Groups 3, 4, & 5

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Kristina Kaufman (Group 5)

I have taken interest in 21st century skills for a while. From what I have researched and read about them, they are the set of skills that are increasingly important in today’s society. Many times over, I hear that we now have a knowledge economy and are competing in a global marketplace. In order to meet the professional demands of the 21st century, a society needs individuals that can compete on innovation, design, strategy, adaptability, critical thinking, problem solving, sustainability, and the list goes on. These are all directly and indirectly labeled as 21st century skills by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
One argument is that the push for the development of 21st century skills is actually not that new as educational reform has called for better prepared students in such reports as A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century and Turning Points: Preparing American Youth for the 21st Century (Task Force of the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1989). Silva (2009) acknowledges that 21st century skills are not new, “just newly important” (p. 631).
I think that students very much need 21st century skills and that the Partnership has done a nice job of calling out those skills. Technology will certainly play a role in the development of 21st century skills as students need to be able to communicate, collaborate, critique, create and learn from and with technology. Because of companies like Apple, technology is truly everywhere and marketed to the masses. I don’t see this slowing down as every day there are new products, websites, blogs, and tools. The focus of school should not be on isolated development of such skills, however, but with the purposes of, in my opinion, exposing students to what is important today, what is possible. A discussion of careers will naturally flow into the incorporation of 21st century skills as people with a variety of important skill-sets will be needed for jobs in the future. I also think this can be controversial for some educators as they may view school as not the place for developing such skills. Moreover, I have been surprised by several professors that I have spoken with that discount the idea of 21st century skills leading me to believe they view it as fluff. I have found that reaction fascinating. I look forward to hearing what others have to say about this as well.
Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. 1989. Turning points: Preparing American
youth for the 21st century. The Report of the Task Force on Education of Young
Adolescents. New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Silva, E. 2009. Measuring skills for 21st century learning. Phi Delta Kappan 90(9): 630-634.

Response to Kristina Kaufman
  • I remember reading Teachers for the 21st Century and Turning Points: Preparing American Youth for the 21st Century and discussing it in many of my undergraduate classes. I understand that these skills that we want to teach our students are not new, but newly important. What reasons can we say this? Why are they now important? (Lindsey Dickinson)

  • Kristina, your last few statements are quite interesting. You have found professors that believe school is not a place for developing this type of skills? To me, that is quite frustrating! I remember being told that we have to educate the “whole child”, and that is why there are social-emotional standards in education. How did you respond to their statements either verbally or internally? I am sure that not only professors have this thought, therefore how to we, as educators, change people throughout the community’s thoughts on educating children using the 21st century skills? (Lindsey Dickinson)

Response to Kristina:

I also found the end of your response quite interesting. I think that we as educators will be forced to walk a fine line in the future. Who are we to determine what skill sets will be needed for a good future. My father, brother, and husband are all employed in the electrical field. It was their dream to enter this field and they have been very successful and very happy in their professions. Also, I cannot help but to think about parent accountability in this situation. Are we (educators/the education system) going to provide computers for all students in the classroom and outside of the classroom, 24 hour technological support, and parent training? Is that why some are saying school may not be the place? Something else I just thought of is this. We are taking away or reducing recess, PE, art, music, etc. Are those not courses that help to encourage creative thinking, problem solving, and other life skills? Cindy Moore

5/30 Response to Kristina:

  • As I am apparently asking everyone, what else can we do to implement and teach students these 21st Century skills? The Rowen & Bigum (Eds.) (2012) book that I read says that schools take new technology ideas and “domesticate” them to fit the status quo of the current school system. The book also says that we need to teach students to be, “good at learning, not good at doing school”. The authors offer ideas but I would like to know if you (or others!) have ideas about how to address the school/real world disconnect? Given that we don’t know the future, how do we prepare or ‘future proof’ our students for it?

Response to Kristina
  • Kristina, I also found your last statements to be interesting. I would have a couple of questions for those educators, the first being where do they think those skills should be developed? If they believe that these skills should be developed at home, then how do they see their role and how should parents help develop these skills at home if they do not have the knowledge or access to the necessary items? How do they see education then, as it seems that do not see it as a constantly evolving thing that needs to incorporate new knowledge to facilitate the learning experience? I feel those educators with this point of view are limiting the knowledge that our children are being exposed and as a parent I would feel so frustrated if my child was being taught by one of those educators.(Shruthi Reddy)

Response to Kristina-
When you mentioned finding instructors who were not supportive of 21st Century Skills, I understand your frustration. While I am not certain I have run into anyone at ISU who is not supportive of developing these skills, I have encountered people who are very resistant to the use of new technologies. As I have tried to explore the reasons behind this, it seems to be more of a resistance to change, than as a valid critique of the tech itself. I think a lot of these folks too are confused about viewing the technology as more than a tool, and that might be where some of the resistance is coming from. It might also be a reaction to feeling threatened by the use of technology thinking it is a replacement of the teacher in a classroom. This reaction too is based on a misunderstanding since my own experience is that the more intensively technology is integrated, the more time intensive the demands on the teacher. I have also run into people who take the attitude that anything technology related is something students are naturally motivated to pick up on their own, so it is not necessary to include it as part of the curriculum. I feel that too is a way of reacting to change. Does this fit with what you have experienced? What ideas do you have about helping people get on board with these ideas?
Jen Trimble

Anni Krummel (Group 3)
- Students do need 21st century skills including core subject areas and the interdisciplinary themes including global awareness, and literacy in numerous areas of life skills. Students need this knowledge in order to be a competitive participant in the expanding professional environment around the world. Students need these skills because when they enter the workforce they are not often handed information as they usually are in classrooms. Becoming more creative and analytical thinkers will help build an American competitive workforce.

- I was unaware Illinois had aligned it self with P21 and I am currently an Illinois teacher, however my reaction is somewhat mixed. In several discussions/articles regarding P21 is the concept of professionals in many different strands working together including curriculum designers, policy makers, teachers, and administrators. Designing a website stating Illinois is aligned to P21 does not “prove” anything other than the fact that they have indeed taken time to align. The mindset not only has to change on the website, but also on the front lines. I have always worked in underserved areas in Illinois. As a teacher working with students who are not expected (by policy makers) to graduate high school and be successful in our society it is hard to believe that the individuals aligning this information truly believe that this is a concept that should be used for ALL students. Overall the idea of aligning is great, however the actual implementation is something yet to be seen.

- Providing my students with real life problems to solve will be one way I can help my students begin to develop their 21st century skills. As an early childhood teacher I currently do this by using the Project Approach. However, introducing my young students to the use of technology with problem solving skills is one way I as a classroom teacher can help contribute to the 21st century skill bank for my students.

- As an educator I need to be able to portray to my students what technology can do to help analyze and solve problems. But, I also need to build my own knowledge of what “good” information looks like and how to find it through technology. Before I can teach my students, I need to understand the true sense of technology as related to education.

Response to Anni: What you said about ALL students really made me think about the differences in our education system compared to other countries. Some countries place their students into schools depending on the students skill set. Some are taken down a path of laborers, while others go to colleges or specialized schools once they enter Jr. High or High School Level. Is it possible to have everyone meet all standards? In our district, I work with a population that is about 80% low income. We are struggling and fighting to meet 80% plans, AYP, etc. I agree that implementation will be interesting to see. Will they take into consideration the social, cultural, economic, emotional, and intellectual ability of each student as they develop a plan that we will be responsible for? Dont get me wrong, everyone deserves the chance to be exposed to P21 and I feel it has several benefits however, what plans will be available for students who struggle? Cindy Moore

Response to Anni,
  • I very much agree that alignment is one thing but implementation is another. Besides backing away from high stakes testing (I seemed to get from the “Measuring Skills” article that businesses are starting to be for that) what else can we do to implement and teach students these 21st Century skills? The Rowen & Bigum (Eds.) (2012) book that I read says that schools take new technology ideas and “domesticate” them to fit the status quo of the current school system. The book offers ideas but I would like to know if you (or others!) have ideas about how to address the school/real world disconnect? – Phil Pulley

Response to Anni:

I also share the same concern about Illinois aligning itself with P21. While I think it would be a great idea, I’m not sure how they would be able to implement something of this nature. Teachers are already throwing their arms in the air over NCLB, RtI, and other new government initiatives. I also think that students should be exposed to more real life problems as opposed to something they may never use again. If we began using this style of teaching, don’t you think our students would be more successful and would become more creative thinkers? - Kristen Tripp

- Reply to Cindy and Philip (5/30): Personally I believe with good teaching strategies anything can be achieved. The students meeting standards may “look different” but they are still meeting the standards. For example a student in an affluent school system may have access to building extravagant replicas of rollercoasters and they have probably been on and seen a rollercoaster before. In lower income communities one cannot assume that students have background knowledge of rollercoasters, other than on TV. I had plenty of students who had never left the small area around their house. So for these students meeting standards may be building something they are accustom to seeing in their environment. It could be ramps for cars, carwash machines and how they function to move the car through. Dive into the students real world and pull in the skills they need to become 21st century scholars (Phil Pulley) Students are still learning the laws of physics, however they are meeting the standards in different ways. The teachers need to be able and willing to think outside the box. Policy makers and school districts need to be willing to think outside the box and really understand what and how they implement the P21 initiative (Cindy Moore)

- Reply to Kristen (5/30): I do believe that using different strategies would help students become more creative thinkers. I know the people may have mixed feeling regarding charter/progressive schools. But, after working in one for two years and now working in a public school I see the difference of how state mandates effect the learning and teaching in public schools verses schools that can “get around the rules” a little bit. Teachers need to be given the chance to show they understand their students and know how to relate to their lives rather than being dictated to.

  • Anni Follow up (6/2)
  • Anni,
  • Exactly the response editors of the book would back. They talk about not limiting technology but embracing it to help “future proof” students’ futures. (This is the idea that looking at something new through the lens of the old means schools “domesticate” or limit the possibilities and thereby students.) They do promote the idea of “modest ambition” no grand, change everything ideas, but rather smaller steps that relate to the students’ lives and the real world versus the world of school. Finally, they say we should look at anything being promoted as the “big thing” that will change education with “skeptical optimism”. --Phil

Lindsey Dickinson (Group 5)
Working in a middle school daily has sparked an interest for me in 21st Century skills. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ website, 21st Century skills combine critical thinking and problem solving skills, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation with reading, writing, and arithmetic. Although this is not a new idea, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills is advocating for governmental policies to support this in order for schools to incorporate it in their school curriculum.
I think it incredibly important for students to learn skills outlined by Partnership for 21st Century Skills because they are life skills. Educators need to move away from traditional teaching methods that require students to memorize facts and pass multiple choice tests and begin to encourage problem solving and creatively answering questions using different concepts and types of knowledge. Critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation are skills that my students will need in their future life, no matter of what career path they choose. Education’s job is to prepare students for their future life and teach them the necessary skills to be successful. With times changing, the tools they need to have mastered need to reflect that change. Would it be more effective to teach a student to use a typewriter or a computer? Obviously, a computer would better fit with the times. Then, why are teachers requiring students to learn basic facts and stop, rather than learning how to use those facts in real life situations?
Lifestyles and technology has changed drastically over the course of my lifetime and I believe it will continue to change. My adolescent students need to learn to use and utilize technology to its fullest. A computer is not just an object we use for typing; it is an opening to a world of knowledge. Schools need to integrate technology with reading, writing, and arithmetic as well as with critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
As an educator, I need to provide my students with a technology rich learning environment that requires students to problem solve as well as use the key elements discussed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Educators need to model the types of behaviors that they expect their students to demonstrate. This requires all educators to be fluent in technology uses as well as the key components.

Response to Lindsey Dickinson
Lindsey, you raise some interesting points. I like how you phrased that 21st century skills are “life skills.” While I agree with you, I think it is fascinating that in many ways, people do not view the purpose of school for “life skills.” In fact, it almost sounds like vocational school and we are just preparing students to have “skills” and not learn “how to learn or think.” These are the arguments that I have heard. In fact, if 21st century skills are “life skills,” I think this is something that every teacher would want their students to develop. While school is about learning, isn’t it also the place with which students are funneled into society and, yes, they will have jobs and need skills? Beyond jobs, students need skills that are applicable to what is being demanded of those outside of school today (i.e. innovation skills, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.) to manage any life tasks. As you put it, yes, I do think this will require teaching that moves away from “facts” to “application.” (Kristina Kaufman)

  • Response to Kristina
    Kristina, I completely agree with you. This whole “life skills” battle reminds me of a situation that happened in my classroom this past year, I had a student from a free and reduced, single parent home where she was the parent figure. In my math classroom, we did a project about calculating tax and discounts on foods when grocery shopping. We used real life grocery inserts. After the project was over, she approached me and told me how much she appreciated that activity because she needed some help being able to do this since she has to grocery shop for her family. With the implementation and new light being shown on the 21st Century Skills, hopefully educators can allow students to use the curriculum being taught in schools and relate it to real life applications. (Lindsey Dickinson)

Response to Lindsey:
Lindsey-I remember the days when teachers had more time to work on life skills within the classroom. Now it feels as though the life skills are being left behind to focus on rote skills in isolation to meet standards on tests. Everything is about the data. Im curious to see how we will assess creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, etc. I feel like there is a huge difference in what we are learning in our classes about instruction and how we are expected to instruct. My continued college education seems to focus more on 21st century skills than real practice does. We have the opportunities to collaborate, be creative, and communicate in our courses. I have always loved collaboration! I find that even the set up of our classroom environments does not lend itself to 21st century skill learning. As a middle school teacher have you seen some interesting things that others or you yourself are doing to move towards building these life skills? I am curious to know what types of things are done at your level. A few times I have wanted to use our computer labs with my kindergarten students and trying to log each of them in was a nightmare. I am amazed by my own childrens abilities to use technology. Do you find that your students are bursting with experience that they may not get to engage in during the school day? Cindy Moore

  • Response to Cindy
    Cindy, you bring up a very valid and interesting point. I am also curious how we will assess creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, etc. Obviously, since the school system is still very dependent on grades and passing, that will be a difficult thing to do. There are arguments that grades should not be the end all. I would think that educators would have to find a way in order to assess students when placed in real life situations that are taking place in the classroom. Educators are going to have to be creative!
    You state that “I find that even the set up of our classroom environments does not lend itself to 21st century skill learning”, what would you say would be an appropriate setup of classrooms for a 21st century classroom? I think this is a very interesting thought that I would love to be able to explore more and discuss with you!
    My 8th graders are so eager to use technology in every shape and form and there is definitely not enough time for during the school day. I have begun reading my author analysis book Using Blogs to Enhance Literacy and it has made me really begin thinking about other technologies I could use in my classroom. I work for Unit5 in Bloomington, this next school year we are beginning a 1-on-1 initiative. This means that all 6th graders this year will receive a laptop and will be using it in school every day. I am excited for the next two years to see where I will be able to take technology in my classroom. (Lindsey Dickinson)
  • Response to Lindsey
Lindsey, when I image a 21st century classroom, I picture large classrooms with desks for individual work (maybe not for each student), tables for collaborative work, discussion areas which could include table and chairs or lounging areas. Bulletin boards filled with information on skills, projects, and idea spots. I picture having the same/very similiar schedule each day to allow for a solid daily routine. Lesson plans which are more wholistic incorporating many subjects at one time. Laptops available for at least half of the class, tablets, headphones, and a variety of other technology software and hardware. I imagine an experience where instruction includes more of a project approach and includes community (inside and outside of the school) building, and multi grade level collaobration. I would add that a teacher assistant in every classroom would be extremely helpful! I would love to see an environment in which children are allowed to talk, exchange information and interests, and interact based on a topic and build the topic according to their interests. We need to move away from the "be quiet, sit down, sit still, listen, do this worksheet, and this assessment" environment. Of course, Im sure all of this would also carry complications.

Matt Stombaugh-Initial Post (Group 4)

In looking at the skills students need for the 21st century there is an emphasis on the 4 C’s: Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Communication and Collaboration. It seems simple to think that these are skills that are needed by today’s students to be successful in the 21st century. These skills are needed because they help to address real-world problems and issues that cannot be solved by simply ‘memorizing’ a response, or filling in a circle on a multiple choice test. As a teacher, I’d be hard pressed to find anybody who would disagree with the importance of the 4 C’s. These skills are needed in today’s interactive, high-tech, problem-solving based world that we live in. The question then is whether today’s students are actually being exposed to this type of learning environment and developing these skills? Are teachers allowed this type of freedom, freedom of creativity, of time or space to allow their students to be critical thinkers, collaborate or communicate with others. In my experience at the middle school level, with the current structure of school and emphasis in other areas, they’re exposure to these skills and learning is limited.

Prior to today, I had no knowledge that Illinois had aligned itself with P21. This, however, is not shocking to me at all. The emphasis in school’s today, at least in my experience, revolves around two major topics: RTI (Response to Intervention) and No Child Left Behind (ISAT Testing), which is now being replaced by Common Core Standards. These two topics monopolize both a schools district time and money, and drive the majority of schools curriculum. At no point in my dealings with these topics has 21st Century Skills or P21 been addressed, talked about or even mentioned. As Silva (2008) states, “standing in the way of incorporating 21st century skills into teaching and learning are widespread concerns about measurements” (p. 1). It is much easier to measure the multiple choice-ISAT tests. It is also much easier to show the results, and track whether schools are meeting the standards. Measuring or assessing the 21st century skills would be more costly and time consuming. At this time in education, when there is already a financial crisis, spending more money and time on assessments would not be feasible.

Technology ‘should’ play a vital role in providing students an opportunity to develop their 21st century skills. As mentioned in Silva (2008), technology can make it easier for students to develop their 21st century skills. However, providing that environment in which students can develop these skills is difficult to say the least. Our computer labs (of which there are two for classroom/teacher use) are used approximately half the year for standardized testing (which includes MAPS testing-given 3 times a year, SPMS testing 8 times a year-for specific RTI monitoring, and soon to be Common Core testing 4 times a year), this leave the other half of the year for students to take their students into the lab. For many of the students I work with my goal is to provide them an opportunity to be exposed to using technology that they may/will need in the future. To begin developing skills that will be needed/used in the 21st century. This can be done in the computer lab, when my class can be in there, or using the single computer in my classroom with the Smartboard. My focus as a geography teacher is often how to use technology and how technology can assist the student in learning about Geography (or any other curricular area), and how the abundance of resources available with technology can make learning fun, enjoyable and exciting.

In order for students to develop these 21st century skills several things need to happen. First, it must actually be a point of emphasis for the state, schools and school districts and for teachers. In my experience it is currently not a priority. Second, the classroom teacher needs to know that they are supported in their efforts to learn about, be trained and incorporate these skills and technologies into their classroom. This is often not the case. Third, all teachers need to know that technology and computers will be available for them to use with students. Currently there is an enormous disparity based on school, teacher and grade. The question(s) become what specifically needs to be done at the state and district level to make the development of these 21 century skills a reality and what steps (if any) are currently being taken to move in that direction?

Response to Matt:
  • If we take money out of high stakes testing will there be plenty to fund P21 type tests like the CWRA? See Dr. Toledo’s tweet about “Follow the Money” at (link takes you to her blog). As I asked Anni, what else can we do to implement and teach students these 21st Century skills? The Rowen & Bigum (Eds.) (2012) book that I read says that schools take new technology ideas and “domesticate” them to fit the status quo of the current school system. The book offers ideas but I would like to know if you (or others!) have ideas about how to address the school/real world disconnect? Given that we don’t know the future, how do we prepare our students for it? – Phil Pulley

Reponse to Phil:

What else can we do to implement and teach students these 21st century skills? I think the major priority at the beginning needs to be educating teachers/administrators about them. I'd never even heard of them prior to it being brought up in the class, which leads me to believe that nobody is concerned at this point if the teachers don't know about it. How are teachers going to implement and teach these skills, when they aren't even aware it exists. Secondly, the training of teacher/staff/administrators needs to happen immediately to prepare them to use with students. That is not currently happening. Lastly, as you said if we don't know the future, how do we prepare our students for it? We prepare them by given them the skills to learn, and to think on their own regardless of what the future looks like. If they are able to think and learn, they will be able to adapt to whatever the future brings. -Matt Stombaugh

  • Matt- One big problem with training/professional development (PD) is that it is often done in the form a once and done workshop, here's how it works, go use it approach. PD needs to be long term and content specific especially when it comes to technology. I have tons of research and a qualitative study I did for EAF 415 if you are interested. I sound like a broken record but I really love the ideas, methods and goals set out in Transformative Approaches to to New Technologies and Student Diversity in Futures Oriented Classrooms: Future Proofing Education by Rowen and Bigum (Eds.)(For more on domestication of tech and ideas see the information from Rowen & Bigum (2012) I posted on my blog. -Phil 6/2

Response to Phil:

Phil-I definitely agree that a major issue is the one and done professional development that takes place. In addition the lack of time to use, practice and implement them into your teaching is often not there, so many teachers just resort back to what they were doing before the professional development. We are also losing out because often times the best professional development 'teachers' are other educators in our own school and district in regards to a teachnology they use in the classroom, but they aren't the ones who provide the professional development. Instead schools/districts spend money to bring outside people in when the best PD people are sitting in the building. Plus, other teachers are more apt to buy into it, when it is there fellow teachers doing the training. They are then easily available if/when questions arrive.--Matt 6/4

Cindy Moore (Group 4)
According to Partnership for 21st Century, 21st century skills in education include core subjects but also emphasize the 4 C’s including critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. The idea behind the Illinois initiative is to create learning environments in which students are engaged in curriculum, instruction, and assessment which will better prepare them for their future life and career skills. Silva (2008) concludes that students must be able to show advanced skills to become critical thinkers and problem solves as adults, employees, and citizens. With the explosion of technology children are being raised in a world consumed by communication, socialization, information, and entertainment at the touch of a fingertip. As educators, we need to be in touch with the reality that we are engaging with a new generation of information seekers and learners. This makes it critical for students to understand and have 21st century skills. However, we (parents and educators) must be conscious of and prepared to guide these users through their navigation and emphasize digital citizenship, privacy, and ethics.
I was not aware that P21 and Illinois had aligned. In our last meeting of the school year we were told that a few schools in our district would be piloting one to one computing next year. At that point, it became clear to me that technology initiatives were not going to be a thing of the distant future but rather a critical component of education within the next few years. I feel both excited and concerned about what Illinois and P21 will bring to the future of education. On one hand, I am excited because our students are growing up in a world filled with information, research, and knowledge which is readily available. I am concerned because the availability which technology offers also includes information that students may not be mature enough to engage in safely or ethically.
To provide 21st century skills to my kindergarten students, I am exposing them to basic computer skills, internet games, smart board lessons, and educational videos. We will look up items on the internet to find out more information, they can browse with supervision, and they are exposed to internet safety instruction in the media center. At this point, I have not begun social networking (blogs, etc) with my students. We often work collaboratively within the classroom and with other grades. Technology is quickly playing a significant role in my classroom however, I am apprehensive as to what I expose the students to.
To prepare myself in helping my students build their 21st century skills I have found that taking courses such as this invaluable. Going into my 17th year of teaching, technology has changed dramatically since I began in the field. My biggest benefit has come through engaging in my own technology interactions through professional development. I still have a lot to learn!

Silvia, E. (2008). Measuring skills for the 21st century. Education Sector. Retrieved from:

Response to Cindy Moore

Cindy, you stated, “As educators, we need to be in touch with the reality that we are engaging with a new generation of information seekers and learners.” Do you find this comment to be true with most or all educators? Are teachers really adapting the way they teach to this new generation of learners? Obviously, you have taken the necessary steps in your teaching career to do this, but I worry that the majority of teachers aren’t adapting how/what they teach. As you and other teachers continue to include technology in the classroom, do you see students realizing the tool for learning it can be? My experience is often the technology is as tool to play games and avoid work by students. What can teachers do to help students see its importance in education and learning.—Matt Stombaugh

Response to Matt:
Matt-I have found that a majority of teachers that know engage in using technology in their classrooms. This year, our new math curriculum came with an interactive computer component, we have Lexia Reading and Symphony math for students to use for intervention, educational games, and tons of information to access for instructional purposes. These are examples of how technology is helping teachers. For students, I think we are still working on opening up the possibilities of what a learning tool technology can be. I know that my son (4th grade) has had several projects in which he uses the internet to find information for different subjects. He knows how to navigate to do a search, find resources, play educational games, youtube, etc. To comment to your statement "technology is used as a tool to play games and avoid work" I would have to say that there are many students who are learning and more motivated to learn through the use of educational games and interactive smart boards. As I grew up I remember having one computer in our whole grade school, keyboarding was used on typewriters, and in college I had to go to a computer lab or to the library for access. When I first went back to school to work on my masters I was amazed at the ease of finding information and resources on the internet-, the use of black board, etc. It was like a whole new world to me. My boys and children there ages are growing up in a time in which technology is replacing the books and manual research I had to do. I think the use of technology is so natural to this younger generation that they may not even realize how critical of a tool technology is. Last year, I took a technology class in which I created my first wiki and blog. I would also add that we are very lucky in our district to have such a push for the use of technology, professional development, AND equiptment.

Philip Pulley (Group 3)

Just a quick note to pass on from Dr. T for now. She wants to make sure everyone in the discussion teams are following each other on Twitter. I double checked and added a couple of you that I was missing. I would guess we should eventually add everyone from the class.

Nice work so far, I'll be back with my post soon.


Shruthi Reddy (Group 5)

21st Century skills are the original 3 R's, reading, writing, and arithmetic, which are fused with the 4 C's, critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, and collaboration. Students absolutely need these skills in order to navigate through life and solve day to day problems that they will encounter not only in their professional lives, but their personal lives as well.

I did not know that Illinois had aligned itself with P21. Having a young child, I am curious to see how this goal will be accomplished. I believe that the state is currently trying to receive a waiver from the "no child left behind law" and is going to use the Common Core standards. The Common Core standards seem to fall more in line with the 21st skills, so I have hope that they will be able to integrate the 21st century skills more effectively with the Common Core standards than with "no child left behind".

I think that communication and collaboration would be very key in developing 21st century skills. I believe distance learning technologies, such as video conferencing or even Skype, can bring so much to the classroom. With these technologies, you have the ability to connect to classroom in a different part of the world and discuss various subjects and share ideas. Having any exposure outside your normal life can be beneficial and open one's eyes to new ideas.

In order to use technology in the classroom, I think that you need to be aware of what is available and what will actually enhance the learning environment. I think that it is too easy to become enamored with something just because it is the latest and greatest technology or it just sounds cool, but if it isn't something that you can integrate into the learning experience, then it is useless.

  • Response to Shruthi Reddy:
  • You raise a good question; how will Illinois or other states infuse the mandate of teaching 21st century skills? How will/should they be taught? I have heard similar comments to what you have posed that the common core standards and more like 21st century skills teaching. Most recently I heard a 4th grade math teacher say she likes her math so much better now with common core as it is getting at the process of math and student thinking about math and not so much the answer itself. Cindy brought up a good point about the availability of art, music, p.e. and other “fringe” content areas especially with a focus of 21st century skills. I think, as outlined by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, skills of design and creativity are advocated for which can certainly align with art classes. Health and wellness awareness is also a focus outlined which is extremely relevant to the obesity problems we have in this country, especially facing children now. But the interesting thing is that while 21st century skills, I believe, can be applied and filtered in some way into all content areas, it is the school’s ability to offer such classes (art, p.e., music) to foster such if not getting done in the core content areas which can be tough. Perhaps this questions the sustainability of the “way” in which school is done with separate subjects moving from one chapter to the next. Perhaps one better way in which schools will move is to themed units that integrate 21st century skills and content areas into one blended, more authentic learning experience. (Kristina Kaufman)
  • Response to Kristina
  • Kristina, I think that one of the main keys to making changes like this, no matter what industry or field, is that first the people in charge need to buy in and provide the necessary support and education to everyone, otherwise you will not succeed. That's an interesting point that you bring up in regards to having themed units that would integrate 21st Century skills and content areas. I think one problem with having separate content is that if a student can't see how a subject can be applied in everyday life, then they lose interest. Having blended units would show students how different contents interact and are related. (Shruthi Reddy)

  • Response to Shruthi
    Shruthi, I am slightly confused as to your comparison between Common Core standards and No Child Left Behind. Common Core standards dictate the topics and concepts teachers are required to teach where No Child Left Behind dictates governmental standards schools have to reach. I would raise the question of how will 21st century skills will be implemented in Common Core versus how they are currently being implemented in the Illinois State Learning Standards. Common Core standards are supposed to be implemented across the United States in order for there to be commonalities in learning and teaching across states.
    I believe technology in schools will bring so much into the classroom as well. Distance learning technologies will lend itself nicely to college classes. How do you see these technologies being used in middle schools or in elementary schools? (Lindsey Dickinson)

  • Response to Lindsey
  • Lindsey, I don't mean to say that Common Core and No Child Left Behind are similar, only that I believe that Common Core and 21st Century Skills could be more easily integrated.

    Based on what I've read, it does seem like Illinois is trying to combine Common Core, 21st Century Skills, and Illinois State Learning Standards.I am curious to see how this will all happen, as ultimately, in order for the changes to happen, everyone needs to buy into the new standards, especially those who are at the highest level. If there is no support throughout the system, then the implementation will fail.

    I think that in elementary and middle schools distance learning technologies can be used, maybe not in the same way as in college courses. Most kids aren't aware of what is beyond their normal environment. Through Skype or Distance Learning, you can have children interact with other kids elsewhere in the world, and they can learn about each other's culture, what foods they like to eat, what they watch on tv, their families, and many other things. I think that with older kids, this could be turned into an opportunity to do a report or presentation on another child or do a collaborative report on a subject. (Shruthi Reddy)

Philip Pulley (Group 3)

21st Century Skills are designed to bridge the gap between skills that are currently taught in school versus the skills leaders in business, education, and government have determined are needed to be productive citizens in the real world. The skills identified are the “4Cs” of 1) Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, 2) Creativity and Innovation, 3) Communication, and 4) Collaboration. Additionally there is a need for students to know “Information and Media Technology” skills and “Life and Career” skills: flexibility, adaptability, initiative and self-direction. These are important skills that students need to know, one could argue that many are skills they have acquired by the time they graduate high school.

What I think is important is to teach students a sense of scope for some of the skills, especially those involving communication and information/media technology skills. In today’s high stakes accountability world it is nice to know that businesses are figuring out that testing (and teaching to the test) has often resulted leaving out the 4Cs as well as the life and career skills listed above. As for communication, one could argue that the role of school might be to teach students responsibility in communication.

I knew that Illinois had aligned with P21 and with Common Core. I am interested in technology and preparing students for life after high school but I have not seen much emphasis on this by the ISBE.

In the past years I have been tried several ways to prepare my students for life after high school by having them engage in collaborative technology projects including PowerPoint (and recently Prezi) presentations as well as video documentaries. Students research a topic from the Renaissance one semester and the Cold War/Modern era the next.

Next year our students will have laptops that I hope to use for wikis and blog posts for my Universal Reading Questions (URQs). Instead of me providing students with supplemental information, they will search it out and make the connections from the past to today more readily on their own. Having access to the P21 information and a book I recently read (Transformative Approaches to New Technology and Student Diversity in Futures Oriented Classrooms: Future Proofing Education) should help me guide my students in the development of these skills. The book discusses the need to, “focus on creating opportunities for students to be good at learning for life, not good at leaning-about-ho-to-do-school” (p. 222).

Rowan, L. & Bigum, C. (Eds.) (2012). Transformative approaches to new technology and student diversity in futures oriented classrooms: Future proofing education. Dordrecht, Germany: Springer.

Response to Philip:

With 21st Century Skills bridging the gap between education and the business world, do you think our students will or should have a better sense of what is going on in the world around them? I can see one goal is that our students know more about the stock market, the economy, government policies and that would make them a more well rounded member of society.

The 6th grade students entering the junior highs will all be receiving their own personal laptops. I can see both the positives and negatives of students have their own laptop. I agree that I hope teachers use wikis and blog posts but I’m afraid that if teachers are not technology saavy, they will not use these great features. Do you think that all of the teachers will bring in different types of technologies with the addition of the laptops? - Kristen Tripp
  • 5/30 Reply to Kristen’s Qs:

    Students will more about all of those things IF they are taught them in a real world, collaborative, creative manner that forces them to be creative and critical. If we simply take those ideas and “domesticate” them to the current school culture, there will be little change as noted in the 2nd Sir Ken Robinson video on the wiki. (For more on domestication of tech and ideas see the information from Rowen & Bigum (2012) I posted on my blog.

    Clearly not all teachers will bring all the same skill sets to a 1:1 situation, many will only be remotely familiar with what a wiki or blog is. This then becomes a professional development problem for the schools. You need to do more than show teachers how to use a new technology; you have to show they ways to teach with it. Even then, you have to show them the value of teaching that way, value teaching that way within the culture of the school and give them release time to prep and prepare materials for teaching that way. I was planning to take C&I 576 starting next month, but I will probably wait until the fall and use my time to prepare materials and ideas for by students beginning in the fall. Summer “vacation” indeed. – Philip

Response to Philip: I agree that students need multiple skills to be effective individuals in our society. When referring to the “information and Media Technology” skills and “Life and Career” skills, do you think that students are acquiring these skills in our current school systems and how they are run? We would hope, as educators, students have these skills by the time they graduate, but do you think they are able to build those skills in schools today?

I strongly agree that school is a place to help students learn how to communicate. Today communication, I believe, looks much different than in generations past. In some aspect individuals have truly lost the face-to-face contact with the different types of technology. When you state that “the role of school might be to teach students responsibility in communication”, what might that look like in schools today? (Anni Krummel)

  • Response to Anni’s Qs (6/2): I don’t think students are getting enough of the information/media technology skills, or Instructional Communication Technology (ICT) skills. At my school I hope that will change with our 1:1 but what about schools without? After reading Rowen and Bigum I tend (and listening to many discussion about how to control technology in school) I agree with them that schools “domesticate” or limit the technology in school so that students might be exposed to it, but in a very controlled or limited form. Interestingly they point out, the students’ worlds outside of school are much richer than those inside. If you took a group of 30 students, the school would spend about $18,000 on technology for them, their household about $42,000. They state (and I agree) that students have used to dealing with technology in one way in their lives and a completely different way in school. In fact, for many students, going to school means going backwards in technology. Having said that, for diverse and disadvantaged students, programs like a 1:1 might be their only hope to attempt to close the technology gap. As for communication skills, many of them lack any sense of boundaries when it comes to communication via technology and need to learn some limits and appropriateness. For example as adolescents that generally don't think about the consequences of their actions, they post things they shouldn't without realizing the longevity of such sharing. That said, schools and educators both need to adjust their communication expectations to more closely resemble the 21st century. Basically, both need to adjust, students need to reel it in a bit and conversely many educators need to loosen up. -Phil

Kristen Tripp's Initial Post (Group 3)

  • The 21st Century skills are be able to solve multifaceted problems by thinking creatively and generating original ideas from multiple sources of information—and tests must measure students’ capacity to do such work. They also must be able to evaluate and analyze information. As a current educator of middle school students, I feel like some of my students think creatively and generate original ideas while others don’t. When I ask students to use their creativity in an assignment, they do not go above and beyond their basic background knowledge. My goal is for them to go above what they already know and show that to me. “But the PISA, designed to test students’ application of math and science to real-world scenarios, found U.S. students to be among the worst performers.” This statement does not surprise me after having discussions with my math and science colleagues. The math teachers in my building are currently looking at way to change their curriculum in order to make students better understand math. Students need these skills to be success in the current education programs.
  • I did not know that Illinois had aligned itself with P21. P21 seems to be very organized from their website. It states skills, curriculum, and goals for professional development and learning environments. This statement “in addition to these subjects, we believe schools must move beyond a focus on basic competency in core subjects to promoting understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects.” This should be something that all teachers should strive for their students. I also agree with the six key elements of a 21st century education as stated on their website.
  • Being a computer skills teacher, I try to weave the core classes into my class. I try to use real world examples that would try to help them better understand the curriculum. When the students are learning about the different applications and uses of Microsoft Word, they also learn how they can use the different programs in their future education and in the real world. My students use some form of technology everyday in my class. I currently use an educational social media website called Edmodo. They use this to interact with their classmates, read the daily agenda, post assignments, and review the class calendar.
  • As a teacher, I need to know how to use the educational technologies before I teach or introduce them to my students. It is also important for me to have background knowledge of the technology because I know that my students will ask questions and I want to be prepared.

Silvia, E. (2008). Measuring skills for the 21st century. Education Sector. Retrieved from:

Response to Kristen:
  • Very important idea about knowing the background of a program as the teacher, but some will also argue it can be okay to lean on and learn from students who may know more about it. However, hard for us as teachers to let go of being the “expert” in the room at times. Just wondering if D87 uses Atomic Learning ( as a software training resource. 1000s of short how-to videos for over 100 programs (including multiple versions). District / site licenses allow for teacher, student, AND parent access to the videos and is only about $35 per teacher. Individually about $200 per person. If your district does not, join ICE (Illinois Computing Educators) at: www.iceberg.orgfor $35 to get about 90% access to Atomic Learning.
    • Response to Philip:
      • I agree that sometimes it is okay to learn from students how may know more about a certain program. I have had that happen this past year and I love when I can learn from my students. I've never heard of Atomic Learning but it sounds like a great resource and it would eliminate the need for some professional development. A fellow co-worker has recommended ICE but I haven't had a chance to look into that more. (Kristen Tripp)
      • The Atomic Learning part alone makes it worth every penny! - Phil (6/2)
  • I have an Edmodo account and plan to explore it more later on this summer but I was wondering if students can link it to their Facebook pages to hopefully make it more accessible for them? Thanks: Philip
    • Response to Philip:
      • I'm not sure if students can link it to their Facebook. Our district does not allow our students access to Facebook while they are at school so that is why I use Edmodo. (Kristen Tripp)
      • Neither does ours, but I hear it might be on the table as a possibility. I'll play with it later to see and let you know. I just thought that if the students could link an Edmodo page their Facebook account they might access it more often. - Phil (6/2)

Response to Kristen: I have students who also think creatively and can generate their own ideas. Those moments when they do you feel like you have done something great as a teacher! But for those students who do not display that creativity, do you think they need to be taught how to think outside the box and if so, how do we as educators teach this to our students? One way I would think is by giving them independence in their education as you are with using Edmodo. When you first introduced this concept to your students how did they take it, were they ready and willing? (Anni Krummel)
  • Response to Anni:
    • I don't feel like teachers should have to be taught to think outside the box but this past year I've wondered if I should help explain that more. The students love the idea of Edmodo. They like that it looks like Facebook and that we use it on a daily basis. Some students have even use it in other classes so they are glad to be using it in an Exploratory class. (Kristen Tripp)

Response to Kristen
Kristen, I too am not surprised that the US is among the worst performers among the application of math and science to real-world scenarios. I think that one of the main issues with the way math and science is taught and tested in schools. With both subjects, there needs to be a stronger emphasis on the theories/concepts. Knowing and understanding one or two basic concepts in each area of science and math are all you need, and it also it helps them think outside the box and how to apply concepts. (Shruthi Reddy)

Jennifer Trimble (Group 4)

This is the first time I have heard of 21st Century Learning as a specific concept, so I had not known that Illinois was aligned with them. I do, however, think this is a good thing, and hope they can help us move past some of the pitfalls education is currently experiencing during the era of high-stakes testing that focus on only lower-levels of cognition. When trying to make sense of 21st Century skills, I started by considering how this relates to things I already know, and how I tend to think about learning and instruction. It certainly shows a strong focus on what Bloom would consider the higher levels of learning and knowing. It also focuses on skills more commonly associated with expert ways of thinking. I particularly like how they attempt to show alignment between both the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, to other content areas, as well as how those content areas relate. However, I might have presented it in a circle, rather than a semi-circle, to show connections between information, media and technology skills with life and career skills. These are not in opposition to each other. Thinking of the skills in this way makes the potential for presenting integrated units as viable learning experiences seem much more acceptable, than when considering each content area in isolation. I also really like the way this presentation focuses on multiple forms of “literacy”, taking a broad perspective of what it means to be literate, going far beyond just its application to the written word. Interestingly, digital literacy is only one of the alternate forms mentioned by Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Although it is frequently treated as if it is all that matters, digital literacy is an important piece of the necessary skills, but not sufficient to ensure success. When viewed from the broad perspective portrayed in the concept here, the full range of skills are essential for students. Technology will play an important role in how students access, interact with, and demonstrate their learning but it is important to remember that the technology is a tool, not the pedagogy itself. In order to be successful as a teacher, I will need to remain current on what those tools are, and how they can fit within successful teaching practices.

Response to Jennifer Trimble

Does it concern you that so few of us have heard of the Partnership for 21st century skills or that it is aligned with Illinois? Why do you think that is the case? You also mentioned that technology is a tool in the learning process, which is a statement I support. However, should we be concerned that some people see the technology itself at the most important aspect? We’ve all heard rumors about technology replacing teachers in the future. Should teachers be concerned about this? Your last statement is the one that really stuck with me, you said, “In order to be successful as a teacher, I will need to remain current on what those tools are, and how they can fit within successful teaching practices.” Do you think all or most teachers are ‘remaining current’ to be a successful teacher? What would you do with teachers who are ‘current’ with technology? How do we get them to buy in to it as a learning tool?--Matt Stombaugh

Response to Matt -
Yes, it does concern me, and I was particularly disappointed with myself that, while I was familiar with most of the ideas within it, I had not hear the term or stumbled upon their website before.
I think there are a lot of reasons why this may be happening. For me, I think the reason I had not come upon this before is that it has been a long time (ok, a VERY LONG time) since I have been part of a more structured professional development program that focused on these types of skills. I have been pretty much stumbling along on my own without much focus and without guidance. I got kind of caught up in finding "fun" things, instead of really getting too much substance. That's a real problem for anyone, and for people who view the tech as more than just a tool, it would make this kind of unstructured, playtime feel sufficient, so yet I would say we really do need to be concerned. And, as far as helping people who do feel current, I think a minimal amount of guidance would be a learning community.

Response to Jennifer

Jennifer, I appreciate the statement you made "
Technology will play an important role in how students access, interact with, and demonstrate their learning but it is important to remember that the technology is a tool, not the pedagogy itself. In order to be successful as a teacher, I will need to remain current on what those tools are, and how they can fit within successful teaching practices.". How do you see yourself staying current on the various tools that are available? Do you believe that the state and local school districts should be doing a majority of the work to educate teachers on what tools are available and how to incorporate them into their classes, or should teachers be more self reliant and seek out the tools on their own? (Shruthi Reddy)

Response to Shruthi -
I feel that I am doing that through things like taking this course. I have also attended workshops and conferences on related subjects. However, it is important to recognize the importance of having guidance and accountability. As I said to Matt above, I had been playing around on my own, but kind of fell into a habit of just looking for fun "stuff" but that really was not sufficient. Unfortunately, what I have found is that some people view themselves as life-long learners and will seek out opportunities. For instance, this course is not a requirement for me, but I felt it was necessary to take it for my own needs. But, I have also worked with colleagues who do not feel the need to push themselves and view it more as a destination they have reached than a process they need to continue. I always find that frustrating. In terms of assuring accountability, I feel that it is primarily the individual's responsibility, but I think local schools can really support this through the communities and expectations they support within their buildings. If the expectation is that everyone will be the lifelong learner, it will be more likely to happen. However, if local buildings/districts are not creating this type of environment, state and federal requirements will have far less meaning and become just another hoop to jump through.

I don't mean to say that Common Core and No Child Left Behind are similar, only that I believe that Common Core and 21st Century Skills could be more easily integrated.

Based on what I've read, it does seem like Illinois is trying to combine Common Core, 21st Century Skills, and Illinois State Learning Standards.I am curious to see how this will all happen, as ultimately, in order for the changes to happen, everyone needs to buy into the new standards, especially those who are at the highest level. If there is no support throughout the system, then the implementation will fail.

I think that in elementary and middle schools distance learning technologies can be used, maybe not in the same way as in college courses. Most kids aren't aware of what is beyond their normal environment. Through Skype or Distance Learning, you can have children interact with other kids elsewhere in the world, and they can learn about each other's culture, what foods they like to eat, what they watch on tv, their families, and many other things. I think that with older kids, this could be turned into an opportunity to do a report or presentation on another child or do a collaborative report on a subject.