter how big or small. I can think of reluctant users to technology who made learning new technology tools a priority because of what they can gain either professionally or personally. Look at the number of grandparents who have learned how to Skype to communicate with their grandchildren.
It is important to standardized standards, whether they are standards for learning, teaching or administration. Standards help define an expectation or can level the playing field. The innovation happens in how students achieve, reach or surpass the standards. Doug Reeves stated at a conference I attended stated if teachers focused on teaching the skills and standards necessary to be successful meeting the accountability measures will happen. The difficulty comes from educators being comfortable in a constant state of flux. Technology is not stagnant; there is always the next tool or new job around the corner. Mindset by Carol Dweck gave me insight to how people view learning. I often think 21st century skills are not new. They are just new to all students. Do you feel the gifted program has the 21st century skills embedded within the philosophy of the gifted program? Danielle Hauser

In response to Danielle Hauser

From Jason Spoor

Danielle- Thanks so much for your detailed response to my initial response on your post (I have used the word response a lot in the last two sentences... there I go again :)). It is exciting to see that District 211 was rated so highly in getting our students college ready! I wish that this made the newspaper as frequently as data about AYP. In my role I am constantly challenged with AYP data (ACT scores for all intensive purposes) and am constantly fighting a battle to promote the good work done by the faculty in our district. I hope with the new assessments this will become easier. I also hope there is going to be some component in instituting these new assessments that educates the community as to the why and what aspects of shifting how we assess our students. I think this could be one of the most difficult aspects of shifting the assessment. Everyone knows the ACT most of our students’ parents took the ACT and our comfortable with their understanding of what the results mean. It will be quite an undertaking to create that same comfort with a new assessment tool.

Also, I know I have reached out to some union leadership encouraging them to apply to be part of the committees you discussed in your response to me. Is there anything happening at the district administrative level to ensure that District 211 is represented in this process? As the largest high school district in the state and a very high performing one I feel it would make sense that our input would be valuable.

Denise Mitchell
John Dewey revolutionized education as the United States moved from an agricultural to an industrial society. The technological revolution did not revolutionize education, but technology has changed the game and globalized the world. In order to educate the next generation, schools are going to have to adapt to the business world. Not only is it important to understand how technology works and utilize the technology available; American companies expect workers to create applications that the public does not know they need. The 21st century workplace standards, move from the 3 R’s to the 4 C’s; Critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.
Teaching is one of the most researched and studied professions, but because so many non- educators (politicians, school boards, parents) hold the purse strings. It is difficult to implement theory into practice. How can we change the mindset of the public? Accountability comes in the form of standardized tests; the stakeholders want data that can be easily scored, comparable and cheap. In a system that is already broke, how are poorer districts going to be able to afford the equipment to support the P21 standards? Where are schools going to get the funding to teach the staff how to use the technology available? Are content area teachers willing to give up content in order to explore one or two areas at a deeper level? Can districts give up their standardize tests and move to project based portfolios? Can the public put their trust in the professionals they hire to teach their children?
In order to effectively implement the P21 social studies standards into my classroom, our schools are going to have to make an investment into effective technology. Computers need to be accessible and programs need to be updated. I can prepare for and teach our students about technology based education. It is important to realize reading on the computer requires a new skill set (Julie Cairo leads the field in online reading and comprehension). Incorporating online literacy instruction is imperative.
Professional development focusing on technology and how to utilize technology will help close the gap between what I know and what the students need to know. I am familiar with the skills needed to prepare students for college, but I am unfamiliar with skills needed to transition into the 21st century workplace.

In response to Denise Mitchell—

I agree with your comment about schools needing to adapt to the business world, which definitely shines a bright light on use of technology in education. Do you feel that schools have taken steps toward adapting to a business world? What do you think the next steps should be?

Like you, I also think about the financial investment it takes to make these changes. I think training takes creative use of time, but having computers and other technological equipment takes money. I feel that we’re really lucky, but I also wonder how schools without the financial means that allocate resources to technology. What will they have to give up?

Also, thank you for sharing information about Julie Cairo. I’d love to know more about online reading and comprehension. I still find myself printing articles because I’m such a visual learner, as well an active reader with a pen. Do you think teachers should also be teaching this type of comprehension?

Thanks for your thoughts!
Antonette Minniti

Christina Ordonez

Daniel Pink (2005) wrote in __A Whole New Mind__ that “The ‘left-brain’ capabilities that powered the Information Age are necessary, but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous – the “right-brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning – increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders” (3). This analysis is reflected in the 21st Century Learning Skills. The “4C’s” (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity) are not left-brained, rote memory skills, but are centered on the imaginative right-brain USING the information obtained through the left-brain.

ISTE also addresses these skills in NETS-S. Three of the standards include creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; and critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making. The ability to research and self-select information and then apply it is what ISTE believes to be best for students. In the most recent issue of Learning and Leading with Technology, they focus around these skills in almost every article, include an editorial piece called “Communication and Collaboration in the Digital Age.” Technology and 21st Century skills go hand in hand.

Illinois, however, seems to be aligned to the 21st Century Standards, but is planning on assessing teacher’s worth based on student growth on Standardized Tests, not on how well students use the 4Cs. If teachers aren’t held accountable for these skills, then not all of them will hold their students accountable. Doug Reeves has shown that teacher accountability is the most important factor to implementing a systemic change.

All roads to information should be open to students. Phones should be used as readily as paper. We live in an information rich world. It is what we DO with that info that is important and on what we should assess and be assessed. These skills are not new. Bloom publicized them in 1956 through his Taxonomy, yet they are even more important today. How we evaluate this info, analyze it, recombine it, synthesize it, and then evaluate it again is what shows true learning. There are a number of technologies and Web 2.0 products that allow us to help our students do just this. We can’t be experts on all of them, but we can have an understanding of the reason to use them to support our 4Cs.

As teachers, we need to help students move from the Information Age to the Creation Age. 21st Century Skills should help us guide them there.

Response to Christina Ordonez

I was intrigued by your comment that �all roads to information should be open to all students.� My concern is how available is technology for our students, ALL of our students? As a Tech Coordinator, I am very interested to know what you think about the difficulty in getting the right technology into the hands of our students and how to teach them to differentiate on how to use said technology differently for educational purposes rather than the social. If as teachers we are to make technology available for our students, how assured are we that they are using it as intended? Additionally, what technology is best to be made available; how can we know what is best? I am willing to use technology but I still need to be convinced that when I do, it is worthwhile to my educational goals.
From: Kevin Palmer
In response to Kevin Palmer
Kevin –

Great Questions! Many of them strike directly at the heart of what is happening in the district right now. In the Five Year Vision, a goal of 1-to-1 devices for all students is very clearly stated by our administration. I definitely feel that it is my job to help bridge the gap between this vision and the concerns you voiced in your response.

To answer your questions as briefly as possible, well, you already know the answers yourself. How do you teach kids to differentiate between social and education use of technology? The same you teach them to speak differently in a speech verses hanging with the guys or to write formally verses with lots of “u’s” and “2’s”. It needs to be modeled and clear expectations need to be stated. How do you know if it is used as intended? It should produce what you intend. And, honestly, sometimes it is through unintended use that the most creativity and innovation occurs. What’s the best available and how do we know it? We know what we want to accomplish, what resources we have, and what our students’ needs are, and based on that criteria, we find what we believe to be the best product out there. This is not unlike searching for a textbook or supplemental activity. We do the best we can and constantly re-evaluate its effectiveness for our needs.

Using technology in the classroom does not need to be a new experience. We need to take what we know about being good teachers and simply apply that to everything we do in the classroom from assessment to communication to material use, including technology.

Christina Ordonez

Response to Christina...I think that our students will have an easier time following our model of guiding them in using technology for educational purposes, but I wonder who will serve the models for teachers. I think about how much I'm learning in this class alone, so I wonder where the rest of my colleagues are with their technological expertise? I can see that so many of us have different comfort levels with "playing" with technology, so I hope that we keep that perspective of how diffictult it can be to learn something new. In this way, we're not just throwing technology at students without purpose or guidance.

Response to Christina Ordonez

It is so interesting you discuss Bloom’s Taxonomy- Last class I discovered that one of Bloom’s students revised the taxonomy to reflect current times. Evaluating is no longer the highest domain; the revised chart recognizes Creating as the highest Cognitive domain.

As I reflect on my teaching practice, technology, workplace expectations and everyone’s responses; I am at a cross road. The P21 standards are a step toward articulation, between high school, universities and the workplace, but there is such a disconnect in the standards for each of the stakeholders in education, at what point are all the stakeholders going to work together to create one common assessment?

From: Denise Mitchell
Response to Denise Mitchell
Denise –

I think it’s great that Creating has been added to Bloom’s. Bloom’s and Gardner pretty much defined how I lesson plan.

As far as my thoughts on Stakeholders and a common assessment, I often wonder the same thing. At the core, I feel that we all want to assess the same thing: a student’s ability to be successful. Unfortunately, what each group defines as successful is not always the same. Political opinions, world view biases, and money all influence the different stakeholder’s views of success – even within each of their own groups. Without understanding that “standard” of success, an assessment will never be created that satisfies all the stakeholders.

Of course, Danielle may have a completely different opinion of this! J

Christina Ordonez

Camille Lutz

Executive Director of Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), Timothy Mager believes there is a significant gap between the knowledge and skills taught in the typical K-12 school system and those that are necessary to find success in the 21st century. While a need to teach the three R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic) remains, a new set of ideals known as the four C’s (critical thinking and problem solving; communication; collaboration; and creativity and innovation) are just as important. After collaborating with educators, businesses, community members, and government leaders the designers of P21 feel these skills are a way to ensure students are successful employees, citizens, and leaders. Looking back on my first year of teaching I am amazed by the array of academic and technological changes that have taken place in just thirteen years. If education does not embrace the ideas of 21st century skills, educators will not provide students the appropriate means necessary to live happy and successful lives.

Over the last year I have heard rumblings of P21; primarily through conferences and presenters. Through a small amount of research I gained insight into the philosophy of P21 but it was not until this class I gained a broader understanding and realization of the steps Illinois has taken to align itself with P21. Given this information, I look forward to seeing the beliefs and elements put into action.

Until recently I believed I focused on many aspects of P21. Whether working with students on the Autism Spectrum, students with severe learning disabilities, or students with emotional/behavioral disorders, as a special education teacher I build lessons around communication, collaboration, and problem solving. However, I am humbled because I realize there are a number of changes I must make in my lessons. I look forward to watching my students learn the value of technology in the classroom/school setting (as opposed to only personal use), and embrace learning about technology from my students.

I have tried to keep up with technology and education, but I realize my knowledge and use is merely the tip of the iceberg. In order to help my students meet the demands of the 21st century, I will strive to keep focused and alter lessons to ensure my students are learning what’s best for their future. In this world it is imperative those of us teaching the future remain with, if not ahead of the education curve.

Response to Camille
From: Denise Mitchell

As we zoom into the 21st century, educational research along with technology changes the role of the teacher in the classroom. How do we as teachers balance keeping up with best practice while learning new technology?
There are lists of standards from each of the educational stakeholders. At what point are the standards going to align? Has the technology been invented to merge the standards form each of the stakeholders (Business, State, and District)?

There has to be software to support differentiating instruction for special education, but who in our district knows about the technology available and how are classroom teachers going to be exposed to the uses? Are the teachers going to be expected to teach the students, or in this case are the students going to be the teachers? I see a new class in the district’s future- student intern/technology assistant.

In Response to Denise Mitchell
From Camille Lutz

You bring up some great points, and I know I don’t have all the answers. I think there is a fine line we need to walk when choosing pertinent technology for our students/classes/curriculum. Similar to the campfire effect we discussed in our first class, I am concerned people will jump on the newest technology, but fail to incorporate it appropriately and lack the follow-through necessary to sustain. Have you found new technology you would like to incorporate into your classes?

Even as a special education teacher, I do not know all the assistive technology available to students. Throughout my career I have seen students use speech synthesizers, screen magnifiers and CCTV’s, screen readers, and various reading and learning disabilities software. I am sure there is much more available to students with special needs. As a mainstream teacher, have you had much experience with assistive technology?

Response to Camille Lutz’s post:

I appreciate that you see in your thirteen years of teaching how the array of technology shifts there have been and how sometimes it is hard to keep up, or when you think you have, you really haven’t. Reminds me of the Best Buy commercial …”but I just bought this!” I wonder if we will ever keep par with our students’ technological savvy. What I like about your post is that you realize, as all educators must, that whatever technology we employ it must be consistent with our commitment to communication, collaboration, and problem solving. I am curious since you are a special education teacher how tech savvy those kids are. What a great collaboration if with technology we could get the different learning abilities to work together and actually use technology to bridge their academic gap.

Kevin Palmer

Antonette Minniti

As I began reading and listening to the material for this post, E.D. Hirsch’s book, The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, kept popping up in my mind from a grad class I took about 6 years ago. Then, sure enough he popped up in Silva(2008)’s article, “Measuring Skills for the 21st Century.” In agreement with Silva(2008)’s (“tests don’t do enough”(p.1), one idea rang true: the idea of a solid basic foundation of knowledge while engaging in critical and creative thinking. Therefore, does a teacher have time to allow this to unfold and develop in their own classrooms with all the assessments brought to the forefront by NCLB? According to Silva (2008), “Rather, there is a need for better tests that measure more of the skills students need to succeed today” (p. 1). The best results come from teachers putting their expertise together, and this is the power of professional learning communities. PLCs are very focused on assessing the essential skills, which can affect the depth and innovation of best practices at times.

Bottom-line, our students need 21st Century skills whether they’re working at McDonald’s as a cashier or CEO. Maybe it is because I’ve been in the counseling world for a few years now, but I was actually surprised to hear that Illinois aligned itself with P21 because I haven’t noticed the impact yet. Personally, I think it a great step in the right direction for education and our students. This definitely gets me thinking about Common Core Standards and Curriculum. How will it happen and when will it happen? With our current stances in education and so many existing and emerging technologies, hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

Moreover, as educators, an environment must be created to blend knowledge and thinking. We must expose our students to various technological tools to enhance and possibly motivate this type of learning environment. For my students who are the most engaged in their classes, subject matters are applied and not just rote. Educators need to develop a framework for what they are teaching, so as not to just go chapter by chapter or simply “build” layers of knowledge; rather allow the students to dive in and dissect. What I'm learning most in this class is that technology is not my enemy and by educating myself on all these tools, I can then serve my students better.

Response to Antonette Minniti

As the committed educator and counselor you are, I am interested in how P21 affects the role of the counselor.
  • Based on paragraph one I am unclear whether you believe knowledge or skills are more important? Or, is it a combination of both?
  • Once P21 was adopted do you think it was ISBE’s responsibility to develop the implementation plan for P21 or each school district?
  • How do you see a counselor developing students’ 21st Century skills? How much responsibility should a counselor have?
  • Do students express any comments about teachers using technology in the classroom?
  • How do you see educational tools assisting in serving students?
  • Do you see scheduling and planning conversations with parents and students changing due to common core standards and P21?

Danielle Hauser

Thanks for your questions, Danielle.
Okay, so somehow I must have been on with someone else at the same time because I posted this days ago, but I'm reposting it now...
Yes, I think both knowledge and skills are important, but with skills, you can gain whatever knowledge you may need. In my English classroom, I focused on the skills of reading and writing. My final exams were not about remembering all the characters of A Raisin in the Sun, but rather applying the skills of reading comprehension and writing. Skills provide students with an excellent foundation to problem solve, create, discuss, produce, etc.

Well, someone needs to be responsible. Sometimes I don’t put 100% faith into the state of Illinois, but I do trust our district. How has our district tried to implement P21? I think counselors a part of the big picture of guiding students on their academic path. How does our district view the counselor role?

Educational tools definitely serve our students. I thought about this today when one of my students was complaining about a twitter homework assignment. She felt that she didn’t know what she was doing, but I helped her to understand that she was just experiencing part of the learning process. In the end, she felt she had learned something and felt empowered. I think this is part of any educator’s role, but it happens often with counselors.

In response to Antonette Minniti

From Jason Spoor

Antonette- I was really drawn to your initial response by the line “subject matters are applied and not just rote.” I think this is a fantastic synergy of the 21st Century skills and our content areas. It really is about getting our students to use and manipulate the material not just sit back and be recipients.
It is interesting how our roles provide us with new perspectives and shape our understanding of student learning. I know that when you were in the English department you were an awesome example of this application of learning. We shared students, I observed you teaching and it was always easy to identify the students we shared because of our similar style. Now as you have moved into counseling I know that for the classroom teacher you are an awesome support. I would like to see you and other counselors get more opportunities to be in the classroom and working with teachers and students as we begin to integrate the 21st Century skills more and more. I think that your background provides an opportunity to help students really build critical thinking skills in a thoughtful and compassionate manner. To be able to integrate the material with the 21st Century skills through a lens of social justice could be an awesome result of a counselor working more closely with teachers in the classroom. This is difficult because I also understand the caseload and time constraints the counselors are already under in meeting all the expectations placed on them. What do you think about this? Do you see the counselor having a more active role in classroom instruction through the implementation of 21st Century skills.

Thank you for all that you do! It is nice to know that you and your colleagues are there supporting the students we see in our classrooms everyday and offering them opportunities and supports that we may not be able to provide.

In response to Jason Spoor--
Thanks for your response! Yes, I do miss the classroom and working with students as a teacher, but I love what I can do for students as a counselor as well. I feel like I can help students in ways that I always wanted to, but sometimes didn't have time to as a teacher. This is why all of our roles are so important. Unfortunately, I think some teachers don't get a counselor's role, or they feel that we don't understand classroom challenges any more. When I have a student who is having a difficult time in class, I like to observe them in class. Just this past week, I had an experience where I felt that my perspective really helped both the teacher and the student. I'd love to be more involved in classrooms, but you're right, with our caseloads, it'll be difficult. But with some planning, it could be possible. Just like anything, I wonder how many teachers and/or counselors would even be open to this idea?